3.3.3 Community Moose Monitoring Project (Canada)

Community Moose Monitoring Project and Community Ecological Monitoring Project (Canada)

For 8 years the Community Moose Monitoring Project (CMMP) has been going on in the Mayo area of the Yukon, which is located in the traditional territory of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun. The population of the village, which in 2006 numbered 248, shares a Native language – Northern Tutchone – with several other surrounding First Nation communities. As part of their efforts to manage the resources that local residents rely on for food, the Mayo community wanted to develop a means to track and monitor the moose population in the area.

The Community Ecological Monitoring Project (CEMP), which is also run out of the local Fish and Wildlife office in Mayo, has been active in the area for 25 years. The purpose of the program is to gather systematic observations about the boreal forest food web. There are two parts to the CEMP – a technical monitoring component and a local and traditional knowledge component – both of which involve the active participation of local community members. Mr. Mark O’Donoghue, of the local Fish and Wildlife office, plays a leading role in both projects.

Status and Contact Details

Lead

Mr.Mark O’Donoghue, Fish and Wildlife Branch Mayo, Yukon, Canada Mark.ODonoghue@gov.yk.ca

Project Time: CMMP 2001-Present, CEMP 1985-Present

Funding: Fish and Wildlife office, Northern Ecosystem initiative and a variety of other sources.

Q1. What are the main goals and activities of the project?
The Community Moose Monitoring project tracks the health and size of the moose herd in the surrounding region. The Community Ecological Monitoring Project (CEMP) gathers observations about the boreal forest food web.

Q2. Who are the participants?
Participants in the Community Moose Monitoring Project (CMMP) are from the Mayo community. There is an effort to expand the project to other surrounding Northern Tutchone communities, but that hasn’t taken off yet. The Community Ecological Monitoring Project is a partnership between residents of the Mayo community, the local Fish and Wildlife office, and participants from local universities, First Nations, Parks Canada, and Yukon College.

Q3. Who initiated the project?
For the CMMP, the idea and the desire for the project came from the community, but the local Fish and Wildlife office provides the technical resources needed to keep it going. It helps train local participants and analyses the results. Because the office is located in the village of Mayo, there is continual communication between the Fish and Wildlife employees working on the CMMP and the local co-management board, which jointly oversees the project. The CEMP has been going on for about 25 years, although more recently it has been expanded to include a local and traditional knowledge component. The First Nation communities that participate in the CEMP had expressed a desire that this knowledge be incorporated into monitoring efforts.

Q4. What are the locations and how were they selected?
The local Fish and Wildlife office was set up in the Mayo area for the express purpose of working directly with local Northern Tutchone communities. This grew out of an agreement with First Nations. It was widely known that they had a huge body of knowledge about the environment and wanted it be incorporated into management decisions. The intention of establishing the Fish and Wildlife office was to help with monitoring, but also to just listen to what the communities were saying. It also offers input on programs and management decisions.

Q5. How difficult was it to find funding and how long did it take?
The money for the CMMP comes directly from the Yukon government and is part of the Fish and Wildlife office’s regular budget. By virtue of the office being there, is a source of funding for the project. The CEMP draws on a variety of different partners that contribute. However, the local and traditional knowledge component, which started 4 years ago, is funded from a special grant through the Northern Ecosystem Initiative, which was looking for projects that combined scientific and indigenous knowledge. There are some people who are sceptical about the usefulness of the information gathered, and so that needs to be justified in order to get more funding in the coming years. However, the project only costs about $3,000 to run, which makes it easier to deal with the sceptics.

Q6. What are the relationships between the project researchers and the communities?
Because the Fish and Wildlife office is a local outfit, the people who lead the monitoring projects are themselves members of the community.

Q7. What type of monitoring and what methods do you use?
For the Community Moose Monitoring Project, every fall 20 local hunters, and sometimes other people who spend a lot of time on the land, write down their observations about all the moose they see in a small booklet with maps. Those who participate in the project are hunters and other residents who are very skilled in the bush. Although the participants have changed somewhat from year to year, a lot of the same people have been involved in the project from the beginning.

The technical monitoring component of the CEMP happens at five long-term sites set up in the surrounding forest. Each year, community residents along with a technician from the local Fish and Wildlife office go to these locations at particular times of the year to take measurements and make scientific counts of a variety of things. This includes things like the volume of berries, the amount of snow cover, the numbers of hares and mice, etc. Also, community members do counts of carnivore tracks, owls, songbirds, and other animals within a designated 25 kilometer trans-sector.

