Monday, October 14, 2013

Peace Corps Fellow works with OneTree, Fish and Game

Eric Schacht at Chitina with Robin LaVine (left), ADFG project leader, and Bronwyn Jones.
Eric Schacht, the first Peace Corps Fellow with SNRAS, has acclimated to Alaska in his first year here and has been working on two service projects.

With OneTree Alaska, he assists Research Assistant Professor Janice Dawe as a service learner, visiting K-12 schools to share the science, technology, engineering, art and math educational aspects tied to the boreal birch tree.

His other project was volunteering for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game subsistence program, gathering subsistence data by survey in the Copper Basin area.

The main purpose of the survey is to provide up-to-date information on the estimated harvest, sharing and use of wild foods in the area. Schacht helped collect information on where and how resources are harvested and information on community subsistence economies. Many of the questions were concerned with harvests over the past year but the division is also interested in whether and how subsistence harvests might have changed in recent years. The last subsistence survey was conducted in 1987.

"Survey results will assist state and federal resource managers in their subsistence management responsibilities and will also be used by local and regional advisory councils in making recommendations regarding the fish and wildlife management in the region," Schacht said.

"This project was particularly interesting to me because I am interested in aspects of community-based natural resource management in resource management policy for my thesis," he explained.
"The Ahtna Corp., the regional Native corporation of the area, introduced a hunting permit system that is called the Copper Basin Community Subsistence Hunt and it allotted a quota of moose and caribou to local people of the Copper River Basin area. This occurred in 2009 and the permit system lasted only a year before it was taken to the Alaska Supreme Court where it was deemed unconstitutional because it was fundamentally a local-residency based hunt. The state is mandated to provide equal access to harvest wildlife resources to all its citizens."

Schacht added, "Volunteering for ADFG was a great experience because I was able to gain a context for my study. It helped me realize how much rural people in Alaska rely on wild resources. And how complicated hunting permitting systems are in Alaska. Hopefully, a permitting system can be adopted that both provides some opportunity for urban hunters but also provides for local people that live and rely more on the land."

The Paul  D. Coverdell Fellows Program is a graduate program for returned Peace Corps volunteers. With SNRAS, Fellows pursue a master of science degree in natural resources management or a master's in natural resources management and geography while volunteering in underserved communities.

Further reading:
 SNRAS welcomes first Peace Corps Fellow, SNRAS Science and News, Nov. 14, 2012

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