Co-Management of Natural Resources: A Comparison of Two Caribou Management Systems

Article excerpt

The US Man and the Biosphere High Latitude Ecosystems Directorate compared two caribou management systems in Alaska and Canada We examined the relationship between user involvement in management and management effectiveness. Measures of management effectiveness included: knowledge of the management system, agreement on acceptable harvest and herd monitoring practices, shared beliefs and perceptions on caribou population changes, perceptions of communications between management boards and caribou users, and expectations for cooperation of users with management actions. Our hypothesis was that the involvement of Canadian users in a joint management board would produce greater cooperation and agreement than the Alaskan hierarchical system. We conducted a census of government managers, and did surveys based on probability samples of approximately 200 traditional users in both countries. We found: (1) under ajoint management board, government managers are more sensitive and responsive to user concerns; and contrary to expectations, (2) direct user involvement in a joint management board does not increase the likelihood that users at the village level will cooperate with management actions. User-manager boards do not appear to be a substitute for a frequent and continued presence of biologists in traditional user communities when it comes to establishing trust in management information and supporting traditional community-based decision making.

Key words: co-management, natural resources; Canada, US, Alaska

Throughout the world, interest in the involvement of resource users in the management of resources through comanagement systems is high (McCay and Acheson 1987; Berkes 1989; Pinkerton 1989). The reasons for the high interest range from wildlife conservation to the well-being of local populations and even their cultural survival (Berkes et al. 1991; Kemp 1993). In Canada, wildlife management systems have been a central focus of aboriginal land claims negotiations (Carpenter, Hanbidge, and Binder 1991; Feit 1979; Fenge 1985). US federal land management agencies have established a separate wildlife management system for federal lands in Alaska (Caulfield 1991). Native and government organizations in Alaska are exploring ways to institute co-management principles (Nome Nugget 1995; Trent, Kruse, and Leask 1996).

Recent attempts to redesign fish and game management systems have followed one of two approaches: privatization of the resource, as in the case of individual commercial fishing quotas (Berman and Leask 1994) or formal sharing of management responsibilities between specific user groups and governments. The latter is referred to as co-management, or cooperative management (Berkes et al. 1991; Osherenko 1988). There are many possible variations of sharing management responsibilities. These range from complete delegation of all management activities to a user group (e.g., compacting'), to participation of users in advisory groups. In between are possibilities for the delegation of specific management activities (e.g., harvest monitoring, quota allocation).

The Alaska Board of Game, for example, is primarily composed of resource users. Its seven members are appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the legislature. The Alaska Board of Game sets policy and establishes regulations and is advised by professional staff from two divisions of the Division of Fish and Game (Wildlife Conservation and Subsistence). The Alaska game management system also included local advisory councils and, until recently, regional advisory councils. Field staff from both divisions frequently interact with users. Yet the rural Native community generally views the State fish and game management system as unresponsive to their concerns and favoring urban sport interests.

In practice, the major difference between the Alaska State game management system and the general concept of shared management between resource users and government is the fact that the composition of the Board of Game reflects the predominance of the urban population in Alaska. …