Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SELAWIK: Tribal Wildlife Grant Supports Cooperative Caribou Management
Alaska Region, October 3, 2006
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Caribou from the Western Arctic herd swim the Kobuk River on their annual migration to their wintering grounds.  Photo by Randy Campbell, September, 2005.
Caribou from the Western Arctic herd swim the Kobuk River on their annual migration to their wintering grounds. Photo by Randy Campbell, September, 2005. - Photo Credit: n/a

What are Tribal Wildlife Grants used for?  In northwest Alaska, the Alaska Native village of Noatak is using this innovative program to support the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group.  Created in 1997, this advisory group comprises a broad range of stakeholders—subsistence hunters, sport hunters, hunting guides, outfitters, reindeer herders, and environmental leaders—committed to the conservation of the Western Arctic caribou herd. 

This Western Arctic herd, the largest in Alaska, numbers over 490,000 caribou. It ranges across the northwestern quarter of the state in an area almost the size of Montana.  Alaska Natives and others residing in forty subsistence-based communities rely on these caribou to feed their families as they have for many generations.  Dried caribou meat, or paniqtuq, remains a staple food in northwest Alaska’s Iñupiaq villages. The Western Arctic caribou herd migrates through the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge each spring and fall.

The primary goal of the Working Group is to work together and in cooperation with state and federal resource agencies to ensure the long-term conservation of the Western Arctic caribou herd and the ecosystem on which it depends.  The Working Group also strives to maintain traditional uses and other uses of the herd for the benefit of all people now and in the future.

Accomplishments of the Working Group include:

v      Completion of a Western Arctic Caribou Herd Cooperative Management Plan, which has been adopted by federal and state management agencies and endorsed by the Alaska Board of Game and the Federal Subsistence Board.

v      Annual public meetings to bring together a diverse array of stakeholders to discuss current management issues.

v      Support for habitat studies on the herd’s winter range.

v      Promotion of Native elders’ involvement in documenting traditional knowledge of the herd and sharing this with the region’s youth.

v      Detailed comments on NPRA-South planning efforts and BLM’s Kobuk-Seward Peninsula Resource Management Plan.

The Tribal Wildlife Grant of $244,000 will support the Working Group through 2008.  Their next meeting will be held in Kotzebue in January 2007.  To learn more about the group’s activities, take a look at the latest issue of their newsletter, Caribou Trails, at http://hunt.alaska.gov/pubs/trails/issue7.pdf.  Included in the newsletter is a wonderful article by Clyde Ramoth, Selawik National Wildlife Refuges’s Refuge Information Technician, about the contributions of one Selawik elder to the community.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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