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Science and the St Elias: an evolving framework for sustainability in North America's highest mountains

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The past, present, and future contributions of science in the St Elias Mountains, and its relationship with regional development, resource management, and traditional ecological knowledge is examined. Science has evolved from an early foundation of exploration, through stages of resource inventories and surveys, to deductive scientific research and, more recently, a promising reconnection with traditional knowledge. Directly and indirectly, events such as the Klondike Gold Rush, construction of the Alaska Highway, creation of the Arctic Institute of North America's Kluane Lake Research Station, and establishment of protected areas have helped foster scientific activities in the region. In turn, this scientific perspective has influenced regional development by providing detailed information that has been utilized, to varying degrees, in resource use, planning, and decisionmaking. Over the past decade, management of the region has become less sectoral and more cooperative in nature, due partly to the implementation of co-management agreements, regional land use planning, and settlement of first nations’ land claims. Incorporating both science and traditional knowledge into this process through collaborative endeavours such as long-term ecological monitoring, adaptive management, and information integration will contribute to ecosystem-based management of the St Elias and ensure that both perspectives play an integral role in sustainable development of the region.

Keywords: Kluane National Park Reserve; St Elias Mountains; Yukon; ecosystem-based management; regional development; science history; traditional knowledge

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9 s: ;, Email: 2: Department of Geography & Environmental Studies and Cold Regions Research Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5, Email: 3: Kluane Lake Research Station, Arctic Institute of North America, Kluane Lake, Yukon, Canada Y1A 4K6, Email:

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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