Economic

Indigenous Peoples leading the way on conservation in the Yellowstone to Yukon region

From time to time, the problems we all face can seem overwhelming. Headlines on environmental stories these days can be shocking, sometimes even terrifying, when they talk about collapse of biodiversity and loss of large wildlife species, massive insect die-offs, and pollution affecting large waterways and lands.

But there is hope — for conservation and people — as scientists, advocates and communities of people like you strive for solutions and a better tomorrow.

Right now, governments around the globe are recognizing the role Indigenous laws and knowledge systems play in conservation and protecting biodiversity. New Indigenous-led conservation areas are being designated, and there is support for conserving natural heritage including culturally significant plants and animals.

Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), sometimes called Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Canada, play an important part, as does supporting conservation of natural heritage including culturally significant plants and animals. New Indigenous-led conservation areas have proliferated in Canada including in the Yellowstone to Yukon region recently. The current federal government has committed to ensuring that Indigenous leadership is engaged in conservation advances. In the coming years, up to 27 Indigenous protected areas are expected to be established under the Canada Nature Fund’s Target 1 Challenge.

On the U.S. side of the Yellowstone to Yukon region some tribes are establishing tribal wilderness areas and other designations, as well as envisioning new designations in the future. Likewise, conversations have increased around co-management such as on the National Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation and in the Badger-Two Medicine region of the Crown of the Continent.

Recognizing the role Indigenous Peoples have as decision-makers in conservation and as stewards of the land is key. Historically, many parks were carved out of traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples without their engagement or consent.

Today, Indigenous Peoples are advancing ambitious visions for conserving large areas of their traditional territories that would conserve culture and nature. Working together with the federal and provincial/territorial governments, such efforts are a way to conserve nature and for society to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ ties to the land while supporting reconciliation.

What is an Indigenous-led protected area?

Around the world, how an IPA is designated and qualified can be contextually sensitive and informed by many factors.

According to International Institute for Sustainable Development designation considerations include: “distinct histories and development of Indigenous stewardship, diverse experiences and relationships between Indigenous Peoples and post-colonial powers, and unique evolutionary, human and environmental factors that have led to the social and ecological landscape we see today.”

Indigenous-led conservation comes by many names, including IPAs, IPCAs and more. IPAs (also referenced as IPCAs in Canada) are often created in collaborative situations, involving territorial/Indigenous, provincial and federal governments. National park reserves, tribal wilderness areas, tribal parks and wildlife areas have all been used to describe these areas.

For more information go to Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation here.

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