The purpose of this project is to ensure the perpetuation of the rare interplay between wild landscapes, flourishing wildlife and indigenous people that makes the Yukon North Slope an ecological treasure. Its goal is to equip the Inuvialuit with needed conservation tools to seal the governmental commitment for the Yukon North Slope “as a special conservation management regime whose dominant purpose is the conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional native use.”
Presently there exists an unprecedented opportunity to achieve this outcome vital to the survival of the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic and its iconic wildlife. Recent national and territorial elections have resulted in favorable political forces for northern peoples and conservation. In addition, the rulings of the Canada Supreme Court are ever expanding the land planning mandate and land management possibilities for Canada’s indigenous peoples. A very pertinent case in point may be the pending Peel River decision. Furthermore, the process for and products produced by this effort may serve as a powerful engagement and toolset for indigenous management expansion across the whole of the Western Arctic.
Ecologically, the mountain ranges of the Yukon North Slope provide habitats for an impressive array of large mammals, including wolf, moose, Dall sheep and grizzly bear. While the eastern coastal plain and wetlands provide for polar bear, muskox, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and well over several hundred thousand lesser snow geese. The Yukon North Slope with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is also home to the Porcupine Caribou herd. Numbering more than 170,000, caribou are an international emblematic symbol of conservation in the Arctic for Canada and the United States. The Porcupine Caribou are central to the Inuvialuit’s relationships to these lands and are key to their way of life and livelihood.
The full geographic scope of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region includes much of the Western Arctic, including large portions of the Beaufort Sea and the Northwest Territories, and the entire Yukon North Slope. In 1984, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic entered into a land claims agreement with the Government of Canada providing the Inuvialuit participation in development decisions and measures to protect their traditions and conserve the Arctic wildlife and their environments. Due to the North Slope’s ecological richness and particularly high cultural importance, the Inuvialuit strongly negotiated for national park status for the entire region. When the negotiations concluded, Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park were established as wilderness parks. While the vast eastern North Slope was placed under a Withdrawal Order that established a moratorium on development activities. The resulting Inuvialuit Final Agreement also confirmed that the management priority for the whole of the Yukon North Slope was conservation of the land, near and off shore waters, wildlife and Inuvialuit traditional use. To assist this management priority, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement established the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) as a co-management body comprised of an independent Chair and federal, territorial and Inuvialuit representatives.
The Yukon North Slope has always been a place of dynamic change but also of refuge. The western portion of the region escaped the glaciers of the last ice age and harbored the diversity of wildlife and plants of millennia ago. When the ice age ended approximately 18,000 years ago, the plants and animals that found harbor here dispersed in every direction. During this time, the ancestors of the Inuvialuit also colonized the region, adapting to the harsh northern climates to take advantage of the North Slope’s abundant wildlife. Today the pace of change is accelerating dramatically. In this context, the Western Arctic represents a “hot spot” of climate-induced environmental change dramatically increasing the uncertainties, complexities and vulnerability of the North Slope.
The Inuvialuit and Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) have worked to conserve the Yukon North Slope through a commitment to traditional knowledge and scientific research to inform the management of wildlife and its habitats. For 35 years, the Withdrawal Order and the activities of the Inuvialuit and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) have maintained the pristine condition of this otherwise unprotected region. However, there are other forces at play compounding the effects of changing climatic conditions, and threatening the regions conservation values. Interests in mineral development, onshore and offshore hydrocarbon development and seaport and road construction have thrown into question the future of the area. Industry pressure in the Yukon is creating mounting pressure for economic development in the Yukon North Slope prompting questions about the intent of the Withdrawal Order and the conditions under which development could or could not be accommodated.
Since the IFA allows for the possibility of “controlled development” in the Withdrawn Area, subject to the conservation requirements of the area, mechanisms must be in place for management authorities to most effectively consider, modify or reject such developments to ensure the dominant purpose of the region continues to be wildlife conservation and traditional native use. The activities of this project provide the Inuvialuit and WMAC(NS) such necessary tools.
Under IFA the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) is mandated to provide advice to the appropriate minister on all matters relating to wildlife policy and the management, regulation and administration of wildlife, habitat and harvesting for the Yukon North Slope, including to “prepare a wildlife conservation and management plan for the Yukon North Slope for recommendation to the appropriate authorities as a means to achieving and maintaining the principles of conservation set out in subsections (2) and (3).”
