|Taku Watershed Student Program|
This program gives you a chance to step outside of your comfort zone, whether that means living out of your backpack for a week for the first time or having a conversation with a Tlingit fisherman about climate change. Through these experiences you will discover that you have grown as a person, and will realize that the Taku is one of those big wild places that can change lives.
Experience the landscape, wildlife, and Tlingit culture firsthand. Walking alongside the Taku River Tlingit, as well as your fellow students and leaders, you will begin to develop a relationship to this place, one that the Tlingit have been cultivating since time immemorial. Staying at a Tlingit family camp on the river, you will catch glimpses of just how connected these people are to their territory, and what they are willing to risk for its well-being.
On this program you may see spawning salmon as they battle their way upstream and watch grizzly bears scooping these nutrient rich fish out of the river. Fish for salmon, and learn how to clean and gut your catch. Listen to a Tlingit elder and learn how to offer a prayer of thanks to the River. Find fresh wolf tracks, bear hair rubbed on old-growth trees, and sturdy moose antlers shed at the end of the winter.
On this program, you will learn about respect; for the land, each other, and yourself.
Be prepared to answer the question: Why are you here? And know that the people you meet will want to know as much about you as you will about them.
The Student Program
The student program is based out of a small cabin with full amenities in Atlin, BC - a remote and unincorporated town on the shores of Atlin Lake. Most of the time is spent out in the field on trips varying in length from two to ten days. Be ready to spend much of the summer living out of your tent and a lot of time bushwhacking! The Taku offers students the opportunity to experience an intact wilderness ecosystem by visiting remote camps (some reached only by floatplane or by foot), as well as conducting fieldwork around the Atlin area (accessed by foot and truck).
Students begin with a week of natural history hikes around Atlin BC, getting up high with stunning views of Atlin Lake (British Columbia’s largest natural body of freshwater), learning the local flora and fauna, beginning academics, visiting with members of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, and seeing important cultural sites.
We then walk into the Taku watershed via a traditional route the Tlingit have followed for hundreds of years to access coastal salmon fishing during the summers. Students hike into the Nakina River, a two to three day backpacking trip where students will carry their food and gear (up to 30lbs) over about 30km. On the Nakina, we spend about three days exploring and learning the natural history of the watershed, which differs from the interior boreal ecosystem around Atlin. We also take time to appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of the river, to fish for salmon, to observe wildlife, to discuss readings around the fire, and to spend time with Tlingit families who may be at their summer cabins while we are there.
For the rest of the summer, students conduct fieldwork near Atlin, visit with local community members and Tlingit elders, learn natural history of the area, and participate in hands-on learning opportunities. Fieldwork may include marmot surveys, alpine vegetation surveys, collecting grizzly bear and wolf hair through non-invasive snaring, conducting amphibian studies, conducting sheep or woodland caribou surveys, and ground-truthing and/or collecting data to test habitat models for species such as the caribou. At the end of the program, students will write a short research paper on the work completed, present their findings to community members, and will have a sense of what it is like to do community-based conservation on the ground.
Download a sample calendar here
Watch our Taku Student Video here.
Read an alum's reflections from the program (Nick Butler, Taku '03)
The Conservation Context
The Taku River is the largest intact salmon-bearing watershed in North America. This watershed dominates this territory as it flows from the interior mountain ranges of northern British Columbia to the coastal ranges of Alaska. The Taku is a vast wilderness of glacial rivers, boreal forest and snow-packed peaks harboring many of the charismatic species of this continent: grizzly bear, moose, wolf, lynx, stone sheep, mountain goats, and wolverine, not to mention all five species of Pacific salmon that run its waters. The goal of our work is to maintain the Taku River’s wilderness character by enabling the management capabilities and authority of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) over their traditional territory.
Round River’s initial efforts here have included supporting the Taku River Tlingit’s legal challenge of mining development and road building in the Taku River watershed, the development of a Conservation Area Design (CAD) and land plan, wildlife and fisheries research, capacity building and economic development support. Recently, our efforts have expanded to include social and cultural assistance programs and resource level planning.
One of the most important recent advancements has been the July 19, 2011 signing of the Atlin Taku Land Use Plan and government-to-government framework agreement between the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and the government of British Columbia. The Land Use Plan protects more than seven million acres from commercial logging and designates over two million acres as First Nation Conservancy Parks. This has generated a unique opportunity for the Tlingit to create a lasting conservation outcome for their territory, and these agreements represent long overdue respect and recognition for Tlingit people and their way of life. The Land Use Plan draws heavily on much of the research, analysis, and mapping work undertaken by Round River staff and students, working alongside the Tlingit, in the last decade. This work has helped to define the areas of habitat that were most critical to protect.
Looking ahead, Round River hopes to assist the Tlingit as they work to implement the Land Use Plan and collaborate with BC as managers of their ancestral territory. Round River is now investing in training and capacity building with the Taku River Tlingit as they tackle these new challenges.
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