For generations upon generations, the people of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Carcross/Tagish First Nation have lived along the lakes and rivers of the Yukon River headwaters. Today the Southern Lakes First Nations continue to maintain their intimate relationship to and their commitment as stewards to the land, water, fish and wildlife.
Where all waters flow north at the most northerly point of the Yukon Territory, the North American continent meets the Beaufort Sea. This is the Yukon North Slope. Encompassing Ivvavik National Park and bounded on the west by Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on the east by the sprawling Mackenzie River Delta, and to the south by Vuntut National Park, this is a vast wilderness area with no roads or towns, only the small seasonal hunting camps of the Inuvialuit.
The 10 million-acre territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in northwestern British Columbia is a big complete wilderness. The prevailing salmon producer of Southeast Alaska, and perhaps home to the highest density of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, this largest of intact wilderness river systems on the Pacific Coast of North America, the Taku River, dominates this territory as it flows from the interior boreal forests of British Columbia to the coastal temperate forests of Alaska.
One location where science, management, and indigenous knowledge systems have come together successfully is the salmon-rich homeland of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN), in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. Following from this success and experience in securing extensive salmon habitat conservation we intend together to leverage TRTFN’s more effective advocacy for sustainable salmon population management through the Pacific Salmon Treaty process.
One of the rarest mammals in the continental US, numbering less than 300 animals, the wolverine is found predominately in Idaho and Montana. Round River co-leads research with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station to answer critical questions about the potential effects of human disturbance on wolverines during winter and denning seasons.
With a small group of students, Round River began working in the British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest in 1993, in cooperation with the Big House Society of the Heiltsuk First Nation and the Raincoast Conservation Society. Since that time, Round River has played an important role in providing scientific research, analysis, and educational opportunities to help guide conservation strategies for the Great Bear Rainforest. These efforts included the development of a Conservation Area Design (CAD) for the Central Coast, and subsequent development of an Ecosystem Spatial Analysis for both the North and Central Coasts with partners from the Coastal Information Team (www.citbc.org). Together, these products served to form the scientific basis for negotiations over protected areas in the Great Bear.
We applied a modified Conservation Area Design (CAD) framework that was previously developed for the central coast of British Columbia to the adjacent north coast study area in order to rank and prioritize conservation areas based on biological criteria. We produced a contiguous CAD for a large portion of the coastal temperate rainforest in British Columbia that included both central and north coast regions. We used simple and repeatable methods for ranking watersheds that included both coarse-filter and species-based approaches.
Despite the biological diversity and global significance, the future of the coastal temperate rainforest is still highly uncertain. The primary threat to the region is unsustainable industrial logging and its associated ecological impacts. The region has a long history of conflicts between environmentalists and the timber industry that have generated both national and international interest in both Alaska and British Columbia. Which areas should receive highest priority for conservation? How much area is enough? What types of human activities are acceptable? How should conservation policies be implemented? We sought to develop science-based tools and to assemble regional data necessary to address these sorts of questions, through the development of a Conservation Area Design (CAD) for the region.
In the very most northern Rocky Mountains, the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area (MKMA) encompasses boreal plains, muskeg, and alpine peaks, forming a wilderness ecosystem of incredible magnitude. Fifty inter-connected wilderness watersheds support elk, moose, caribou, and Stone’s sheep and other ungulates, which in turn support populations of grizzly bears, wolves, and other carnivores.
In 2005, the Government of Northwest Territories’ (GNWT) Department of Environment and Natural Resources asked Round River to support the NWT Protected Areas Strategy (PAS) in a technical capacity. The NWT PAS is a spatial planning process with the stated goal of identifying priority areas for the protection of special ecological and cultural areas in the NWT, as well as core representative examples of the unique ecological diversity found in of each of the territory’s 45 ecoregions.
As stated in the 2010 Round River publication, Diné Bikéyah— We, the Navajo, who reside in what is now the State of Utah, wish to communicate to our fellow Utah and American citizens our deep connections and commitments to these lands. These perspectives we express here are not new, but they have rarely been voiced beyond our people. As others continue to argue about the fate and appropriate use of these lands, they continue to be desecrated and dishonored. Therefore, we have now chosen to share our Elders’ wisdom, as there is so much hanging in the balance for our future generations.