The richness of the Beringian resources and significance of the cultural legacy have been recognized by local people and scholars in Russia, the US, and other countries for many years. Conservation of the shared natural and cultural heritage has become a priority for local inhabitants on both side of the Bering Strait. While conservation at the local level is important, there has been a growing recognition for decades of the need to collaborate and build strategies at the landscape – and seascape – level. Climate and other environmental factors are changing in the Arctic at an accelerated rate, which affects the habitat and populations of marine and terrestrial wildlife species as well as the people who depend on them. Changes in the Arctic also bring additional ship traffic through the Bering Strait as an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean facilitates navigation via northern sea routes and presents new opportunities for development. These changes have global significance.
The idea of establishing an internationally protected area in this region in order to draw attention to its unique features, rich history, and valuable cultural and natural resources, has been around since the mid-1980s. Legislation for an international park was proposed in 1990 but did not pass. However, Congress then established the Shared Beringian Heritage Program in the National Park Service’s Alaska Region in 1991. In addition to promoting conservation, the intent was to enable connections between people and communities across the Strait, and to support cultural exchange and subsistence practices in the transboundary area known as Beringia.
Last updated: August 3, 2017