VANCOUVER — Indigenous Peoples should lead nature-restoration initiatives, according to a report by Blueberry River First Nations and the David Suzuki Foundation. The report details steps for scaling site-level restoration of specific projects to landscape-level restoration that looks at entire ecosystems.
“[W]ith an intimate knowledge of the land, a vested interest in restoring the health of injured ecosystems, and Indigenous protocols for stewardship, BRFN are well positioned to support the restoration and safeguarding of ecosystems in their territory,” the report says.
“Framework for Community-Based Landscape Restoration” identifies a template for nature restoration that promotes consistency across projects and reflects BRFN’s priorities for the recovery of ecological and cultural values. It was commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation and conducted by BRFN and the Firelight Group.
The report outlines the concept of “reciprocal restoration”: “the enhancement, creation, or re-creation of habitats that aims to restore the environment as well as Indigenous human relationships with the land.” It also highlights the critical role that Indigenous knowledge should play in restoration; specifically prioritization of restoration sites, development of restoration end-goals and selection of restoration methods.
“Blueberry people are facing challenges at a scale we’ve never seen before,” Chief Marvin Yahey said. “We need to restore our territory to the healthy ecosystems on which our way of life and treaty rights have depended for generations. This report is an important step toward that.”
David Suzuki Foundation boreal project manager Rachel Plotkin said, “Most restoration initiatives have been remedial and site-level only. When restoration does occur, it too often replaces previously ecologically diverse areas with monocultures. This report offers a new vision of landscape-level restoration that is informed by Indigenous knowledge, and that restores natural biodiversity and the relationships between people and nature.”
The report comes at a critical time. The United Nations has declared the 2020s the “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” with a focus on preventing, halting and reversing ecosystem degradation worldwide. Restoration is a critical tool in nature-based climate solutions and in rebuilding a green, just economy post COVID-19.
In the Peace region, where BRFN is situated, caribou ranges have been so heavily impacted that caribou will become extinct unless aggressive restoration measures are implemented at the range scale. These measures must be accompanied by protection of suitable habitat and revision of governance regimes to ensure that Indigenous Peoples are included at decision-making tables and limits are established for industrial resource-extraction activities.
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- The scope of industrial disturbance within BRFN territory is immense. There are almost no areas that have not seen some form of industrial activity, and in much of the territory the intensity of disturbance to nature is among the highest in the province. A 2016 DSF-commissioned report in partnership with BRFN and Ecotrust found that 73 per cent of BRFN territory was within 250 metres of an industrial disturbance and less than 14 per cent of the forest landscape was considered intact.
- The impacts of the industrial disturbance have accelerated wildlife decline, significantly affecting community members’ ability to hunt preferred species and practise traditional ways of life, as was assured to them by the Crown under Treaty 8. BRFN has taken B.C. to court for violation of its treaty commitments. BRFN is not proposing monetary remedy but, rather, changes to landscape-level planning and commencement of nature restoration within its territory.