Conservation Champions

Conservation Champions

Red Dog Operations recognized for its support of the Chukchi Sea polar bear research program.

On May 18, 2018, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the recipients of the 2017 Recovery Champion award, which honours its own employees and partners for outstanding efforts to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species. Altogether, 18 individuals were honoured as Recovery Champions for work to conserve plants and animals ranging from the Atlantic salmon, to the Miami blue butterfly, to the polar bear, for which the team from Red Dog Operations was recognized.

The following article was shared with Connect from Red Dog’s Suvisi newsletter. Congratulations to the the team at Red Dog Operations on this impressive accolade.

Did you know that for the past 10 years Red Dog Operations (RDO) has contributed significant in-kind support to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Marine Mammals Management Program for Chukchi polar bear research?

Since 2008, a Fish & Wildlife Service team of four people has staged a two-month spring research camp at the RDO port, where Port Supervisor John Tobin and his staff have provided critical support to the Service’s Chukchi Sea polar bear research program.

RDO’s contributions include lodging, meals, labour, equipment, a warm indoor area to work on samples, and most importantly, a safe landing zone, a fuelling system and fuelling operators.

“The Fish & Wildlife Service provides its own helicopter and fuel,” said John. “We provide the ISO storage tank and fuelling system. We also take care of their research gear—they have a lot of gear.”

By helping coordinate shipping of capture gear to the mine, providing accommodations for staff, and troubleshooting any issues that arise during the capture season, John and his team have been able to assist with the research team’s needs.

John’s commitment to the research program has enabled them to collect invaluable information on bears in the Chukchi Sea, including polar bear ecology and how the animals are responding to sea ice loss.

The research Teck has supported allowed for the first estimate of the population’s size in over two decades, which is critically needed to inform sustainable levels of subsistence harvest in the region. Additionally, the information gained on polar bear habitat use in the Chukchi Sea will be vital for ensuring that offshore activities can be conducted with minimal impacts on the population.

In a congratulatory email to John and team, Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist Michelle St. Martin wrote, “I’m excited to tell you that Teck Alaska Inc. has been selected as the National U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Champion for your important contributions to polar bear conservation. This award is the agency’s way of saying thank you for all you’ve done for us over the years. We couldn’t do what we do out there without your support, and we appreciate the partnership we have.”

John shared his appreciation for the honour, and to those who help make it possible: “I want to thank everyone who was involved, including NMS [a local supplier of hospitality, security, and management services] who supports catering and housekeeping, for clean rooms and beds and warm meals; the environmental group, and our maintenance team for labour support and equipment and repairs.”