• Adapting to Environmental and Social Change: Subsistence in Three Aleutian Communities

      Schmidt, Jennifer; Berman, Matthew (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2018-04-19)
      Our surroundings and society are both constantly evolving. Some changes are due to natural processes. People are responsible for other changes, because of what we do—for example, increasing the size of the population, expanding technology, and increasing mobility and connectivity. And some changes—like climate change—are due to a combination of natural processes and actions of people. In the Arctic, including the Aleutian Islands, marine and coastal ecosystems have seen the largest number of regime shifts with direct and indirect consequences for subsistence activities, commercial fisheries, and coastal communities (Council 2016). This paper describes current subsistence activities and changes local residents have observed over time in three Aleutian Island communities—Akutan, Nikolski, and Atka. As described more later, we did initial household surveys in 2016 and a second round in 2017, as well as more detailed interviews with some residents.
    • Adapting to Environmental and Social Change: Subsistence in Three Aleutian Communities

      Schmidt, Jennifer; Berman, Matt (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 4/19/2018)
    • Economic Effects of Climate Change in Alaska

      Berman, Matthew; Schmidt, Jennifer (American Meteorological Society (AMS), 11/27/2018)
      We summarize the potential nature and scope of economic effects of climate change in Alaska that have already occurred and are likely to become manifest over the next 30-50 years. We classified potential effects discussed in the literature into categories according to climate driver, type of environmental service affected, certainty and timing of the effects, and potential magnitude of economic consequences. We then described the nature of important economic effects, and provided estimates of larger, more certain effects for which data were available. Largest economic effects were associated with costs to prevent damage, relocate, and replace infrastructure threatened by permafrost thaw, sea level rise, and coastal erosion. The costs to infrastructure were offset by a large projected reduction in space heating costs attributable to milder winters. Overall, we estimated that five, relatively certain, large effects that could be readily quantified would impose an annual net cost of $340-$700 million, or 0.6 to 1.3 percent of Alaska GDP. This significant, but relatively modest net economic effect for Alaska as a whole obscures large regional disparities, as rural communities face large projected costs while more southerly urban residents experience net gains.
    • Emerging Anthropogenic Influences on the Southcentral Alaska Temperature and Precipitation Extremes and Related Fires in 2019

      Berman, Matthew; Schmidt, Jennifer; Bhatt, Uma S.; Lader, Rick T.; Walsh, John E.; Bieniek, Peter A.; Thoman, Richard L.; Borries-Strigle, Cecilia; Bulock, Kristi; Chriest, Jonathan; et al. (MDPI, 2021-01-17)
      The late-season extreme fire activity in Southcentral Alaska during 2019 was highly unusual and consequential. Firefighting operations had to be extended by a month in 2019 due to the extreme conditions of hot summer temperature and prolonged drought. The ongoing fires created poor air quality in the region containing most of Alaska’s population, leading to substantial impacts to public health. Suppression costs totaled over $70 million for Southcentral Alaska. This study’s main goals are to place the 2019 season into historical context, provide an attribution analysis, and assess future changes in wildfire risk in the region. The primary tools are meteorological observations and climate model simulations from the NCAR CESM Large Ensemble (LENS). The 2019 fire season in Southcentral Alaska included the hottest and driest June–August season over the 1979–2019 period. The LENS simulation analysis suggests that the anthropogenic signal of increased fire risk had not yet emerged in 2019 because of the CESM’s internal variability, but that the anthropogenic signal will emerge by the 2040–2080 period. The effect of warming temperatures dominates the effect of enhanced precipitation in the trend towards increased fire risk.
    • Local Jobs and Income from Mineral Exploration

