It is very positive how much attention has paid towards the protection of ANWR and the Porcupine caribou calving grounds from US oil development.
This will probably continue to be, as it has been for years, an ongoing battle that we will need to fight.
There is, however, more that should be done.
Yukon and NWT residents must play a better role of caretakers of the herd throughout the rest of the year, especially during the winter.
Barren-ground caribou herds are one of the very cornerstones of the entire northern ecosystem.
As well as feeding people, the herds sustain some of the world’s last, mostly-intact natural predator-prey systems, with the list of animals who depend on them ranging from wolves, foxes, ravens and chickadees eating their flesh, to the hares, ground squirrels, and lemmings who chew their bones and antlers.
However the pressures faced by the Porcupine caribou herd throughout the caribou hunting season are severe.
The herd’s population has been steadily declining (4.5 per cent fewer per year experiencing a greater mortality than other barren ground caribou herds, according to Environment Canada).
In spite of this, hunting regulations continue to allow cows to be shot, which in itself is usually not sustainable.
The use of snowmachines in chasing the herds, both from the Dempster Highway and along the rivers, causes the herd to suffer tremendous stress as they run back and forth across the hills.
This happens during a season where the bulls should be recovering from the rut and the cows should be conserving as much energy as possible for the winter spent with growing fetus.
This stress syndrome, according to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board website, can be responsible for an animal’s death days or weeks after the chase.
Some hunters also shoot indiscriminately into herds, killing some animals while only wounding others.
During the spring hunt along the Dempster, I’ve video-taped lone bulls dragging a shot up hind leg away from the scene of a hunt.
I’ve also found fresh bodies of animals, which had wandered off wounded and later bled to death.
This is not hunting with respect and it is not sustainable.
Our own cultures should be evolving along with our changing world.
One such evolution is moving from simply being people that live from the land and the animals, including the Porcupine caribou herd, into people that now give life to the land and animals — protecting them and ensuring that they are able to survive into the future as nature has always ensured that we are able to survive.
A wasteful shame
I was extremely dismayed when I read Colum McCready’s letter to the editor last Monday.
In the four years that I have been the executive director of the Yukon Volunteer Bureau, I can tell you that I have personally heard far, far too many stories of situations like this.
The stories have come from outgoing executive directors, and the board members of the organizations from which they are leaving.
I have no statistics to back up McCready’s claim that the average life of an executive director is one year; however I will say that since I’ve been with the bureau, I have seen a number of organizations revolve executive directors through their doors one, two, even three times.
When I hear the stories, my first thought is always, ‘What a shame. These are all educated people, passionate for the same cause; volunteers and employees — leaders — that the voluntary sector desperately needs to retain.’
Recruit as many as you want — when we lose them, we don’t get them back; and this is often the most damaging to those that the organization is trying to serve.
So why do I continue to hear these stories over and over and over again?
To me it’s indicative of some common themes.
Conflict always arises when expectations differ, and when clear boundaries are not set in place. How far it escalates will depend on what’s at stake.
Let me use my favourite analogy here. Imagine you are sitting at a table with six other people.
You are about to play a board game you’ve never seen before, however there are no rules in the box.
How do you decide how the game will be played? Likely, you will devise your own rules (policy and procedures) — making sure everyone agrees with them (laying out clear expectations) — and you’ll write them down so you don’t forget.
You’ll designate a ‘banker’, a ‘scorekeeper’, etc. (giving people clear roles and responsibilities in the game).
These are extremely logical, rational and civil things to do.
For some reason, though, many of us forget to take these simple steps in the non-profit sector.
We don’t have time. We have clients to serve, money to find, the world to save.
So we sit down and we start rolling the dice and moving around the board in a frenzy of action.
It’s bound to happen … someone makes a move someone else disagrees with. But now we have no game rules, no foundation, to guide us.
And when we’re all extremely passionate about the outcome, we run the risk of getting entangled in bitter emotional battles with the other players involved — where someone gets hurt, and someone invariably leaves.
I feel for all of the people involved in the unfortunate situation at the Yukon Council on Disability. It is heartbreaking to watch.
Yet I will not cast blame on either side. Instead I will continue to work to provide the resources non-profits can use to develop those foundational pieces, so that future conflicts can be prevented, and the sector can retain its most valuable resource — its leaders.
Tracy Erman, executive director, Yukon Volunteer Bureau