The 10 million-acre territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in northwestern British Columbia is a big complete wilderness. The prevailing salmon producer of Southeast Alaska, and perhaps home to the highest density of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, this largest of intact wilderness river systems on the Pacific Coast of North America, the Taku River, dominates this territory as it flows from the interior boreal forests of British Columbia to the coastal temperate forests of Alaska. Achieving conservation success across this broad landscape required the implementation of a suite of creative land designations, inventive management arrangements, and supporting economic developments.
Beginning in 1998 Round River understood that the best prospect for achieving conservation success in this vast region lied in increasing the wildlife, fish, and land management capabilities and authority of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Each component of this long standing project was designed to best equip the Taku River Tlingit to assume management authority to effectively review, challenge, and manage proposed development activities in the Taku River watershed and throughout their traditional territory.
On July 19, 2011, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation signed historic agreements with the British Columbian government establishing land protection measures and shared management responsibility for their ancestral lands. The Wóoshtin Wudidaa (Flowing Together) Land Use Plan protects more than seven million acres from commercial logging and designates over two and half million acres as First Nation Conservancy Parks. In addition, the Taku River Tlingit and provincial government agreed to a joint governing process, Wóoshtin Yan Too.aat (Walking Together), to guide future resource-related decisions. “These agreements represent long overdue respect and recognition for my people, an acknowledgement of who we are as a people and our Tlingit khustiyxh, or way of life on the land, that we are so intricately connected to,” Taku River Tlingit First Nation Spokesperson John Ward.
The TRTFN commitment to protecting the health of their territory has led to impressive conservation success across this broad landscape, achieved through the strength of their leaders and people. The Taku River Tlingit’s over arching protection vision for their lands and waters, is their Tlatsini (Places that make us strong) Vision. The various process to date, even though successful do not include the whole of the Tlatsini Vision. The TRTFN today continue to implement the land use plan agreement, while also seeking to advance and fully release their Tlatsini Vision for land protection and its stewardship.
Round River’s Work
Beginning in 1998, RRCS understood that the best prospect for achieving conservation success in this vast region lied in increasing the wildlife, fish, and land management capacity and authority of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Each component of our work has been designed to best equip the Taku River Tlingit to assume their desired management authority throughout their territory.
Round River has assisted the TRTFN in ecological, cultural and governance work for many years. All the work that RRCS and Taku River Tlingit have partnered on recognizes the immense wealth of knowledge held by the Tlingit community while also valuing the information that western science can add. Over our decades of work with the First Nation, we have worked on many important initiatives to support TRTFN stewardship of their lands, waters, fish and wildlife. Our primary role is to provide technical support working with their staff and citizens to collect and compile traditional knowledge, traditional use and western science to inform their decision-making. From our first work with the First Nation to assess grizzly bear health in the Taku watershed in the late 1990s to our current work, we continue to be honored to work with the TRTFN government and people.
Our current work with the Taku River Tlingit is varied and employs a wide range of technical and community-based approaches. Current initiatives include the following:
Climate Change Adaptation and Traditional Food Security: We are working with Taku River Tlingit and Taku Atlen Conservancy to support traditional practices and land values in the face of climate change. This includes community food security workshops and on-the-land camps, predicting changes in wildlife habitat values and distribution, wildfire vulnerability and winter hazard mapping, and community outreach and education efforts.
Taku Wild Salmon Cultural and Ecological Resiliency Project: The Taku River Tlingit have long advocated for a salmon management system that is based on ecosystem resilience and cultural sustainability. In this initiative, we are working with TRTFN Land Guardians and salmon experts synthesizing traditional knowledge and western science information to provide the foundation for managing Taku River wild salmon for cultural and ecological resiliency, and to provide Taku River Tlingit leadership the necessary technical tools to propose, justify, detail, and effectively negotiate improved management for international sockeye and Chinook populations.
Tlatsini Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Initiative: The TRTFN developed the Tlatsini (Places that make us strong) Vision as a map of areas of high ecological and cultural value to inform their land use planning efforts. This long-term vision provides the basis for pursuing enhanced conservation and governance of high value landscapes in their territory, including implementing management commitments of the co-developed Atlin Taku Land Use Plan and government-to-government collaborative management arrangements. Round River is providing on-going technical support for TRTFN land and water stewardship work.
TRTFN Land Guardians: The Taku River Tlingit have developed a strong Land Guardian program to monitor and protect their traditional territory. Tlingit Land Guardians are responsible for a wide array of field monitoring efforts and community outreach. They ensure that there is an indigenous presence on the land and are the eyes and ears of the First Nation. RRCS and partners Taku Atlen Conservancy provide technical support to the Land Guardians, where needed, to support their efforts as stewards to their territory.
Collaborative Wildlife Management: The development of a Collaborative Fish and Wildlife Management Strategy is now timely to enhance the continued evolution of the collaborative management in the Atlin-Taku region. This intent of this strategy is to advance the Parties vision of the SDM for fish and wildlife that has faltered due to a lack of process for addressing issues where the parties have differing objectives, risk thresholds, perceptions and information. The development of the proposed CFWMS builds upon the strong G2G Fish and Wildlife Working Group (FWWG) relationship and provides for FWWG team planning and SDM strategies to overcome problematic issues.The TRTFN propose a better focused Collaborative Fish and Wildlife Strategy that has two main components: 1) Collaborative Management Plans for specific species or populations of management concern and/or interest and 2) a Shared Decision-Making Framework that provides for a truly shared foundation for fish and wildlife management that includes, for better clarity and consistency, and a working engagement matrix. This strategy will result in improved regional fish and wildlife management and strengthened relationships and collaboration between the Parties.