The wild side of U.S.-Russian relations

Amur tigers are found in several Russian natural areas, which have received U.S. grants to promote protection of the species. (WCS/John Goodrich)

The headlines aren’t telling you everything there is to know about U.S.-Russian relations.

Maybe you do know this: Russia is the world’s largest country in area. Across its vast and diverse terrain, from the frozen tundra to the southern prairies, nature reserves and national parks protect unique habitats and rare species, like snow leopards, Amur tigers and saiga antelopes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been contributing to those preserves and collaborating with Russian naturalists for more than 40 years. The Wildlife Without Borders–Russia program supports exchanges, conferences and training workshops allowing Russian and American field biologists to work together in preservation of these natural resources.

A competitive grants program is another element of Wildlife Without Borders–Russia, encouraging individual Russian reserves and parks to seek support for projects in their regions.

With fewer than 7,000 remaining in the wild, the snow leopards of Central Asia are an endangered species. (Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock)

Some of the notable projects USFWS has helped support:

Protecting Amur tigers in Anyuisky National Park: USFWS grants have contributed to field equipment and supplies, which crews need to patrol the terrain to guard against wildlife poaching.

Monitoring and protection of Amur tigers in Sikhote-Alin Reserve: Biologists want to better understand how Amur tigers survive heavy winter weather. A USFWS grant at this reserve helped provide field crews with the gear and equipment they needed for this work.

Protection of the Argut snow leopard population in Russia’s Altai Republic: This project aimed to establish and sustain an anti-poaching patrol team with involvement of villagers and game-management officials.

USFWS has provided almost $4 million in grants since 1998.

USFWS scientists visit Khingansky Nature Reserve in eastern Russia for discussions on wetlands management. Khingansky is home to the red-crowned crane. (USFWS/Dave Pitkin)

These individual projects are part of a larger agenda. Russia’s wild areas, especially its vast forests, contribute to the Earth’s lung power as they absorb carbon dioxide, recycle oxygen and store carbon emissions. They are home to endangered species and a vital component in the protection of the planet’s biodiversity.