The mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is to “work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”
In 1994, the U.S. and Russian governments signed a memorandum of understanding titled “Cooperation in the Field of Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources,” which guides bilateral cooperation in this field. The U.S.-Russia border across the Bering Strait makes the two countries pivotal partners for conservation and management of a shared ecosystem. Collaborative efforts have taken the form of information and data exchanges, joint research, disbursement by the FWS of approximately 30 small grants to both Russian and American recipients totaling several hundred thousand dollars annually, and joint management and planning between the (a) FWS and (b) Russian Institute of Ecology and Evolution and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Activities in 2012 reflect numerous areas of emphasis that developed over the previous 15 years, including:
• Study and conservation of cranes, raptors, marine, and other rare birds.
• Exchange of banding data for migratory birds.
• Study and conservation of polar bears.
• Cooperation of zoos in breeding of species of interest.
• Information and best practice exchanges in wildlife trade and law enforcement.
• Ecosystem biodiversity.
• Management of protected areas.
• Marine mammal conservation and management.
• Plant and animal ecology.
• Arctic ecology and dynamics.
An example of a particularly important activity is the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Agreement of 2007, which aligns plans for managing a shared population of bears between the countries. It has guided the conservation and management of an iconic species. A joint survey of walrus populations throughout the Bering Strait was also a successful joint effort, with important implications for species management that could not have been carried out without support from both nations.
Lessons learned during the decades of interaction have demonstrated importance of the following approaches:
• Scientific collaboration between specialists who have devoted their careers to similar passions can persist despite political differences between the two countries.
• Small FWS grants to upgrade Russian conservation infrastructure can lead to substantial improvements because of the relatively inexpensive cost of improvements in Russia, particularly when compared to the costs of similar work carried out in the United States.
• Open and regular dialogues between scientists have been more important in maintaining effective collaborative relationships than simply adhering to strictly defined respective roles of scientists from the two countries.
SOURCE: Information provided by Fish and Wildlife Service, April 2012.