Indigenous Rangers to share conservation initiatives with First Nations
The Canadian boreal forest and the Australian Outback, two contrasting landscapes on opposite sides of the globe, face similar challenges for protecting these vast, remote, and environmentally vital lands. Now Australians are taking two precedent setting, culturally sensitive stewardship models to Canada.In a nine-day tour—with stops in Vancouver, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, and Ottawa—members of Australia’s Indigenous Rangers program, along with representatives from Parks Australia and the Pew Environment Group—Australia, will meet with Canadian federal, First Nations, and provincial leaders. On the tour, which begins Oct. 29, the delegation will share successes and insights that could provide First Nations advantages in the stewardship of their traditional territories. “When it comes to creating successful models for indigenous land stewardship, Canadians could learn from our colleagues Down Under,” said Larry Innes, an adviser to the Canadian Boreal Initiative, the Pew Environment Group’s partner in the Canadian boreal protection campaign. “The Australian experience provides some exciting practical examples of indigenous territory management, as well as new approaches to protected areas that we believe could be implemented here in Canada.” Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) have been created in more than 50 locales by Australian Aboriginal people on their traditional lands. Similar to national parks, IPAs protect unique landscapes, plants, and animals, but are managed using traditional methods by their indigenous owners, under contract with the Australian government. In addition to conservation, these areas maintain traditional culture, bring indigenous owners back to their land, and allow skills development and employment.
Click to download a map of IPAs
Currently, 51 IPAs cover 36 million hectares (almost 89 million acres), or 25 percent of Australia’s National Reserve System.The Australian government’s IPA program funds Aboriginal communities to support IPA establishment and management and aims to create 40 percent more of these areas over the next five years—an increase of at least 8 million hectares (almost 19.8 million acres). “The programs support Australia’s indigenous peoples to actively express their culture and strong desire to be living on and managing their lands,” said Patrick O’Leary, manager of the Australia program for the Pew Environment Group. “These programs are providing much needed job and training opportunities in remote and often disadvantaged regions.”
Indigenous-owned land in Australia represents roughly 22 percent (170 million hectares, or 420 million acres) of Australia, including large areas of some of the most biodiverse and highest conservation-value areas on the continent.Australia’s Indigenous Ranger program was pioneered by Aboriginal people as a way to actively manage and protect their traditional land and seas. They are similar to conventional park rangers in some ways, managing areas to control threats such as wildfires, exotic weeds and feral animals, but unique in that they combine their local traditional knowledge and culture with Western science in a ‘two-toolbox’ approach to protecting the environment. This program results not only in environmental benefit, but also economic and social improvements for indigenous communities by providing much-needed jobs in remote regions. The federal government’s Working on Country program employs roughly 680 Indigenous Rangers in 90 teams across Australia.
Many Canadian First Nations have expressed interest in comparing approaches with their Australian counterparts. The Australian delegation will meet with Matthew Coon Come, grand chief of Quebec’s Grand Council of the Crees, which signed a historic pact between Quebec and the Cree Nation this summer, as well as other Aboriginal and government leaders across the country. This tour will take the Australian delegation as far north as Yellowknife to meet with First Nations leaders about the proposed Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve.
Indigenous-owned land in Australia represents roughly 22 percent of Australia, including large areas of some of the most biodiverse and highest conservation-value areas on the continent.
“First Nations have knowledge and expertise built over millennia about their lands,” said Innes. “The Australian examples could empower First Nations and Aboriginal groups to continue to exercise stewardship over Canada’s vast boreal forest in ways that Canadians can actively support.”Canada’s boreal is the largest intact forest in the world, the most significant source of carbon storage and unfrozen freshwater, and home to abundant has abundant wildlife. Over recent years, the Pew Environment Group and Canadian partners have worked with industry, First Nations, and federal and provincial governments to increase protection of this spectacular region. Australia’s Outback is one of the few places on Earth where nature remains vast, wild, and abundant. The Outback region ranks first among all countries for the total number of native mammal and reptile species. But it requires ongoing management, now increasingly applied by its indigenous people, in new forms of cross-cultural environmental management.
Australian Indigenous Rangers tour Canada
From the Kimberley to Vancouver - Australian Indigenous Rangers will be the first to take part in a new global initiative to share traditional knowledge and ideas for best practice on land and sea management.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said three rangers from the Kimberley Land Council in Western Australia and the Central Land Council in the Northern Territory will embark on a 10-day exchange with the Canadian First Nation peoples as part of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network.
Mr Burke said since Labor came to Government, the Indigenous Rangers Network program has grown from around 100 rangers to 680 rangers and we are on track to reach a target of 730 Rangers by June 2015.
“The expansion of the Indigenous Rangers network is one of the most important environmental achievements of this Government,’’ he said.“I have spent a great deal of time with these rangers and I am personally and passionately committed to the work they do.
“This global network recognises Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge to protect and nourish the land and sea, contributing to the social and environmental health of their own nations and the world.”
Australia led the initiative and recruited Brazil, Norway and New Zealand to form the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network at the Rio+20 sustainable development conference in Brazil earlier this year.
The network will draw on Indigenous peoples and local community groups involved in land and sea management and sustainable development to build on relationships and share best practice between managers globally.
The exchange has been organised in partnership with the Pew Environment Group.
Mr Burke said the exchange marks a major step towards establishing this global network as an international forum for Indigenous people involved in land and sea management.
“We want to support these relationships so land and sea managers can learn from one another, building their capacity to achieve better economic, social and environmental outcomes, across the world,” he said.
“The network will also link Indigenous expertise in land and sea management with modern technology to improve the way we manage our environment globally.”
Daniel Oades, a KLC land and sea manager is looking forward to the exchange.
“Indigenous peoples have an important and legitimate role in helping to manage the global environment,’’ he said.
“Seeing first-hand how other Indigenous and local communities manage their environment and by sharing knowledge and building relationships with the people involved is a vital part of this work.”
This is the first of several exchanges in the lead up to the inaugural international network conference in Darwin in May 2013.
The conference will bring Indigenous peoples and local communities together from around the world to shape the network and ensure its long term viability.
Melissa George, a Wulgurukaba traditional owner from Magnetic Island in Queensland and the Chair of the Environment Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, assisted with the launch of the network at Rio +20.
“I believe the network will give us an opportunity to work with other first nation peoples, their governments and non government organisations across the world and to lead the way in best practice management of land, sea and all living things,” she said.
“A global network, will help strengthen our contribution to the sustainability of our environment and communities world-wide.”