Why Russia’s Indigenous People Are Wary of National Parks

Arctic Deeply posted an article titled, “Why Russia’s Indigenous People Are Wary of National Parks.” The article reads in part as follows;

Russia’s Numto Nature reserve in western Siberia contains a sacred lake, endangered cranes and valuable wetlands for the Nenet and Khanty peoples. The area was also the site of an Indigenous rebellion against the Soviet state during the 1930s, in protest at forced collectivization and the persecution of traditional leaders. Last year, the nature reserve’s borders were redrawn by the regional government to make way for new drilling operations for the oil company Surgutneftegas, forcing out Indigenous groups once again. In protest, reindeer herders recently built a traditional tent in the heart of Moscow.

That may help explain why Russia’s Indigenous people don’t always welcome new parks and protected areas. Critics contend that these designations offer no guarantees there won’t be future industrial activity, and they also sometimes prevent Indigenous people from hunting or fishing in the area.

So as Russia declares 2017 the Year of Ecology and Protected Areas, Indigenous groups have reason to be wary. Natural resources minister Sergei Donskoi recently projected a 22 percent increase of protected areas, particularly national parks, by 2025. Franz Josef Land was recently folded into Russkaya Arktika National Park to become Russia’s largest protected area, covering an archipelago roughly the size of Ireland. Borders for new parks will be drawn in the Barents region of Karelia and another around the 350-year-old pines and tundra of Murmansk. A federal reserve will also protect parts of the New Siberian Islands, known as the land of the mammoths for its abundance of unearthed tusks, among others in more southern regions.

Many of these lands support wild medicines, reindeer and timber used by roughly 250,000 Indigenous people who form 41 recognized groups. In response to future park plans, the Russian nongovernmental organization Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North will soon host Indigenous leaders from Siberia to the Far East for a strategy workshop titled, “National Parks and Indigenous Peoples: Risks and Opportunities.” The organization’s director, Rodion Sulyandziga, notes that this will be the first time such a broad range of Indigenous groups will gather to discuss national parks, and plans are underway for an even larger event, which will include politicians, in September.

One concern is that Russia’s new focus on national parks also involves a move away from a designation intended to allow Indigenous people to continue their hunting and fishing traditions. A framework for these territories, known as Traditional Nature Use of Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North, was laid out 16 years ago, but it hasn’t been implemented in practice. That leaves Indigenous groups with few channels to assert their rights in the current political climate, say critics.”

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