UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conditions leading to grassroots initiatives for the co-management of subsistence uses of wildlife in Alaska Schwarber, James A.


Between 1985 and 1991, grassroots co-management initiatives for subsistence uses of wildlife emerged from three of Alaska's six subsistence resource regions. Initiatives from the northwest Arctic, Interior, and Western regions ranged from requests for the delegation of management authority from the State Board of Game and federal government to village governments, to proposals for the contracting of federal subsistence management responsibilities to tribal groups. This thesis considers regional variations in six factors as possible explanations of the emergence of terrestrial wildlife co-management initiatives in certain regions: 1) magnitude and type of subsistence resource utilization; 2) degree of cultural homogeneity and Native percentage of population; 3) strength of leadership towards subsistence; 4) degree of congruity between state wildlife regulations and traditional subsistence activities; 5) differences in perception of state regulatory system; and 6) federal jurisdiction over land and Native affairs. Interviews, subsistence literature, and records relating to the state's regulatory system provided research material. Analysis involved comparing the presence and relative strength of each of the six factors in regions where co-management proposals emerged and those where they did not. Four factors were found to be most important for the emergence of co-management initiatives in certain regions: long-term leadership commitment towards subsistence issues; a high degree of per capita subsistence resource use, regardless of resource type; cultural homogeneity in association with a predominantly Native population; and the presence of extensive federal lands. Taken together, these four factors make a sufficient set of conditions for co-management to emerge. Where leadership was lacking, and the other three predictors were present, co-management did not emerge. Thus, strength of leadership commitment to the protection of Native subsistence activities proved to be the key characteristic separating the three regions first to initiate co-management proposals, and the other regions following their lead. Incongruities between state regulations and subsistence uses, and negative perceptions of the state system by subsistence users were also found to have contributed to co-management initiatives, but they were less important factors. Subsistence management has been characterized by interjurisdictional and user-group conflicts, which co-management may help to resolve. The implications of the findings for improving wildlife and subsistence management through co-management are that policies may be developed that usefully reinforce subsistence leadership capabilities and integrate other predictors into management efforts.

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