The Yukon North Slope Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan serves as the implementation of the IFA’s provisions that affect conservation and management of the wildlife. The completion of this plan is a critical step in achieving the Agreement’s vision and goals. Additionally, developing a climate-informed, spatially-explicit decision-support tool represents a strong step forward in translating the conservation principles of the IFA in to on-the-ground management guidance. The DST will provide a foundation for an effective Wildlife Conservation Management Plan that meets the dominant purpose of conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional Inuvialuit land use for the Yukon North Slope.
This Project includes four major phases with associated activities with each phase supporting the next while each also providing stand-alone outcomes and products: Phase I. Project Design and Implementation Strategy; Phase II. Information Gathering— ecological, cultural and traditional knowledge data sets;
Phase III. Baseline Ecological and Cultural Conservation Analyses and Decision Support Tool; and Phase IV. Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan completion. Thanks to our partners and supporters, to date phases one and two have been completed and reporting on the traditional knowledge collections is available on request.
To best take advantage of the current favorable political the Inuvialuit Game Council, Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and Round River are seeking support to complete this work by June of 2020. Further background, project specifics, work plans and budget information follows.
Waters flowing to the most northerly point of the Yukon Territory empty where the North American continent meets the Beaufort Sea. This is the Yukon North Slope, a vast coastal plain whose western region escaped glaciation and served as a refuge for many wildlife and plant species during the last ice age. The eastern portions of the coastal plain were covered in sheet ice until 18,000 years ago; as they receded they created the opportunity for habitat diversity across the plains including innumerable shallow lakes, ponds and associated wetlands. The Yukon North Slope is surrounded by spectacular wildernesses: the Beaufort Sea to the north; the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the west, the Mackenzie River Delta on its east; and Vuntut National Park to the south. It encompasses Ivvavik National Park and has no roads or towns with only the seasonal Inuvialuit hunting camps.
For countless generations, the Yukon North Slope has been and remains a core hunting territory of the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic. From their communities in Aklavik and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit rely on the Yukon North Slope for their subsistence livelihood, traveling by boat, foot, dogsled or skidoo to hunt, trap and fish. It is this exceedingly rare interplay between wild landscapes, flourishing wildlife and indigenous people that makes the Yukon North Slope a treasure; maintaining these relationships is central to preserving the rich values of Yukon North Slope.
Ecologically, the ranges of the British, Barn, and Richardson Mountains of the Yukon North Slope provide habitats for an impressive array and assemblages of large mammals, including wolf, moose, Dall sheep and grizzly bear. Outside of these ranges, the eastern coastal plain and wetlands provide habitats for polar bear, muskox, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and the entire western Canadian Arctic population of lesser snow geese that number over several hundred thousand birds. Above all else perhaps, the Yukon North Slope is home to the Porcupine Caribou herd, encompassing the herd’s core Canadian calving grounds. Numbering more than 170,000, caribou are an international emblematic symbol of conservation in the Arctic for Canada and the United States. The Porcupine Caribou are central to the Inuvialuit’s relationships to these lands and are key to their way of life and livelihood. Furthermore, the communities of Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Old Crow, Dawson City, Tsiigehtchic, Fort Yukon, Kaktovik, and Arctic Village all rely on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for food and materials for clothes and shelter.
In 1984, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic entered into a land claims agreement with the Government of Canada. The resulting Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) provided a means for the Inuvialuit to participate in economic and social development decisions in the North, while also protecting their traditions and conserving the Arctic wildlife and their environments. The full geographic scope of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) includes much of the Western Arctic, including portions of the Beaufort Sea, a large area of the Northwest Territories, and the entire Yukon North Slope.
Due to the high ecological richness and cultural importance of the Yukon North Slope, the Inuvialuit strongly negotiated in the land claims process for the entire region to be placed within national park status. When the negotiations finally concluded, the IFA established Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park as wilderness parks. The remaining area of the eastern North Slope was placed under a Withdrawal Order that established a moratorium effectively prohibiting development activities.
The IFA also confirmed that the management priority for the whole of the Yukon North Slope was conservation of the land, near and offshore waters, wildlife and Inuvialuit traditional use. To assist in delivering on this management priority, the IFA established the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) or WMAC(NS) as a co-management body comprised of federal, territorial and Inuvialuit representatives and an independent Chair. The mandate of the WMAC(NS) is to provide advice on all matters related to wildlife management on the Yukon North Slope.
