Climate Change and Human-Caribou Interactions in the North

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“Under the calving grounds of the Western
[Alaska] Arctic Herd is one of the largest
low-sulfur coal deposits in the world. The
Teshekpuk Lake area of the National Petroleum
Reserve-Alaska, the calving grounds of the
Teshekpuk Herd, is facing proposed oil
development, and as you continue east across
North America from calving ground to calving
ground, you find activities or proposed
activities for development of uranium and diamond
mines, access roads, and other gas and oil
development.”
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University of Alaska at Fairbanks
http://www.uaf.edu/news/news/20080213123944.html

Submitted by Marie Gilbert
.
Seeking sustainability in a world of instability
New approaches to management of human-caribou systems

For most northern indigenous people, the roughly
3 million caribou in the world are their most
important terrestrial subsistence resource, and
while hunters and scientists alike have long
expressed concern about the on-going availability
of caribou, their perceptions of the causes of
change have differed.

“For years people have managed natural resources
based on their knowledge of how ecosystems have
functioned in the past, which assumes conditions
of equilibrium,” said Gary Kofinas, a resource
policy and management scientist and director of
the Resilience and Adaptation Program at the
University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“Today we are facing an unprecedented suite of
possible changes affecting caribou and humans and
with that considerable uncertainty,” Kofinas
said. “Under the calving grounds of the Western
[Alaska] Arctic Herd is one of the largest
low-sulfur coal deposits in the world. The
Teshekpuk Lake area of the National Petroleum
Reserve-Alaska, the calving grounds of the
Teshekpuk Herd, is facing proposed oil
development, and as you continue east across
North America from calving ground to calving
ground, you find activities or proposed
activities for development of uranium and diamond
mines, access roads, and other gas and oil
development.”

“We also find that while university researchers
are focused on climate change, agency resource
managers are focused on development. To
understand the future of this important resource,
we all need to consider how climate change will
interact with human change on the landscape,”
Kofinas said.

Kofinas will present “Melding Social and
Ecological Sustainability: Human-Caribou Systems
Facing Rapid Change” at the American Association
for the Advancement of Science annual meeting
Sunday, Feb. 17 in Boston.

Since the 1980s, several formal community-state
co-management arrangements were established, in
part, to resolve historic conflicts between
traditional caribou users and managers using only
scientific management. Ongoing changes in
climate, land use and land claims settlements are
testing the effectiveness of co-management to
achieve regional consensus on how best to respond.

“Groups can’t just act as individuals, and they
can’t just share decision making, we need to
think carefully about systems of adaptive
co-management where we are challenging each other
and learning from each other,” Kofinas said. “If
we take the idea of achieving sustainability in a
world of instability seriously, we have to work
toward resource management systems that
facilitate a kind of social learning that brings
local and traditional knowledge together with the
very best science.”

Kofinas and colleagues from across the North
founded the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and
Assessment network which is a collaboration among
communities, scientists and governments from
across the arctic to monitor change, exchange
information, compare regional differences, build
decision-support tools, and report on the status
and use of wild caribou across the North.

Additional information:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Symposium: Finding sustainability without
stability: New goals for a world in flux
Sunday, Feb. 17, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Sheraton Boston, second floor
Back Bay Ballroom C

Resilience and Adaptation Program (RAP)
Institute of Arctic Biology
University of Alaska Fairbanks
www.rap.uaf.edu

CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment
network (CARMA) www.rangifer.net/carma

Contact:

Gary Kofinas, resilience and adaptation program
director, Institute of Arctic Biology; associate
professor of resource policy and management,
Department of Resources Management and Institute
of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, www.faculty.uaf.edu/ffgpk/,
907-474-7078, ffgpk@uaf.edu

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