Balancing creation and consumption
I met with representatives of the the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation who live on Vancouver Island. We talked about their relationship with their ancestral lands and explored how the Conservancy could work with them to support their decision-making authority and land stewardship in an effort to promote their sustainable development.
The Tla-o-qui-aht, like many indigenous communities around the world, have a deep connection to nature and rely on it for their economic, spiritual, cultural and physical well-being. Because these communities never signed treaties with the Canadian government, their legal land status remains ambiguous.
Despite this, the Tla-o-qui-aht established a Tribal Park to “re-establish a healthy integration of economy and environment in which there is a balance of creation and consumption and a continual investment in biological and economic diversity.”
In many ways, Tribal Parks such as these represent First Nations’ visions for sustainable management of their lands. It is a vision with power. Community representative Tsimka Martin believes that Tribal Parks can become “a way to start to heal our people.”
Respect and partnership
Supporting land rights and decision-making authority for local and indigenous communities can be a crucial element in ensuring sustainable livelihoods and achieving broader sustainable development goals.
This is why we are working with the Emerald Edge program to pilot the Conservancy’s newly developed guidelines on conservation and the rights of indigenous communities. These guidelines were informed by principles of partnership with First Nations that the Conservancy’s Canada program developed last year.
Using these principles, the Conservancy and First Nations—including the Tla-o-qui-aht—have formed a partnership in this region that aims to strengthen local jurisdiction over resource decision making. Together, we are creating a stewardship endowment that will help put people who have called this place home for generations in the position of ensuring it provides for future generations.
The partnership also seeks to ensure local benefits from both land use and land protection—by changing provincial land tenure to create community-managed forests and protected areas that honor traditional use and the need for sustainable local businesses such as ecotourism.
It is in glimpsing the vision of those who have lived, loved and worked on their land for generations that we can see the true splendor of a landscape.
At The Nature Conservancy, we are aiming to help conserve more land by 2020 than we have over our entire history. But—as embodied by Emerald Edge—these outcomes and impact will go well beyond a simple measure of acres saved.