Jeanette Koelsch is the Superintendent of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska, USA. Jeanette is a strong voice for both protected areas and for communities in the region. As an Alaskan Native she has strong personal connections with the indigenous culture of the region, making her an advocate for inclusive park management and governance.
“I realised that I wanted to work in conservation after college when I began working as a park ranger for Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. What motivated me were the park's resources and the local people who depend on them for their cultural and subsistence way of life.
I have been working in conservation for twelve years in Nome, Alaska with the US National Park Service. I feel like conservation has been a part of my whole life.
The park is very remote and most of the "visitation" is by local indigenous peoples from the villages on the Seward Peninsula. It is a special place, where people are part of the environment and have been its original stewards for thousands of years. Bering Land Bridge is the only park service unit where reindeer herding occurs.
In the last decades we have observed increased coastal erosion, wetter and warmer winters, permafrost thaw and longer and stronger spring and fall storm events.
Nature will always change, and we can only control how we adapt to it. Nature has already given us signs that climate change is real: we need to listen, work with each other and adapt. Right now, our priorities are about working with local and indigenous peoples to continue accessing the land and continue our subsistence lifestyle. Climate change is a real threat to us.
Conservation and cultural survival are important, they go hand and hand.
Also read: Beringia: What's Climate Change to You? (NPS, 2015)