US, Russia Work To Preserve Natural, Cultural Heritage of Beringia

A satellite image of the Beringia area. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Vladivostok this weekend for APEC—the Asia-Pacific Economic Coöperation summit—she’ll have an agenda focused on a rising China, a troubled Syria, and issues with Iran.

But she’ll also meet with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to take the first steps toward establishing an international area dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Beringia.

It’s officially called the “Transboundary Area of Shared Beringian Heritage” It covers nearly 20,000 miles of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula—the shared area aims to facilitate international studies in the Arctic, ensure the protection of subsistence species, and aide in conservation. Janis Kozlowski, with the National Park Service says the idea has been around for more than half a century.

Kozlowski says the park service has been conducting outreach to communities on the Seward Peninsula since 2010—on what this kind of international designation would mean.

In Alaska, two national parks—the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and the Cape Krusenstern National Monument—will be part of the transboundary area. In Russia, a new national park would bring five separate areas together to create the Chukotskiy National Park.

Many components of the transboundary area are still being finalized. But Kozlowski says the signing of a memorandum by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov this Saturday will be a high-level push toward making the shared park a reality.

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Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.