      Loeffler, Bob; Schmidt, Jennifer (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2017-01-01)
      Institute of Social and Economic Research • University of Alaska Anchorage • January 2017 From 2002 until 2013, the Pebble Mineral Exploration Project explored a big deposit of mostly copper, but also gold and molybdenum, in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, about 17 miles northwest of Illiamna (Figure S-2). That exploration stopped in 2013, when a major project partner withdrew. But before that, developers spent millions of dollars, and in the last years of exploration annually employed more than a hundred residents of Bristol Bay communities. This paper describes jobs and income the residents of 18 communities—in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, the Bristol Bay Borough, and the Dillingham census area—got from 2009 through 2012, the last full year of exploration. Most residents of these communities are Alaska Native, and the communities are small—most with populations considerably smaller than 500— except for Dillingham, where nearly 2,500 people live (Table S-1). How local communities can capture more economic benefits from rural resource projects is an important question in Alaska, and the Pebble exploration project offers a useful case study. But we want to emphasize that we’re neither advocating nor opposing a potential mine at the Pebble site. The proposed mine has been enormously controversial in Alaska and elsewhere, because of its proximity to the world-class Bristol Bay salmon fisheries. We looked only at local jobs and income exploration created, to shed light on the potential for resource development projects to help rural economies. Our analysis is based on data from Pebble Limited Partnership’s exploration-site database, augmented with information from contractors. What did we find? • About 43% of those who worked at the Pebble exploration site anytime from 2009 through 2012 were from the Bristol Bay area. That amounted to about 300 local residents who worked at the site some time during the study period (and may have held more than one job over the years). Another 37% of workers were from elsewhere in Alaska, and the remaining 20% were mainly from other states or Canada (Figure S-1). • The number of workers from Bristol Bay increased over the study period, and so did employee retention. In 2009, 111 local residents worked at the Pebble site, increasing to 157 by 2012. More employees also stayed on the job from one year to the next, with retention at just over half from 2009 to 2010, climbing to two-thirds from 2011 to 2012 (Figure S-3). • Bristol Bay residents worked at 56 kinds of jobs in the study period, almost all seasonal. The most common jobs they held were drill helper, bear guard, and skilled laborer. The average hourly pay was about $19, and most workers earned on average about $15,000 a year from those mostly seasonal jobs. About 65% of workers were men and 35% women (Figure S-3). 2 • Communities closest to the exploration site got several times more jobs and income than those farther away. We grouped the study communities into three regions, based on their proximity to Pebble. Communities closest to the site are mostly around Lake Iliamna, and on average per year about 100 workers came from what we call the Lakes region. About 25 a year were from the 3 Intermediate region and 8 from the Distant. On average, workers from the Lakes region collected a total of nearly $1.5 million a year, compared with $499,000 for those from the Intermediate region and $100,000 among those from the Distant region, where communities are more than 100 miles from the Pebble site (Figures S-2 and S-4). • In the Lakes region, where communities are very small (Table S-1) exploration employment was a large share of total employment: approximately 14% of the total workforce from Lakes communities worked at the site during the study period. The regions farther from the exploration site, which have larger populations, saw much smaller employment effects: 3% of the total workforce from the Intermediate region and barely above 0% from the Distant region. • Even within individual regions, community employment at Pebble varied significantly. Iliamna, where exploration operations were based, and Newhalen (with road access to Iliamna) had the most employees—an annual average of 40 in Newhalen and about 25 in Iliamna, followed by Nondalton with about 16. Outside the Lakes region, the only community with more than an average of 10 workers a year was Koliganek. But even within the Lakes region, not all communities had a significant number of workers—Port Alsworth and Pedro Bay had fewer workers than some places in the Distant region (Figure S-5). 4 • To get a sense of what Pebble income meant to the region, we compared it with income from two important sources: commercial fishing and Permanent Fund dividends. The exploration project brought more income into the Lakes region from 2009 through 2012 than did either commercial salmon fishing or Permanent Fund dividends. But the Intermediate and Distant regions have more people, rely more on salmon fishing, and had fewer residents working at Pebble—so Pebble pay in those regions was a much smaller source of income. As Figure S-6 shows, income from Pebble in the Lakes region from 2009-2012 was several times more than from salmon fishing and two-thirds more than from Permanent Fund dividends. By contrast, in the Intermediate region Pebble pay was significantly less that from either commercial fishing or PFDs—and in the Distant region it was an insignificant amount compared with the other sources. What can the Pebble case study tell us about the potential for rural development projects to benefit local economies? • Residents of Bristol Bay communities and other Alaska places were able to capture a big share of exploration jobs and income. During the study period, 43% of workers were from Bristol Bay communities and another 37% were from elsewhere in Alaska. A number of things contributed to this high local-hire rate, including Pebble’s local hire coordinator; its work with the state government to get training programs and with non-profits to help qualify local residents for jobs; and its contracts with local Native village corporations and other businesses. • Jobs and income going to Bristol Bay residents increased significantly between 2009 and 2012. Partly that’s because the developer was spending more for exploration, creating more jobs. But the number of qualified job applicants from the Bristol Bay region also increased over time. Pebble personnel report that by 2010 or 2011, there were more qualified Bristol Bay residents looking for jobs than there were jobs available. • Proximity made a difference: even though most project employees from all communities were housed at project headquarters in Iliamna, residents from the villages closest to the project site got more jobs. From 2009 through 2012, an average of about 100 residents per year from the Lakes region worked at the project site—about 14% of the total workforce from seven small villages. Prospective workers from places farther away may have taken into account how difficult it would be to travel home for time off work
    • Local Knowledge and Science: Observation of Landscape Change in the Nuiqsut Homelands

      Schmidt, Jennifer; Kofinas, Gary (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 12/19/2018)
    • Long-term benefits to Indigenous communities of extractive industry partnerships: Evaluating the Red Dog Mine

