Alaska Native Perspectives on the Governance of Wildlife Subsistence and Conservation Resources in the Arctic
Buschman, Victoria Rose
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Wildlife resource management in the Arctic is a collaborative effort across many governments, agencies, extractive industries, environmental organizations, and Indigenous communities. Many governments and environmental organizations recognize a need for wildlife conservation as the landscape undergoes rapid environmental change, but some conservation practices burden Indigenous communities that rely on access to wildlife as a means of subsistence and food security. Despite a collective desire for the continued proliferation of endemic species and sustainable population dynamics, many Indigenous Peoples continue to experience the failures of management efforts through inadequate consideration of their perspectives, needs, concerns, and strengths within the decision making process. Using several case studies and previous work done in collaboration with Alaska Native communities and other Indigenous Peoples, this study recognizes the widely-held perspectives of these groups in contrast with western environmentalism and typical natural resource management. Within the Alaska Native context, the five major challenges to the inclusive management of wildlife are, (1) cultural differences in definition and approach to natural resource issues, (2) disregard for the place of Indigenous knowledge alongside western science, (3) distribution of environmental impacts and the burden of conservation, (4) power imbalances, and (5) lack of trust and respect. Characterizing differences between these groups’ perspectives on environmentalism, decision making, and policy approach show clear evidence of a cultural divide and of shortcomings in current wildlife science and policy. In order to give Alaska Natives greater voice in wildlife decisions that impact their communities, management strategies must find a way to reconcile these differences and foster inclusive and engaging solutions that are both place-based and landscape-scale.
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