During the summer months, technicians from the local Fish and Wildlife office play a leading role in monitoring. During the winter time these responsibilities are shared equally between the office and community members. The LTK component of the CEMP consists of interviews with local residents who have been most active out on the land during the previous year. About 20 surveys are done every year with people who have extensive experience in everything from hunting, to trapping, to fishing, to berry picking. Initially a grandfather-grandson team did the interviews, but for the last two years it has been done by two high school students. The surveys used were modelled after those developed by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Cooperative, which also helped train interviewers.

Q8. How do you organize your data management?
Every year, the CMMP observations are compiled by the local Fish and Wildlife office and the results are summarized and presented at a meeting of the local Mayo Area Renewable Resources Council. Also, during the first 5 years that the project was going on, a one-page summary of the results was put in every resident’s mailbox. Currently, the local Fish and Wildlife office is preparing an 8 year overview of the project in a response to a request by the Yukon government, which provides the financing for the CMMP. A two to four-page glossy summary will be distributed to all community members on the basis of this overview when it’s done.

The data collected from the CEMP technical monitoring is analysed and published in an annual report. These reports, which are available to anyone, go to the project funders and partners, and are also presented at the local co-management board. When the local and traditional knowledge component of the CEMP was being carried out by the grandfather-grandson team, a 5-10 page report was produced by them every year and presented to the local co-management board. Because this work is currently being done by students, who don’t have the time to produce such a report, the information gathered in the interviews is entered into a Microsoft Access database by the local Fish and Wildlife office. The aim is to compile this information in a sort of “community diary” is available at local community offices.

Q9. Volunteers versus paid staff and participants: how did you address this issue in your project?
Each year, participants receive a special CMMP coffee mug. People seem to really like this and some have developed a collection of the mugs from different years. They’re often displayed in their homes. In addition, every year 5 names out of the 20 are picked out of a hat and those participants receive a $100 voucher that can be used towards the purchase of food or fuel. People participating in the CEMP – monitors, interviewers, and interviewees – also get compensated for their time.

Q10. What problems have you encountered and how did you work them out?
There is an attempt to expand the CMMP to other nearby Northern Tutchone villages. However, it has been difficult to find someone in these other communities who has the time to dedicate to getting the project off the ground. This coming fall, a newly-hired technician from the local Fish and Wildlife office will travel to the communities in order to be on site and work towards getting the CMMP started in these areas.

As for the CEMP, when surveys of local residents first were started , there were some difficulties with the interview. Sometimes people didn’t answer certain questions and it wasn’t clear what the problem was. Was it because the interviewer skipped the question? Or was it because the interviewee didn’t understand the question? However, after the first year, things improved a lot. It got clearer what the source of the problem was. It helps that the local Fish and Wildlife office is here, because someone is on-hand to review the interviews shortly after they’re done and give the students feedback.

Q11. What do you think is the main achievement of the project?
The response from the community to the CMMP and CEMP has been all positive. There are some people who are indifferent, but certainly no negative response. The reason is that the communities want to gather this information for their management decisions. Also, in certain ways the projects are a source of pride for participants. The hunters who take part in the CMMP enjoy the fact that they have been singled out by the community as people with valuable knowledge and experience. The communities really like the traditional and local knowledge part added to the CEMP. The people being interviewed like the fact that local schoolchildren are doing the interviews. They feel it is a way for them to share their knowledge with a younger generation.

Q12. What advice would you give to others who would like to develop a similar project?
Trying to expand the CMMP made clear the importance of being in the community and being there all the time, so the work is well known. So far, the expansion hasn’t been successful because of that. In one place, the administrative person assigned to work on the CMMP just didn’t have time to do it. In another area, there’s been a problem of high turnover of staff. And also, if a person is not from the community, they often do not have the connections necessary to get the work done. So it’s really important to have right person on site.

Q13. What future do you see for this project?
This coming fall, a newly-hired technician from the local Fish and Wildlife office will travel to the communities in order to be on site and work towards getting the CMMP started in these areas. The CEMP is currently preparing a multi-year project summary. A particular focus is the local knowledge component, whose funding is dependent on a special federal grant that is currently running out. This report will hopefully lay the basis for securing further funding for the local knowledge component. The technical monitoring will continue on as it has for the last 25 years.

Highlights

Achievements

  • Longevity
  • Full engagement and support of the communities
  • Encourages transfer of traditional knowledge from older generation

Opportunities for Improvement

  • Finding personnel to work in new communities
  • Training of interviewers