Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SELAWIK: Working for the Good of a Caribou Herd
Alaska Region, December 28, 2007
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Working group members pointing out important caribou habitat on maps.
Working group members pointing out important caribou habitat on maps. - Photo Credit: n/a

What do the following have in common?

Selawik Iñupiaq elders Daniel and Mildred Foster share stories of caribou hunting and changes in their subsistence lifestyle over the past 60 years.

Pat Valkenberg, Outdoor Council member, describes the interests of a typical Fairbanks sport hunter.

Peter Bente, Alaska Department of Fish and Game regional biologist, explains how state and federal scientists plan to work together in the coming year.

The above events all occurred at the annual Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group meeting held in Anchorage, Alaska, December 5-6, 2007.  Supported by funds from a US Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant, the meeting marked the 10th year this diverse group has met to work together for the good of the Western Arctic caribou herd.  The Working Group members represent a broad array of interests: subsistence hunters from throughout the herd’s range, reindeer herders, big game guides, transporters, conservationists, and non-local Alaska hunters. 

The Working Group has become an important voice for protecting caribou in northwest Alaska.  The Working Group, for example, provides local knowledge and scientific data to agencies managing lands within the extensive range of the herd.  At the recent meeting, Bureau of Land Management staff responded to the Working Group’s protest comments over the opening of public lands in critical caribou habitat to hardrock mining and other development.  Staff from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources requested first-hand information from Working Group members on important habitat and use areas for a state planning process.  Members rolled up their sleeves, gathered around maps, and identified these areas from their many years of experience and observations. 

The meeting concluded with a resolution to formalize the Working Group’s participation in a circumpolar caribou and reindeer network, one of a series of networks to monitor Arctic biodiversity in the face of dramatic global changes. 

The Western Arctic caribou herd with almost 500,000 animals is a magnificent resource of great interest to many people.  With the Working Group leading the way, we all hope this herd remains healthy and abundant far into the future.

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