The Taku River, flowing from the interior mountain ranges of northern British Columbia to the coastal ranges of Alaska, is the largest intact salmon-bearing watershed in North America. The Taku is a vast wilderness of glacial rivers, boreal forest and snow-packed peaks harboring many of the charismatic species of this continent: grizzly bear, moose, wolf, lynx, stone sheep, mountain goats, and wolverine, and all five species of Pacific salmon. The goal of our work is to maintain the Taku River’s wilderness character by enabling the management capabilities and authority of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) over their traditional territory.
Round River’s initial efforts here included the development of a Conservation Area Design through years of wildlife and fisheries research, as well as, capacity building and economic development support. One of the most important recent advancements has been the July 19, 2011 signing of the Atlin Taku Land Use Plan and government-to-government framework agreement between the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and the government of British Columbia. The Land Use Plan protects more than seven million acres from commercial logging and designates over two million acres as First Nation Conservancy Parks. These agreements represent long overdue respect and recognition for Tlingit people and their way of life. The Land Use Plan draws heavily on much of the research, analysis, and mapping work undertaken by Round River staff and students, working alongside the Tlingit, in the last decade.
Our student program began in 2003, and has evolved over the years to fit the research needs of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Early programs focused on wildlife surveys, documenting Tlingit oral histories and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and habitat studies and mapping.
Since 2011, Round River’s student program has focused on monitoring wildlife populations, and the effects of climate change on alpine habitats surrounding Atlin, BC. Our long-terms vegetation study documents the effects of climate change on alpine species, and follows the globally recognized “Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments” methodology (GLORIA), encompassing four study summits near Atlin. Summer 2013 saw the first round of data collection; this data set will serve as an important baseline for understanding climate change in boreal ecosystems across the northern hemisphere.
Other projects focus on the hoary marmot, the common nighthawk, woodland caribou, Stone’s sheep, and mountain goats in the mountainous Atlin-East area. Round River students may also assist the Taku River Tlingit First Nation with other projects as they arise.