RESTORATION OF KAINAI NATIVE GRASSLAND HABITAT AND TRADITIONAL PLANT POPULATIONS

Category: 2018, Current, Grant, Land Use, Major Project

GRANTEE

The Rockies Institute

LOCATION

About

This grant will allow The Rockies Institute (TRI) to co-develop a tangible outcome with the Kainai First Nation that builds on their collaborative efforts to develop resilience to climate change. TRI has spent over two years building capacity in the Kainai First Nation through education and planning. One of the major outcomes of this work has been identifying the loss of traditional plants and the risk this poses to food security and culture. The project will allow them to take action on these identified outcomes and show that TRI can “teach,” “plan,” and “do.”

Kainai community members are concerned about the loss and degradation of native grasslands and subsequent impacts to their environment including wildlife and traditional use plants which has potentially devastating consequences on their culture. Due to agricultural practices, encroachment of invasive species and the current and future threats of climate change on their land, the community has identified the need to preserve and protect these important cultural, environmental and economic resources on their land.

Numerous negative impacts from agriculture and overgrazing have been documented including water pollution, water scarcity, soil erosion and invasive species proliferation. Plant and animal populations used for food, medicine, and spiritual practices have been eliminated or depleted as a result. For example, the availability of willow cuttings needed to build sweat lodges is threatened by lower water levels in the rivers. Plants such as sweet grass are becoming more difficult to find because of invasive species proliferation. Negative impacts such as these are predicted to worsen as the climate change results in hotter and drier conditions in the region. This all has a negative impact on food and water security as well as culture.

Restoring grassland also decreases fuel intensive agricultural practices, therefore contributes to mitigation of GHGs while increasing the ecological health of the land which in turn contributes to soil health and water quality and provides habitat for traditional use plant populations. Traditional plants are integral to the Blackfoot way of life so the protection of culture under threat of a warming world is a key component of this project. On a national scale, this project is an excellent model of how scientific and Indigenous knowledge holders can come together to collaborate on complex environmental challenges and exemplifies active reconciliation by co-authoring new approaches which aligns with the Government of Canada commitment to reconciliation and commitments made under the Paris Agreement to take into account Indigenous and traditional knowledge in adaptation efforts.

This project will mark what we see as the beginning of protection of these important areas and the restoration of 25 hectares of native grasslands.