At this last colloquium lecture of the semester, Dr. Gail Fondahl presented a compelling case study of the ability of a local community to advocate for itself in response to federal action. Though the details of this story are specific to the country and region where it occurred (especially where reindeer husbandry is involved), it contains guidance and motivation for communities globally to work towards land use objectives that are compatible with their livelihoods.
For a few years, I have fostered a pet interest in the high north and circumpolar communities. Unlike many in the audience, I have some background understanding of the non-“mainland” regions of Russia and the indigenous communities that live there. I have spent hours chasing down information on the nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle, and received a funny look from a librarian or two asking for resources on circumpolar Russia. That said, I have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for these communities – knowing the traditional migratory paths of reindeer have been bisected by above-ground pipelines and that nomadic communities have, in some places, been made to transition to stationary settlements. Dr. Fondahl’s research adds a beacon of light to that narrative, and for me, re-opens a vein of curiosity.
I am impressed by the systematic structure of the swift approach the Yakutia, of the Sakha Republic, took in response to Russia’s equally swift enacting of the Homesteading legislation for the Far East Federal District. The organized and comprehensive nature of the rejoinder seems to have played a major role in the Yakutian success in reacting to and working with the federal agencies.
Working in conservation planning, I am further incentivized by the evidence of localized/indigenous communities having the resources to affect change at the federal level in relation to land use and proposed land use changes. All too often, First Nations brought in at the end of the process of planning protected areas (or, truly, any other land use change). Conservation planners are beginning to actively rectify this glaring mistake, as First Nations both have critical information regarding the ecological systems of the land, and a powerful voice when it comes to designating land for protection.
To top it off, throughout the presentation, Dr. Fondahl gave really good definitions, explanations, and illustrations of the region and its characteristics. This interesting and well-presented research is of the sort and caliber we should all strive for.