The Greater Altai region is of global importance. Within that system, Russian Altai is linked with Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia.
The region includes Russian Altai, western Mongolia, northwestern China, and far eastern Kazakhstan.
Rich with remote and wild river valleys, wind-blown steppe grasslands, and snowy peaks, the land is habitat for snow leopards, argali sheep, eagles, and other at-risk species, a rare remnant of relatively intact wilderness.
Landscape features are scattered with ancient burial mounds, petroglyphs, and stellae, as well as other evidence of prehistoric human activity. These artifacts are not only a fundamental part of local Indigenous cultures, but can also be a source of inspiration and education for visitors and the greater community. Local Indigenous peoples cherish and renew their age-old culture and traditional lifeways, with many still practicing semi-nomadic livestock agriculture and subsistence hunting, gathering, and fishing, alongside cultural and spiritual traditions.
Threats include surging tourism (with weak public infrastructure), mining, waste management, and excessive logging. Poaching, overexploitation, and habitat disturbances are the most direct threats to wildlife, particularly for snow leopards, raptors, and Argali sheep. Indigenous communities struggle to protect their rights to land, culture, and traditional subsistence practices.
Across the entire region, the climate crisis is dramatically reducing total glacier coverage, unsettling annual seasonal cycles, and contributing significantly to water issues and desertification processes.
Russia's Altai Republic
With an area of 36,000 sq. miles (92,900 sq. km), Russia's Altai Republic is home to just under 221,000 people (2022), comprising ethnic Russians (57%), and indigenous Altaians (31%), Kazakhs (6%), Telengits (1%), Tubalars, and other groups (2010 Census). For the sake of comparison, the state of Indiana is the same size but has a population of 6.5 million.
The Republic contains the “Golden Mountains of Altai” UNESCO World Heritage Site, a transnational park, three federal protected areas, 120+ natural monuments, and a growing number of regional nature parks and wildlife refuges.
Over two decades, The Altai Project has constantly refined and adjusted its work to protect nature and strengthen communities in Greater Altai.
In 2008, the Altai Project and over twenty US nonprofits, individuals, and donors formed an international alliance to protect the Greater Altai region.
Meet The Director
Jennifer Castner, the director of The Altai Project, is fluent in Russian and has traveled extensively in Siberia, the Russian Far East, Ukraine and Europe.
Why The Altai Project?
Our work is unique.
The Altai Project is the only international nonprofit linking nature conservation with sustainable development, Indigenous communities, and cultural heritage and facilitating these approaches in the Greater Altai region. Because we are small and dynamic, we can be flexible to constantly changing conditions in Russia and now Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Thanks to our personal connections in the region and decades building expertise, we can leverage our funding by supporting effective nonprofits and frontline defenders whom we know are trustworthy and effective.