Settling into my new role in Inuvik

However, I couldn’t find the Globe and Mail last week. The plane from Edmonton was held on the tarmac by a low ceiling in Norman Wells. By the time conditions improved, the pilots had timed out and so back to Edmonton the passengers and the Globe went. Such is travel above the Arctic Circle.
Today I asked my first stupid southerner question. I am proud of the fact that I have flown into remote communities all over northern Ontario, hiked and canoed much of it, experienced it in all weather. I have visited the Northwest Territories (NWT), the Yukon and Alaska. I don’t wear Gore-tex; my mittens are from Webequie, Ontario; my rubber boots are sensibly felt-lined; and now, thanks to Mavis at the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s store, I sport a knit beaver wool headband which is the warmest and most comfortable head gear I have ever worn. All of this to say I should have known better.
Why, said I, are there so few snowmobiles around town? In northern Ontario in winter they are everywhere. The young woman in the coffee shop looked at me as my disguise as an NWT northerner slipped off. Because, she said, very slowly in case I missed it, it’s too cold. We mainly use our snow machines in the spring. It’s minus 37.

(c) Sue Herbert/WWF-Canada
I’ve been in Inuvik for a week, with Martin von Mirbach, Director of WWF-Canada’s Arctic program.  Martin has returned to Ottawa but I’m here for a few months to establish a local presence and help WWF promote conservation across the Canadian Arctic. I hope to hire a full time staffer to represent WWF in the Beaufort Sea Partnership as it studies impacts of climate change in the Beaufort Sea. Bordered by Alaska, the Yukon and NWT, the Sea is home to belugas, bowhead whales, seals, and rich sea life. It has populations of polar bears and, increasingly, grizzly bears. Its shores are staging and nesting areas for hundreds of bird species.
The BSP’s Integrated Ocean Management Plan is designed to facilitate integrated planning among all Beaufort Sea resource users and managers. One of its stated goals is “better and more  timely collection of information of key risks” and a major consideration during the creation of the Plan was the revival of petroleum exploration in the region.
As a BSP member, WWF is promoting the implementation of marine spatial planning, a process that’s akin to good land use planning but applied to a defined ocean area.  WWF views this as a key to smarter ocean management and as a proven way to advance economic prosperity while improving the health of marine ecosystems.
Many southern-based NGOs are not held in high regard in the North. There is a sense that they have little understanding of life here, the needs and aspirations of the Inuvialuit and the G’witchen, and the importance of decision-making processes resulting from hard-won land settlement claims. Indigenous groups maintain that NGO-sponsored scientists often dismiss traditional knowledge and outsiders undermine their traditional harvests.
WWF has occasionally been regarded in this way, but it’s also recognized here as a responsible organization with considerable integrity.  Martin and I found our welcome here a warm, if slightly cautious, one. It’s vital that WWF have local presence in the Beaufort Sea region to build trust, to explain our goals and support shared processes which promote conservation in the Beaufort Sea. That’s why I’m here.
from my hotel window (c) Sue Herbert