The Yukon North Slope (YNS) has always been a place of dynamic change but also of refuge. The western portion of the region escaped the glaciers of the last ice age and harbored the diversity of wildlife and plants of millennia ago. When the ice age ended approximately 18,000 years ago, the plants and animals that found harbor here dispersed in every direction. Some of these species, including the arctic fox, tundra muskox, caribou and grizzly bear are still here. Others such as the woolly mammoth, steppe bison, camel, badger, giant beaver and wild ass succumbed to extinction at the end of the Pleistocene. Many other species, including countless nesting and migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds, discovered rich habitats here as the ice receded. The ancestors of the Inuvialuit also colonized the region at this time, adapting to the harsh northern climates to take advantage of the abundance of the North Slope.
Today the pace of change is accelerating dramatically. In the face of human-induced climate change, northern latitudes are facing rapid shifts in temperature and weather patterns, ground conditions and vegetation. In this context, the Western Arctic and the YNS represent a “hot spot” of climate-induced environmental change. The Inuvialuit along with the most robust or adaptable wildlife species may be able to withstand and survive this dramatic change if their inherent resilience remains intact. However, there are other forces at play that could undermine the resilience of the natural and human ecology, compound the effects of changing environmental conditions, and threaten the long-term conservation values of the YNS. Our proposed activities provide the Inuvialuit and WMAC(NS) the necessary tools to effectively manage, alter and/or oppose decisions that potentially damage the current and future resilience and conservation of the region.
The eastern Yukon North Slope – approximately 50 percent of the area – remains under the 1980 Withdrawal Order that withdrew all Crown lands from disposition under the federal Territorial Lands Act and from entry under the federal Yukon Placer Mining Act. The Withdrawal Order and the activities of the Inuvialuit and WMAC(NS) have maintained the pristine condition of the otherwise unprotected region (“the Withdrawal Area”) of Yukon North Slope that lies east of the Babbage River and the Ivvavik National Park for 36 years.
The Inuvialuit and WMAC(NS) have worked to conserve the Yukon North Slope through a commitment to traditional knowledge and scientific research to inform the management of wildlife and its habitats. The very intent of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement is to protect the land for future generations of Inuvialuit, for others to enjoy and for its own sake. However, the future of the YNS is uncertain. Interests in mineral development, onshore and offshore hydrocarbon development and seaport and road construction have thrown into question the status and future of the area. The growing economic interest has prompted questions at senior government levels in the Yukon about the intent of the Withdrawal Order and the conditions under which development could or could not be accommodated on the eastern North Slope. The conservation values of the YNS are highly vulnerable to development activity, as is the balance between North Slope ecology and the subsistence use of the Inuvialuit. Moreover, experience from other areas of the Arctic demonstrates that if this area were impacted by industrial development, it would recover only very slowly or not at all. The accelerating effect of climate change dramatically increases the uncertainties, complexities, and vulnerability of the North Slope.
Since the IFA allows for the possibility of “controlled development” in the Withdrawn Area, subject to the conservation requirements of the area, mechanisms must be in place for management authorities to most effectively consider, modify or reject such developments to ensure the dominant purpose of the region continues to be conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional native use under the specific provisions of the Agreement (Section 12 (20)).
To date, there has not been a requirement to assess proposed major developments according to the criteria under Section 12(4) because the Withdrawal Order effectively prohibits development activities. But there will be efforts to alter this management instrument within the broader conservation regime established with the signing of the IFA. Jurisdiction over land and natural resource matters in the Yukon was devolved to the Yukon Government from the Canadian federal government in 2001. With it, responsibility for the Withdrawal Order passed from federal to territorial hands. In 2004, the Yukon Premier indicated to the Inuvialuit his government’s interest in exploring the full or partial removal of the Withdrawal Order to proceed with limited or controlled development. The current political landscape and industry pressure in the Yukon is creating mounting pressure for economic development in the YNS that may result in a possible lifting or modification in the Withdrawal Order to accommodate industrial development.
To make the strongest case for the continuation of the Withdrawal Order or equivalent conservation measures, the Inuvialuit, WMAC(NS) and other co-management institutions established under the IFA need robust tools that use up-to-date ecological and cultural datasets to evaluate the impacts of proposed developments on wildlife, habitats, and Inuvialuit land use. Having powerful and credible analyses and tools is critical to enable the stewards of this region to make informed recommendations on the suitability, risks and, ultimately, acceptability of proposed developments.
