A Note from Jennifer Castner

Many of you are aware of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s role in that conflict, and Russia’s complicated image on the global commons. You may also know that President Putin and his government are continuing to actively limit freedom of the media, freedom of association, free speech, civil rights, and undermine previously effective environmental and human rights legislation. Western news coverage of Russia is troubling, often quite critical of Putin and the nation as a whole, and it may seem like Altai Republic is wrapped up in that same maelstrom.

And yet. Altai Republic is almost 4000 km (2400 miles) from Moscow. In the United States, it’s like living in Montana, while the politicians and bureaucrats rage on in Washington. Sound familiar? Some of that politicking trickles down (like sanctions on imported foods and censored media), but, on the whole, life goes on in Altai. Our partners continue their scientific studies of snow leopards, argali sheep, and steppe eagles. They still monitor activities of mining companies and telecom utilities building transmission towers in the steppe.

This summer with support from The Altai Project’s small grants, three of our activist partner organizations conducted two expeditions to investigate potential mining impacts near Chikhachev Ridge. In addition, field scientist, Sergei Spitsyn, spent weeks surveying snow leopard and argali activity, as well as coaching local rangers and former poachers in the art of wildlife surveying and tracking. Our Altaian partners continue to work tirelessly to educate local residents of their rights to be informed of resource and infrastructure development taking place in their proverbial backyards.

As international sanctions and President Putin isolate Russia, we at The Altai Project must maintain our support of grassroots conservation work in Altai Republic. It is very important that we stand by our trusted, dedicated, and extremely committed local partners in Altai. The financial and moral support we can give provides comfort and hope for a new tomorrow as well as critical funds to continue conservation operations. As fall approaches, our thoughts turn to the upcoming winter poaching season, when Arkhar and Sailyugem National Park will require funding and technical support to conduct enforcement patrols and surveying work.

Thank you for your commitment to The Altai Project and its partners. Let’s maintain our support for grassroots education, biodiversity conservation, and environmental justice by increasing project funding and awareness.

– Jennifer