Until the twentieth century the northern regions of Russia and North America had little by way of infrastructure and urban development. This changed as the extent of the mineral wealth in these regions came to be appreciated and exploited. During the Second World War and the Cold War the regions came to be of strategic importance, resulting in the building of major military bases, such as the Thule Air Base, and infrastructure, such as the Alaskan Highway. The mineral wealth of the region, particularly hydrocarbons, is located long distances from consumers, requiring major infrastructure projects across challenging terrain and environmentally sensitive areas. The beneficiaries of such projects, who gain access to more secure and cheaper energy sources, often reside a long way from where the impact of the projects is felt. By contrast, the local population may have to bear the environmental and social consequences and any adverse impact upon traditional livelihoods, such as hunting, fishing, and nomadic agriculture. These raise questions about how and whether the local populations can share in the benefits from development and the extent to which the environmental and livelihood consequences can be mitigated whilst achieving the understandable desire of central governments to improve living standards and security of energy supplies for their populations as a whole. In the early days of development in the region, there was a tendency on the part of governments to view the region as terra nullis, wilderness land belonging to no-one. In lands without settled agriculture, surely those displaced from one piece of tundra, taiga, or icecap to another could be relocated on an apparently interchangeable land? This was done without regard for the extent to which the landscapes were managed, the impact of relocation and development on hunting and other activities or the ties of indigenous populations with the land. More recent developments have provided from greater participation of the local population in the planning process and a sharing of the benefits from development. The paper compares and contrasts the approaches adopted in North America, particularly Canada, and the Russian Federation.