U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

International Conservation


The International Conservation Program in Alaska strengthens cooperation and scientific exchange about trans-boundary species and ecosystems among the nations of the circumpolar Arctic and other international partners. Alaska is uniquely situated between two international neighbors, Canada and Russia. Species and habitats of critical importance, benefit, and meaning to Americans, occur not only within the borders of the United States, but also in shared boreal and Arctic ecosystems extending around the globe.

Coordinate and Serve as Liaison

We work with the other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) programs, such as Migratory Bird Management and Marine Mammals Management, to assist in coordinating many of the Region’s international activities. In 2006, the Alaska Region founded the cross-programmatic Alaska Region Coordinating Team for International Cooperation ( “ARCTIC”), chaired by International Conservation. The other major USFWS programs in Alaska all have representation on ARCTIC, as does the Washington Office Division of International Conservation. The purpose of ARCTIC is to further improve international collaboration opportunities between and among programs in Alaska, and also enhance coordination with the Washington Office’s international program and with other partners, such as the USGS Alaska Science Center. The International Conservation Program serves as liaison on international activities with the Department of the Interior and the Washington Office of the USFWS.

Brooks Range in Alaska
Brooks Range, Alaska Photo Credit: USFWS
Caribou herd in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Caribou herd in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo Credit: USFWS

Promote and Support USFWS Programs

The International Conservation Program supports the other USFWS programs by communicating their priorities and objectives to other Arctic countries and our resource agency counterparts there. The USFWS promotes cooperative science and stewardship of fish and wildlife resources by partnering and leveraging dollars with our counterparts in all of the other Arctic countries through official representation in such international working groups as the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group (CAFF) of the Arctic Council. We take an active leadership role to strengthen and expand international partnerships, landscape-level planning efforts, and technical assistance to deliver efficient range-wide conservation of migratory species. We implement and support international partnerships, treaties, shared scientific monitoring and research endeavors, and effective stewardship of the globally significant biodiversity of the circumpolar Arctic. We work to support USFWS priorities such as landscape conservation, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, aquatic species, and connecting people with nature to ensure the future of conservation.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for our Nation’s fish and wildlife resources, and many species have ranges which extend beyond our borders. To ensure appropriate and efficient understanding and protection of these resources, cooperative international partnerships are essential. The USFWS is the designated U.S. representative in several cooperative international efforts, councils, and working groups

The Arctic Council is a high-level forum of Arctic governments and Arctic peoples which addresses their common concerns and challenges, especially involving environmental protection and sustainable development. The member states are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States. The Arctic Council leadership is at the ministerial (Department of State) level, and ministerial meetings are held in different countries in rotation every two years. Between those occasions, the work of the Council is directed by the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) in consultation with representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples (called the Permanent Participants), and in cooperation with the Permanent Observers. Several non-Arctic states are Permanent Observers to the Arctic Council, including the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. Decisions are made by consensus of all eight Arctic states. The Arctic Council accomplishes its work through several Working Groups, (pdf) including the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), as illustrated.

The USFWS is the lead U.S. agency on the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group, and this responsibility has been delegated to the Assistant Regional Director of the Alaska Region’s International Conservation program. CAFF was formed in 1992 to discuss and address circumpolar Arctic conservation issues, and advise the Arctic governments ( Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.) on conservation matters and sustainable use issues of international significance and common concern.

The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group is a very active forum that has established and sponsored a variety of monitoring and conservation efforts important to Arctic fish and wildlife resources. A priority project of CAFF since 2006 has been the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP). This coordinated international monitoring program is being undertaken in response to the Arctic Council’s special initiative, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). The FWS staff in Alaska lead the international work of the CAFF Circumpolar Seabird Group and the CAFF Flora Group, responsible for the development of the comprehensive Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map and the new effort, the Circumpolar Boreal Vegetation Mapping Project. Maps used with permission from the CAFF International Secretariat, Akureyri, Iceland, on behalf of the CAFF Working Group of the Arctic Council. CAFF publications available by contacting the CAFF International Secretariat, Akureyri Iceland - caff@caff.is


CAFF Areas of Interest Map
The Arctic areas of interest as defined by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group of the Arctic Council.

The ECORA Project is an Integrated Ecosystem Management Approach to conserve Biodiversity and Minimize Habitat Fragmentation in three Model Areas in the Russian Arctic. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility and administered by a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/GRID-Arendal). Alaska FWS staff are the western advisors to two of these model areas, the Kolyma River Basin and the Beringovsky District.

The State Department has entered into interagency agreements with the International Conservation Program in Alaska to help provide funding support for 2 projects in 2007: (1) a stakeholder's workshop in Washington D.C. to address funding of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, and (2) initiating the development of a Circumpolar Boreal Vegetation Map.