Under IFA 12 (56), the WMAC(NS) is mandated to provide advice to the appropriate minister on all matters relating to wildlife policy and the management, regulation and administration of wildlife, habitat and harvesting for the Yukon North Slope, including to “prepare a wildlife conservation and management plan for the Yukon North Slope for recommendation to the appropriate authorities as a means to achieving and maintaining the principles of conservation set out in subsections (2) and (3).”
The Yukon North Slope Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan (WCMP) serves as the implementation of the IFA’s Section 12 and other related provisions that affect conservation and management of the wildlife in the Yukon North Slope. The plan is a critical step in achieving the Agreement’s vision and goals.
Developing a climate-informed, spatially-explicit decision-support tool (DST) represents a strong step forward in translating the conservation principles of the IFA into on-the-ground management guidance. A DST will provide a foundation for an effective and flexible Wildlife Conservation Management Plan that meets the dominant purpose of conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional Inuvialuit land use for the Yukon North Slope.
The DST will provide several spatial products that will:
- Compile existing spatial ecological and cultural information;
- Provide new spatial map and/or models and analyses of ecological and cultural values of the region
- Identify areas of exceptional ecological and cultural value;
- Synthesize spatial information into regional analyses to identify patterns and dynamics important for the long-term viability of cultural uses, key resident species and major ecosystem processes; and,
- Integrate available spatial and non-spatial information on the predicted effects of climate change into analyses.
The Project Team recognizes the unique context for planning for the Yukon North Slope (YNS), that:
- the Yukon North Slope falls under a constitutionally-protected special conservation regime whose dominant purpose is the conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional native use;
- all development proposals relating to the YNS must be screened to determine whether they could have a significant negative impact on the wildlife, habitat or ability of the Inuvialuit to harvest wildlife;
- no activities that may significantly affect wildlife, habitat or harvesting may be permitted unless public convenience and necessity outweigh conservation and Inuvialuit harvest interests;
- the YNS remains under a 1980 Withdrawal Order, which removes the YNS from the inventory of lands that can be leased for mineral rights or otherwise disposed of for large-scale development activity or development of surface infrastructure;
- controlled development may be permissible in the YNS, subject to the special conservation management provisions of the IFA;
- the YNS is situated within a larger Arctic context and regional land use patterns, with a dynamic pattern of Inuvialuit land use and wildlife use and migration that extend beyond the YNS boundaries;
- there are potential development pressures on the Yukon North Slope, particularly on and offshore oil and gas development and related infrastructure and access; and,
- the Arctic is subject to on-going and significant climate change impacts.
The YNS DST will also need to be a dynamic toolkit, tailored to the specific needs of the WMAC(NS) and other IFA co-management bodies and aimed at providing the core spatial tools for the revised Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan.
Purpose and Goal
The purpose of the Yukon North Slope Baseline Ecological and Cultural Conservation Analyses (BECCA) and Decision-Support Tool (DST) is to ensure the perpetuation of the rare interplay between wild landscapes, flourishing wildlife and indigenous people that makes the Yukon North Slope an ecological treasure.
The goal is to equip the Inuvialuit and the WMAC(NS) with conservation planning tools that will further the governmental commitment under Section 12(2) of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) to manage the Yukon North Slope “as a special conservation management regime whose dominant purpose is the conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional native use.”
September 2015 – June 2020
The Project includes four major project phases with associated activities. Each phase supports the next to have a significant bearing on the overall success of our collective efforts while each also provides stand-alone outcomes and products of management value:
- Phase I, Project Design: Secure project endorsement and develop engagement strategy, study design and implementation strategy, initial information gathering, develop or gather base ecological, traditional knowledge and cultural data;
- Phase II, Information Gathering: Compile existing ecological, cultural and traditional knowledge datasets; create data library, identify key information gaps and develop strategies to fill them, refine study design based on best available information;
- Phase III, Baseline Ecological and Cultural Conservation Analyses: Develop focal and priority species habitat and connectivity models; integrate climate, ecological, social and cultural information, data and models into regional analyses of current and predicted future conditions; develop GIS-based Decision Support Tool;
- Phase IV, Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan: Revise and update Yukon North Slope Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan with regional analyses and climate information; operationalize and calibrate GIS-based Decision Support Tool.