      Berman, Matthew; Loeffler, Bob; Schmidt, Jennifer (Resource Policy, 2020-02-21)
      Mining, and oil and gas companies developing resources on land historically occupied and used by Indigenous peoples have faced criticism for offering few benefits to local communities while inflicting environmental damage. The Red Dog Mine – a joint venture between Teck Resources, Inc. and the NANA Regional Corporation – has often been cited as an example for developing extractive industries in a way that does benefit Indigenous communities. The mine is located in an economically impoverished region in Northwest Alaska that has few other wage-earning opportunities for the largely Inupiat population. Although the mine has brought demonstrable financial benefits to the region, questions persist about its long-term benefits to local communities. This paper assesses a suite of long-term benefits of the Red Dog mine, based on findings from unique 14-year panel dataset. The paper focuses on the direct effects of the mine on the individual Indigenous workers of the region. Specifically, the analysis addressed the following set of questions: How does employment at Red Dog affect workers’ mobility and long-run earnings? How long do most local residents hired to work at the mine keep these jobs? What percentage of the mine workers live in the communities in the region, and what percentage of the total payroll do local workers receive? The findings illustrate the strengths and limitations of partnerships between Indigenous organizations and extractive industries, and offer insights relevant to Indigenous communities across the arctic and around the world as they plan development of local resources.
    • Measuring and Correcting Response Heaping Arising From the Use of Prototypes

      Schmidt, Jennifer; Beaman, Jay; Vaske, Jerry; Huan, Tzung-Cheng (Taylor and Francis, 2015-04-01)
      Imprecision in respondent recall can cause response heaping in frequency data for particular values (e.g., 5, 10, 15). In human dimensions research, heaping can occur for variables such as days of participation (e.g., hunting, fishing), animals/fish harvested, or money spent on licenses. Distributions with heaps can bias population estimates because the means and totals can be inflated or deflated. Because bias can result in poor management decisions, determining if the bias is large enough to matter is important. This note introduces the logic and flow of a deheaping program that estimates bias in means and totals when people use approximate responses (i.e., prototypes). The program can make estimates even when spikes occur due to bag limits. The program is available online, and smooths heaps at multiples of 5 (numbers ending in 5 and 0) and 7 (e.g., 7, 14, 21), and produces standard deviations in estimates.
    • Motorized Access and Moose Harvest in Alaska: 25 years in game management unit 20B

      Schmidt, Jennifer (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 9/1/2017)
      Moose hunting is a popular activity in Alaska enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Hunting provides personal satisfaction and cultural identity, as well as food for both urban and rural residents. As the human population grows, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) technology improves, and development encroaches into currently less accessible areas of Alaska, hunting pressure on moose populations will likely increase. Our current understanding of how increased ATV access may affect harvest is limited. Understanding the relationship between hunter access and harvest is crucial as potential road development to access natural resources around Alaska will increase areas available for ATV access. The area near Fairbanks has seen substantial growth since 1990 both in number of people (77,720 in 1990 and 97,581 in 2010) and in construction of access routes. This research project will examine how much increase in motorized vehicle access over 25 years influenced moose harvest while controlling for other factors such as moose density, topography, and vegetation. The goal is to determine how road and ATV trail access may have influenced moose hunting in Game Management Unit (GMU) 20B, north of the Tanana River near Fairbanks, and to develop a model which could be applied to other areas of Alaska.
    • Transitions of social-ecological subsistence systems in the Arctic

      Fauchald, Per; Hausner, Vera; Schmidt, Jennifer; Clark, Douglas A. (Utrecht University Library Open Access Journals, 2017-01-01)
      Transitions of social-ecological systems (SES) expose governance systems to new challenges. This is particularly so in the Arctic where resource systems are increasingly subjected to global warming, industrial development and globalization which subsequently alter the local SES dynamics. Based on common-pool resource theory, we developed a dynamic conceptual model explaining how exogenous drivers might alter a traditional subsistence system from a provisioning to an appropriation actions situation. In a provisioning action situation the resource users do not control the resource level but adapt to the fluctuating availability of resources, and the collective challenge revolve around securing the subsistence in the community. An increased harvest pressure enabled by exogenous drivers could transform the SES to an appropriation action situation where the collective challenge has changed to avoid overuse of a common-pool resource. The model was used as a focal lens to investigate the premises for broad-scale transitions of subsistence-oriented SESs in Arctic Alaska, Canada and Greenland. We synthesized data from documents, official statistics and grey and scientific literature to explore the different components of our model. Our synthesis suggests that the traditional Arctic subsistence SESs mostly comply with a provisioning action situation. Despite population growth and available technology; urbanization, increased wage labor and importation of food have reduced the resource demand, and we find no evidence for a broad-scale transition to an appropriation action situation throughout the Western Arctic. However, appropriation challenges have emerged in some cases either as a consequence of commercialization of the resource or by severely reduced resource stocks due to various exogenous drivers. Future transitions of SESs could be triggered by the emergence of commercial local food markets and Arctic warming. In particular, Arctic warming is an intensifying exogenous driver that is threatening many important Arctic wildlife resources inflicting increased appropriation challenges to the governance of local harvest.