Caribou recovery efforts work better when indigenous communities are involved

In December of 2015, the Boreal Leadership Council — made up of First Nations, business leaders and environmental groups — released a study which concludes that having indigenous people on board makes a big difference to caribou recovery programs.

The report’s author, Valerie Courtois, says the cultural value of caribou could make the animals a powerful way to bring indigenous and mainstream society together. “The norm for recovery planning is that it is led by provincial recovery teams. Many First Nations have had a dissatisfying experience with that process because it’s been mostly framed around western science.

Courtois said the type of habitat frequented by woodland caribou is also ground zero for large resource developments (oil, gas, tar sands, mining, etc.). That makes caribou recovery a complicated task — but it’s also where different groups in society can meet to work together.

The survey shows that recovery programs rooted in indigenous communities have big advantages over those that aren’t.

Photo by Dean Biggins (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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