Environmental studies student Connor Faulkner of Rankin Inlet recognizes a good opportunity when he sees one.
Faulkner, who is attending the University of Winnipeg, was invited to attend the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) meetings in Winnipeg this past week.
The BQCMB manages the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq herd in all jurisdictions, and the meetings included representatives from the Kivalliq region, southern NWT, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba.
Faulkner said the areas represent the jurisdictions the caribou migrate through or settle down in at some point in their lives, whether that be breeding grounds, calving grounds or just a simple migration route.
He said the meetings included people from community hunters and trappers organizations (HTOs), mayors, government biologists, wildlife managers and directors – all people who work toward the conservation and recovery of the declining caribou herd that is mainly being affected around the Kivalliq, which is a major calving ground for the herd.
“I’ve been talking with Clayton Tartak of the Rankin HTO for a little more than a year in regard to my studies, what I want to do with it, and projects I could possibly be working on for pre-thesis or my actual thesis upon the completion of my degree,” said Faulkner.
“I’m focused on getting into wildlife biology and management, so Clayton told me it would be great if I could meet with Kivalliq regional biologist Mitch Campbell of Arviat, who mainly works with the caribou herd around the region.
“I exchanged emails with Mitch and he said it would be great if I could come out, sit-in on the fall meetings, and, hopefully, meet each other and start a network to kick-off my career path.
“So, I went to the meetings and met Mitch, and it was just phenomenal the information at that meeting I gained.”
Faulkner describes meeting Campbell as getting to know a guy with the career of a lifetime, and one that he definitely also wants to pursue.
He said Campbell was open and straightforward with him, and told him a bit about the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly points of his career.
“The main thing I took from the BQCMB meetings is that before you can kick-off any management plan or species-recovery plan, you have to spread the information that the herd is, in fact, in danger and it is declining, whether that be from human activities, over-hunting, or distributing meat to other regions.
“Everyone on that board has now realized that there is an issue with that caribou herd, and they are working with their communities or representative jurisdictions to spread that message.
“They are telling people whether we have the right to harvest this animal or not, if we don’t do it sustainably we are going to be the last generation to benefit from this herd.
“Future generations will not have the chance to enjoy any of the benefits from this herd that we enjoy right now.”
Faulkner said it’s imperative to get everyone on board to agree with a management plan.
He said that’s especially true when it comes to companies that are having a major-league impact.
“I don’t want to lay it all on them, the mining exploration and extraction that’s going on, but when you have 120-km roads over past undisturbed habitat in the heart of a caribou herd’s migration route – when you start to see caribou being deflected off of that road or turned back, making them not able to reach their final destination for calving, you’re obviously going to have a decrease in your population because you’re having less animals born that year.
“So, they’re trying to get everyone on board, such as wildlife management boards, HTOs and mining companies, to first realize that there is an issue and then be willing to do something about it.
“If a big player such as Agnico Eagle Mines is not on-board, then you can’t really do much.
“If a company with that much power is not willing to do something about it, it’s going to be tough to put any action plan through.”
Faulkner said everyone also has to realize it’s not sustainable to go out and harvest 50 or 60 caribou a year.
He said he grew up in the Kivalliq with Inuit culture, it’s a huge part of his lifestyle, and he’s lived off of that lifestyle.
“I know you’re feeding your family but you have to realize if you don’t do it sustainably, your family will not be eating or benefitting off of this caribou herd after this generation is over.”