Land Needs Guardians.
It’s a statement with which we would all likely agree.
The idea of stewardship of the intricate natural web of life including lands and waters and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them, is embodied deep in our human DNA. Sadly, it is not expressed equally among today’s cultures and individual people.
But there is good news.
Around the world and including in Canada’s Boreal Forest region, Indigenous governments and communities are reaffirming this ancient human land stewardship ethic. Across varied landscapes and conditions, Indigenous leaders with the support of their elders and the broad community, are implementing new programs to protect, maintain and manage their traditional lands.
In Australia, more than 700 Indigenous people are employed officially as what are called there, Indigenous Rangers. They are the eyes and ears on the land, managing and protecting 168 million acres of conservation lands across Australia. Meanwhile, the federal government of Australia has discovered that by funding this work they have achieved massive savings in reduced costs for other programs. A savings that has approached 200-300 percent in overall spending.
In Canada’s Boreal Forest region, newly established and proposed Indigenous protected areas encompass some of the world’s most stunning geographies, ecological features, and biodiversity values. Within the Boreal Forest region are millions of lakes including some of the largest in the world; more undammed rivers than anywhere in North America; massive stores of carbon; robust populations of large mammals like caribou and moose and their predators—wolves, grizzly bears, and wolverines; and literally billions of nesting birds that migrate south in winter, to the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Birds like the bright yellow breasted Canada Warbler and the jauntily capped Blackpoll Warbler breed across the Boreal Forest region and winter in places like Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. Boreal dependent waterbirds too, like the beloved black-and-white Bufflehead, the Red-necked Grebe and the Black Scoter winter in the estuaries, bays, beaches and rocky shores of the coastal shores of the U.S.
It is good to know that these shared birds and the lands that they need for nesting have guardians across the Boreal Forest region.
More than 60 Indigenous Nations across Canada have already initiated their own versions of these guardians of the land programs, largely without any dedicated Canadian government support. Our generation faces the most serious threats we have ever seen—climate change, massive losses in biodiversity, and increasing impacts from pollution and unchecked development. Issues of this magnitude require bold, big new solutions.
One such solution? A massive, new commitment from Canada’s federal government to equip a new generation of Guardians to protect and manage the globally special natural landscapes of Canada. A new campaign called Land Needs Guardians, which Audubon is proud to support, has proposed just that.
The beauty of such stewardship programs is that they also build strong and healthy communities that develop internal capacity for managing lands, waters, and resources. Reconciliation done in this way establishes secure, sustainable local economies and resilient landscapes and people. Support of Guardians programs is a clear win-win.
Billions of birds, fish, mammals, trees, insects and other forms of biodiversity that rely on the land need guardians. It’s time for the Canadian federal government to commit to funding new and established Guardians programs at a scale that measures up to the need—$500 million over five years as the Indigenous Leadership Initiative has suggested.
Land does need Guardians.
Our birds—our world—needs Guardians.
All of us can lend our voices in support of this new Land Needs Guardians campaign at: https://landneedsguardians.ca/sign-the-statement
See an exciting, shore video explaining more about Guardians programs here: https://youtu.be/COlsixxmVu4
Land Needs Guardians website: https://landneedsguardians.ca/