Phase I has been completed and focused on project development including the detailed planning required to ensure the objectives, design and technical details of the project were clear, appropriate, feasible and achieved effectively and efficiently. Initial project endorsement was obtained by WMAC(NS). The Inuvialuit Game Council and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee expressed their endorsement for this initiative through letters of support. Cooperation has also been confirmed within the Yukon Department of Environment and with the Parks Canada as members of the Advisory Council. It will be necessary to maintain the support of these parties by ensuring their ongoing involvement during the development of the regional design, Decision Support Tool and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan.
This phase included the development of the technical Study Design to guide the work and work planning to successfully complete each phase of the work. The Study Design identified the specific foundational components of the regional analyses: appropriate focal species, ecosystems, cultural values and ecological dynamics; study area boundaries; temporal windows; as well as the major analytical approaches to best meet the specific objectives of this initiative (e.g., spatial optimization, connectivity analyses, types and resolution of climate predictions, etc) matched to data requirements and availability. The Implementation Strategy developed during this phase identified potential strategic opportunities and challenges for the WCMP and DST. It detailed strategies designed to ensure the lasting value of the products through an implementation approach that is feasible in light of political, technical capacity and financial realities.
Regular planning and strategic sessions are ongoing to review all the planning products produced in this phase to modify them as needed without compromising the product quality or the timelines and budgetary commitments.
Phase II. Information Gathering- Completed
Phase II provided the foundation for the regional ecological and cultural analyses by compiling, organizing, and completing a thorough quality assessment of existing ecological, cultural, land use and occupancy and traditional knowledge datasets that are both spatial and non-spatial. This work provided a spatial data library of selected high-quality data for the region and a foundation for the regional analyses. The work required to identify, obtain, assess and potentially reformat existing key data was significant and critical. Relative to other northern regions where Round River has produced large-scale conservation designs and decision-support systems (e.g., the British Columbia Coast, Muskwa-Kechika and Taku River Tlingit Territory), the Yukon North Slope had a wealth of existing data and information due to the long-standing commitment of WMAC(NS) and the Inuvialuit to support on-going wildlife research and traditional knowledge collections. Additionally, there was a large reservoir of information and expertise immediately to the west in Alaska where long-term studies and research continue (e.g., North Slope Science Initiative).
WMAC (NS), Inuvialuit Game Council, Round River, representatives from the Yukon Government – Department of Environment, Parks Canada and others held preliminary meetings in September 2013 and March 2014 to explore the collaborative efforts and the scope of work required to compile or develop the necessary cultural and ecological datasets, initiate development of a GIS-based decision support tool, and develop a revised Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan that would incorporate the use of these conservation planning tools. From these early discussions, we experienced a high level of cooperation in acquiring the required data sets.
Two important foundational data sets were also developed including a detailed ecosystem classification and an Inuvialuit YNS traditional land use and occupancy study, both which are now completed for incorporation into Phase III. In additional the most critical effort to complete an Inuvialuit YNS Traditional Knowledge Study focusing on the ecological requirements, habitats use, movement patterns, distribution and changes to these of key focal and priority species was completed. The TK study represents a stand-alone product that is both critical to this work as well as potentially of high value for a diversity of other uses.
Phase III. Baseline Ecological and Cultural Conservation Analyses
The objective of the Baseline Ecological and Cultural Conservation Analyses (BECCA) is to identify key areas and key ecological and cultural relationships within and adjacent to the YNS that may be critical to ensure the ecological and cultural values across the YNS are robust and resilient into the future. These analyses are based on increasing our understanding of the current and potential future distribution, ecological dynamics and potential vulnerabilities of umbrella or focal species, ecosystems, major ecosystem processes and Inuvialuit uses. A fundamental basis for the proposed BECCA will be the use of a set of focal species and ecosystems, selected for their ecological requirements, status, vulnerability, and social importance in the region. Additionally, this analysis will incorporate key ecological and landscape processes that are integral to maintaining the long-term integrity of the region including how these processes may change due to climate influences. Incorporation of Inuvialuit land uses, cultural values and how these will be affected by climate change are equally important. To a large extent, we understand from the Inuvialuit that their land use is driven by fish and wildlife use patterns – i.e., the ecological parameters selected for this analysis will seek to represent Inuvialuit current and future use patterns. But, additional cultural and land use analyses may prove useful; Round River has used modeling approaches in other regional analyses to fill in cultural information gaps including predicting past (and thus potential future) land use concentrations based on existing but incomplete cultural data sets.
