Opportunities for stakeholder engagement in management of Alaska’s caribou populations

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.11 Reindeer & caribou in the Arctic system: Interactions between environmental, social and biophysical processes
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Scott Leorna (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA), Todd Brinkman (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA)
Abstract text

Rapid decline of the Central Arctic Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Herd (CACH) has raised major concern for sustainable consumptive use of this resource. The CACH peaked in 2010 at roughly 70,000 animals and has precipitously declined to a current population of 22,000. Reasons for the decline are uncertain. Augmenting communication among CACH stakeholders may provide insight into causes and consequences of the decline and generate critical feedback on management of a dynamic herd. Greater communication among stakeholders and integration of public knowledge and perceptions is needed to add transparency to the management process and facilitate the alignment of management decisions with public interests. Therefore, we initiated a study to engage CACH stakeholders through citizen science and survey research methods. Our research objectives were to: 1) Design a citizen science monitoring program to document observations on CACH characteristics during the peak hunting season, and 2) Survey caribou hunters and commercial operators to assess perceptions of change in CACH trends and identify strategies to enhance communication between the public and caribou managers. We anticipate that our research will advance knowledge on the utility of wildlife citizen science for generating data on game populations and enhance dialogue among interest groups. Our initial results suggest management of wildlife in Alaska may benefit from building more robust stakeholder engagement strategies. Providing a framework that facilitates an open dialogue and two-way exchange of information among stakeholders is essential for future sustainable management of game populations.

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