The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) wished to create a more inclusive organization where diverse and Indigenous voices feel welcome and encouraged to share their unique perspective.
With funding from Alberta Ecotrust, the OWC undertook a project to provide critical environmental quality data to two First Nations in the Oldman watershed, while also building relationships that will start their community on a path of reconciliation.
The Piikani Nation Lands Department has approached the OWC to support its Climate Change Adaptation for Piikani Nation Native Grasslands through Rangeland Health Assessment and Monitoring Project. Similarly, the Blood Tribe Lands Department was seeking funding to complete habitat assessments and mapping for species at risk.
Environmental management cannot be done well without baseline data and mapping. This project was critical to support data driven decision making and long-term monitoring of how changes in practices are improving land health.
Over the last few years both Nations have made impressive progress in environmental management – planting trees, reducing over grazing, creating buffers around water, etc. – and these data and maps are the next big step forward.
The data helped land managers day to day, and provided validation when unpopular tradeoffs have to be made.
In the short-term, success was measured by the beneficial management practices that result from the land assessments, by the relationships that are built and the traditional knowledge that is incorporated into the OWC.
Over the long-term, success will be measured by an improvement in the quality of the environment (by repeating the assessments), and by the reconciliation of our communities.