Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Arctic Rangers Want Better Equipment to Deal with Climate Change

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Arctic Rangers Want Better Equipment to Deal with Climate Change

Article excerpt

Rangers want tools to handle Arctic warming


OTTAWA - A new report says global warming has so altered the Arctic that the Canadian Rangers -- largely aboriginal reservists who patrol the North -- need new equipment to navigate a vast terrain they barely recognize anymore.

The frozen land of their forefathers now has much thinner sea ice, weather that is no longer predictable, unfamiliar southern birds and mammals that have migrated north and traditional game that is disappearing and tastes funny.

And their patrols for the military have become more dangerous, especially as they travel where once-solid ice is now unreliable for sea crossings.

The 54 Canadian Rangers interviewed for a June military report say they need satellite phones, GPS navigation tools and better search-and-rescue equipment, along with the basic kit they've been demanding for years, including rifles and sleeping bags.

The document, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper concludes his annual northern tour in Iqaluit by participating in the sovereignty exercise Operation Nanook 14.

The report drew on focus groups gathered in four communities, and recommends the government look for ways to provide the 5,000 Canadian Rangers such basic equipment as cold-weather coats.

"The elders used to be able to predict the weather by looking at the clouds; they can't do that anymore. You can't predict the weather anymore," was a typical comment on the impact of climate change, which has reduced snow cover, led to earlier springs and generated fiercer winter winds.

Snowmobiles are becoming less available as the snow disappears, making it harder to travel.

"We never used to have forest fires. Now we have more and more each summer," said one participant.

"There are new species now like small birds, ducks, salmon, foxes, grizzlies and an unknown species that is a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly," said another. "We never used to see any of these species before."

Meanwhile, staples of the indigenous northern diet -- caribou, seal and polar bear -- are migrating north to escape the warmer weather, leaving fewer animals to hunt. …

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