Why Altai?

Why Altai?

The Greater Altai Ecoregion is of global importance. Within that system, Russia’s Altai Republic 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 enhanced by ancient burial mounds, petroglyphs, and Scythian stellae, and evidence of prehistoric humans. These artifacts are not only a fundamental part of local indigenous culture, but can also be a source of inspiration and education for visitors and the greater community. Local indigenous peoples have retained much of their age-old culture and traditional lifeways, with many still practicing semi-nomadic livestock agriculture and subsistence hunting, gathering, and fishing.

Threats include surging tourism, mining, and, most recently, sharply increased logging for expert. Poaching and habitat disturbances are the most direct threats to wildlife, particularly for snow leopards, raptors and Argali sheep.

Across the entire region, climate change is dramatically reducing total glacier coverage, unsettling annual seasonal cycles, and contributing significantly to water issues and desertification processes.

Vita, an Argut resident female (Photo by S. Spitsyn)

Russia's Altai Republic

With an area of 36,000 sq. miles (92,900 sq. km), Russia's Altai Republic is home to just over 205,000 people, comprising ethnic Russians (57%), and indigenous Altaians (31%), Kazakhs (6%), Telengits (1%), Tubalars, and other groups. 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.

Complex structure for a strawbale at Bobrovka

Our History

Over two decades, The Altai Project has constantly refined and adjusted its work to protect nature and strengthen communities in Greater Altai.

Altai Alliance 2011

Altai Alliance

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 and cultural heritage and promoting these ap­proaches exclusively in the Greater Altai region. Because we are small and dynamic, we can be flexible to constantly changing conditions in Russia.

Thanks to our personal connections in the region, we can leverage our funding by supporting effective nonprofits and frontline defenders whom we know are trustworthy and effective.


Everyone works in the village (Photo by L. Ivashkina)

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