A guest post and photos by Katarzyna Nowak. Nowak, a fellow at The Safina Center in New York, describes herself as a “wildlife conservation practitioner aspiring to bridge the science-policy-society interface.”

The zone north of 60 degrees latitude receives relatively little attention in the realm of wildlife crime. Vast areas of Alaska and the Yukon and their borderlands are stewarded by few people. For scale, Alaska is larger than Texas, Montana, and California combined and more than 3.5 times larger than the Yukon. A diversity of large, migratory mammals such as caribou, elk, moose, and Pacific walrus inhabit the region. Some are regarded as cultural keystone species that underpin the livelihoods of northerly indigenous people, yet their “value” gets contested and trivialized in the courts. Hunting pressure is high including at remote, fly-in only outposts.

CAPTION: A cutline through boreal forest demarcates the world’s longest undefended north-south international boundary, between the Yukon, Canada and Alaska, United States. Photo Credit: Katarzyna Nowak
Undefended north-south international boundary, between the Yukon, Canada and Alaska.

While whistleblowers have helped expose wildlife criminals by, for example, sending anonymous letters to Alaska Wildlife Troopers about illegal hunting activities, these instances have been few, raising the question: If an animal is poached in the far north, will someone be around to witness it? A variety of domestic and international routes lead into and out of the region by ground, air, and water, and traffic is increasing on northern shipping lanes.

In June 2018, while on fieldwork in the Yukon, I was sent a news article, “Black market animal smuggling is booming in Canada”. The Director General of Wildlife Enforcement for Environment Canada, Sheldon Jordan, described how his department, anticipating an unusually busy year of animal smuggling, had shifted more resources to the seizures team. According to Jordan, live animals are smuggled into Canada for the pet trade, and dead animals and their parts for décor, food, and traditional medicine, with a spike during summer months. He described a remote border crossing between Alaska and the Yukon—called Alcan-Beaver Creek—as having the second highest number of illegal incidents after metropolitan Vancouver. Is this because Customs and Border Protection are able to check a majority of vehicles or because smugglers see it as a convenient cross-border backdoor?

Wolverine fur
Seized wildlife items at the Beaver Creek border check point in the Yukon, Canada.

Upon visiting, I realized this crossing is unlike the northernmost one known as Top of the World, where U.S. and Canadian border authorities occupy the same site. At Alcan-Beaver Creek, the two border stations are separated by more than 20 miles. The in-between zone (under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at least until the cutline that demarcates the international border half a mile from the U.S. Alcan station) struck me as a loophole: You could leave Alaska, stash items in Canada, clear customs at Beaver Creek, and return later (short of the U.S. border) to pick up your illicit goods. You could then re-enter explaining you hadn’t left Canada—and get waved through. I know it’s possible, because I did it (minus the stashing of any items). Additionally, people living in Beaver Creek enter this in-between zone to go to a dumpsite.

Often the more serious offenses, beyond paperwork violations and unlawful transport, happen farther afield away from official border posts. Detection may depend on whistle-blowing, saying something if seeing something suspicious including on social media or hunt chat forums. Charges have been brought against hunters and outfitters in this way.
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John Kostyack Previews Strategy
for New Era of Whistleblower Advocacy

The National Whistleblower announced today that it is naming John Kostyack, a well-known nonprofit leader, attorney and policy expert, to serve as its Executive Director effectively immediately. Below is Kostyack’s first statement as Executive Director: 

What an exciting time to be joining the National Whistleblower Center team.  NWC is one of the world’s most respected nonprofits leading the fight for whistleblowers and against corruption. Thanks to laws secured in recent years by NWC and its partners and growing bipartisan interest among policy makers to strengthen these laws, NWC is poised to quickly ramp up its work with whistleblowers to reduce environmental damage and other harm to the public caused by large-scale corruption.
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Chuck-Grassley -Keynote-speaker-national-whistleblower-dayYesterday, the country celebrated National Whistleblower Day. The day celebrates whistleblowers’ contributions to democracy, and commemorates the Founding Fathers’ unanimous passage of the first U.S. whistleblower law on July 30, 1778.

The National Whistleblower Center hosted its annual National Whistleblower Day celebration on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate also unanimously passed a resolution recognizing July 30th, 2018 as “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.”

In recounting the history of America’s whistleblower law, Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, stated: “we must ensure that this incredible act of democracy is remembered.”


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A great strength of the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018 (H.R. 5697) is that it integrates innovative mechanisms for combating the illicit wildlife trade with preexisting wildlife protection methods. This post will explain how frontline enforcement innovations can bolster traditional conservation strategies.

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judges-gavel-and-handcuffsd This is a multi-part series on the Whistleblower Protection Blog covering the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018. 

What do Atlanta teachers, crooked investors, mafiosos, and Mexican cartel members all have in common? The answer: all were indicted under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).


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This is a multi-part series on the Whistleblower Protection Blog covering the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018. 

Whistleblowers have reported on securities violations, alerted the IRS to tax fraud, uncovered foreign corruption, provided information about government contract fraud, and blown the lid off suspect techniques at government crime labs.

As insiders, whistleblowers are best-positioned to report on illegal activity. Strong whistleblower laws have helped curb white collar fraud for decades. Now, it is time to fully activate the power of whistleblowers to diminish and ultimately demolish wildlife trafficking syndicates.


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This is a multi-part series on the Whistleblower Protection Blog covering the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018. 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report titled: “Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Use of Financial Rewards.” It further demonstrates the urgent need for legislation like the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018 (H.R. 5697), which contains provisions for the payment of financial rewards to incentivize wildlife whistleblowers.


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The 2002 Enron scandal drew global attention and Sherron Watkins became forever known as the Enron whistleblower. Speaking at National Whistleblower Day earlier this year, she praised the crucial role whistleblowers play in demanding transparency and accountability from our corporations and government and recognized the incredible progress made in whistleblower protections since the collapse of Enron.

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As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign, we will be sharing several whistleblower stories from this year’s National Whistleblower Day celebration. Dr. Tommie “Toni” Savage told her personal story as a whistleblower who exposed corruption within the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a nightmare ordeal for Savage and her family who still continue to face the aftermath today. But her case led to a momentous victory for federal whistleblowers across the country. Watch the video of her speech.

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