The diverse data required for a regional ecological and cultural conservation analyses represent challenges similar to other regional analyses undertaken by Round River: varying quality, resolution, spatial extent, documentation and format. It is necessary to obtain or develop uniform data across the study region to allow unbiased and robust spatial analyses. This is particularly true when considering the dynamic nature of the region under climate change drivers. Thus, we anticipate it will be necessary in some cases to develop predictive models to fill in spatial information gaps to complete the ‘wall-to-wall’ coverage needed to appropriately assess the spatial extent and configuration of current and predicted future conservation values across the region. For example, it is likely that species habitat models and connectivity analyses will need to be developed for all or most of the focal species using TK and, where available, existing location or other information sources. The products of this phase both feed into the regional analyses and are of great value as stand-alone products representing the best current information on a wide diversity of ecological, social and cultural values. All spatial products will be added to the data library, allowing for ease of use and maintenance of the individual datasets and models.
While individual focal species and system products have high utility, the real power of the initiative is the integration of multiple ecological and cultural values and processes to provide synthesis and assessment of regional patterns in the diversity, importance, irreplaceability, vulnerability, and interaction of ecological and cultural values across space and time.
The assessment of the individual focal values or synthesis values under future conditions is clearly important but challenging and will be a priority of the work. The ability to develop reasonable and defensible products incorporating climate changes will be determined by the availability and applicability of existing climate models, products, and predictions regarding changing environmental conditions that may be linked to our focal values and downscaled for application in the Yukon North Slope. Given the extensive research and data available through research efforts such as the Alaska Climate Research Center and others, the initiative will seek transboundary collaborations and data sharing. The YNS is ideally located to maximize the potential of extending existing and evolving data and approaches to incorporating climate predictions into landscape analyses. Thus, depending upon data, time and budget constraints, an important objective of the initiative is to predict the potential effects of climate change on individual or synthesized values of the region, particularly the resilience, distribution and configuration of key ecological and cultural values.
Other potential key analytic tools that Round River has used effectively in other regional analyses and which may capture key dynamics of the Yukon North Slope region spatially-optimized area selection analyses, connectivity and movement analyses, representation analyses, special elements assessments and vulnerability-irreplaceability evaluations. The combination of models and analyses selected for this project reflect a unique amalgamation of methodologies, some of which have been developed or pioneered by Project Team members. Interim products will be generated to assist with local strategic planning. The Project Team will also explore ways of incorporating uncertainty and sensitivity analyses into the various components of the regional analysis and toolkit.
During this phase, the initial development of the Yukon North Slope Conservation Decision Support Tool (DST) will occur. The DST will consist of the data library including modeling products and outputs from the regional analysis and a GIS-based Tool to quickly access, view and manipulate the data. The DST will have the capability to select and query data spatially (e.g., using a map interface), access underlying databases, produce customized maps and summaries of values within user-selected areas of the study area.
The individual focal analyses and the syntheses analyses will be peer-reviewed. Presentations and workshops will serve to familiarize technical experts, agency staff and partners with the BECCA and the DST, and allow for refinement to accommodate the needs of managers and decision-makers.
Phase IV. Revise Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan
The WMAC(NS) completed the existing Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan in 2003 but it was never officially ratified. Still, it serves as the only guidance regarding management and conservation of wildlife and their habitats for the YNS. Today, there are significant concerns about the ability of the existing Plan to meet the needs and requirement of wildlife conservation given the range of current threats and challenges. In particular, the Plan does not provide any spatially explicit assessment of conservation, wildlife or ecological values for the region, nor does it provide direction to support the continued resilience of values in the face of climate change or development.
The updated information on the ecological and cultural values, the spatial mapping and modeling of these values across the region and the synthesis of these data into a regional analysis will provide a critical update to the Plan. This update will need to be captured within a revised Plan document, which will be the focus of this Phase IV of the Initiative. In addition, the Decision Support Toolkit will be incorporated into the Plan as a powerful approach to assessment and decision-making for the Yukon North Slope. The BECCA and the DST combined represent a robust approach to support informed decision-making, and should provide the foundation for defensible and rigorous conservation for the region.