The Yamal Nenets have exploited reindeer via hunting and/or husbandry in northwest Siberia for several hundred years, although wild reindeer have been virtually absent on Poluostrov Yamal since the early 1900s. Nonetheless, the region retains large populations of wild animals, indicating that nomadic pastoralists, semi-domestic animals, and wildlife were not competing vigorously for resources or space prior to industrialization. Natural-gas development is a relative newcomer to the region, but has already had a significant impact on the bio-physical and socioeconomic environments. The withdrawal of lands for industrial infrastructure, in addition to direct and cumulative impacts from three decades of exploration, has led to a serious decline in the quantity and quality of the remaining tundrasuitable for reindeer pasture.
Available records indicate that some preferred fur-bearing game species have been significantly reduced in recent years, primarily by non-natives. At the same time, it appears that extensive grazing by the reindeer themselves is having an overall negative effect on the area's pastures. Specifically, reindeer grazing is resulting in the thinning of the organic layer on well-drained ground and the exposure of fine-grained sands. The surfaces of these patches are highly erodable and unstable, therefore spreading easily as long as they remain unvegetated. The significant expansion of such areas is a genuine threat as long as, first, industrial development continues to degrade the land, and, second, the numbers of reindeer remain at current levels or increase.