• Evaluating Differences in Household Subsistence Harvest Patterns between the Ambler Project and Non-Project Zones

      Guettabi, Mouhcine; Greenberg, Joshua; Little, Joseph; Joly, Kyle (National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior, 2016-08-01)
      Western Alaska is one of largest inhabited, roadless areas in North America and, indeed, the world. Access, via a new road that would transverse Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR), to a mining district in a vast roadless section of northwest Alaska has been proposed. Given the potential effects of the road on nearby communities, we analyzed how communities connected to the road system compare to their unconnected counterparts. Specifically, using zero inflated negative binomial models, we analyzed subsistence harvest data to understand factors that influence subsistence production at the household level. We found substantial difference in these factors between communities near the proposed road (project zone (PZ) communities and a comparable set of road accessible communities outside the region, and were affected by household characteristics such as the gender of the head of household, number of children, and income. Total subsistence production of project zone communities was 1.8 – 2.5 times greater than that of non-project zone communities. Communities with a higher percentage of Alaska Native residents had greater per capita subsistence harvests. Higher household income levels were associated with lower subsistence harvest levels. Roads can provide access for hunters from outside the region to traditional subsistence hunting grounds used by local residents that would not be very accessible if not for the road. Our proxy for competition (number of nonlocal moose hunters) indicates that resident moose harvest amounts are inversely related to the number of hunters in a particular area. If subsistence harvest patterns for project zone communities currently off the road changed to mirror existing non-project zone harvests due to the road, the financial cost would be USD $6,900 – 10,500 per household per year (assuming an $8/lb. ‘replacement’ cost for subsistence harvests). This represents about 33% of the median household income. Taken together, our results suggest that the proposed road should be expected to substantially impact subsistence production in communities that are not currently connected to the road system. The scale of our data did not allow for the comparison of the impacts of the different proposed routes but the impacts of different routes is likely minor in relation to the presence or absence of the proposed road