Undermining subsistence: Barren-ground caribou in a “tragedy of open access”

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Science Advances  28 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, e1701611
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701611

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  • An Evolving Landscape of Co-Management - Is it too Late for the Bathurst Caribou? (Response to Nishi et al)
    • Brenda L. Parlee, Associate Professor, University of Alberta
    • Other Contributors:
      • John Sandlos
      • David Natcher

    1. Co-management and comprehensive Management?

    Nishi et al. suggested we missed an opportunity to discuss the successes and opportunities of co-management in northern Canada. We disagree that the opportunity was missed. We do, in fact, note the importance and many successes of caribou co-management in the Northwest Territories (pg. 3, 4). We also highlight how co-management has been a means through which Traditional Knowledge about caribou has been incorporated into management decisions (pg. 3); however, we also acknowledge those who have been critical of northern wildlife co-management institutions for their subtle reproduction of colonial relations (1-3).

    The Canadian Constitution, land claim agreements and a number of Supreme Court of Canada decisions offer important protections for Indigenous peoples and lands and resources valued for subsistence in many parts of northern Canada. However, we suggest these protections are fragile in the context of social and economic inequities that persist in northern wildlife management. Many other authors have touched on the same issues (1, 2, 4-10). While there are indeed successes to be celebrated, it is important to recognize and openly discuss the challenges. Many First Nations in northern Canada, and elsewhere, must engage in ongoing legal battles with government to ensure their legal rights and values are respected. A case in point is discussed in our paper. (i.e., Canadian Supreme Court case: Nacho Nyak Dun Firs...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Undermining co-management of Bathurst caribou in the Northwest Territories
    • John Nishi, Ecologist, EcoBorealis Consulting Inc.
    • Other Contributors:
      • Allice Legat, Anthropologist and Traditional Knowledge Researcher, Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board
      • Jan Adamczewski, Wildlife Biologist, Ungulates, Government of the Northwest Territories
      • Jody Pellissey, Executive Director, Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board
      • H. Dean Cluff, Biologist, Government of the Northwest Territories
      • Karin Clark, Cumulative Effects Biologist, Government of the Northwest Territories
      • Heather Sayine-Crawford, Manager, Wildlife Research and Management, Government of the Northwest Territories

    Parlee et al. (2018) proposed that a “tragedy of open access” is occurring in Canada’s north with habitat disturbance by mineral resource development causing greater stress on migratory barren-ground caribou than subsistence harvesting. They suggested that government is only focused on limiting caribou harvest by Indigenous people, that the impacts of industry on caribou have not been recognized, and that addressing this ‘science-policy gap’ is critical to sustainability of both caribou and people. We agree that cumulative effects of industrial development are a critical issue in particular for the Bathurst caribou herd, which ranges across the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU) and is the only herd with substantial industrial development in the NT. However, we suggest that Parlee et al. present an incomplete and dated picture of caribou co-management in the Canadian north. We outline three concerns below.

    1. Co-management of Bathurst caribou in the Northwest Territories

    Parlee et al. wrote largely about government management of caribou, with little mention of land claims, co-management boards, public hearings, and the responsibilities and leadership shown by Indigenous governments.

    In 2005, the “Tłı̨chǫ Land Claims and Self Government Agreement” was finalized, and as a result the Wek'èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) was created. The WRRB has equal representation from Tłı̨chǫ government nominees and those identified by territo...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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