Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y081001

    Sustainable Forestry, Traditional Economies, and Community Well-Being: A Collaborative Project with Gitxaala Nation and Nuxalk Nation
Project lead: Menzies, Charles (University of British Columbia)
Author: Menzies, Charles
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Through the development of a set of First Nations (FN) specific social, cultural, economic, and environmental indicators, this project will assist forest managers and policy-makers in predicting and measuring how changes in access to and/or management of the forest will impact non-timber resource use by FN and community well-being. This research is especially important in the geographic context of mid/north coastal BC, where the recently announced LRMPs will change forest access patterns and management goals. This project is directly supported by Gitxaala and Nuxalk Nations and involves indigenous researchers in the direction of the project. The indicators will be developed from the perspective of FN rooted in a long term connection with their traditional territories. They will be useful throughout the province in making land-use decisions that balance social, economic and environmental values. They also represent a significant step in fulfilling the province’s mandate to operate according to principles of ecosystem-based management (EBM). This project draws upon the traditional ecological knowledge of Gitxaala and Nuxalk community members in order to address one of the major gaps in mainstream management: the lack of effective mechanisms for incorporating and complementing indigenous knowledge. This knowledge gap has contributed to spectacular cases of resource depletion and habitat loss (see for example, Rogers, 1995). The local level ecological knowledge held by people like the Gitxaala and the Nuxalk, rooted in an intimate and long term involvement in local ecosystems, can be a crucial tool and source of knowledge for long-term sustainability and immediate resource conservation. During the last two decades, the value of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), such as the Ayaawk (laws) and Adaawk (history) of the Gitxaala, has been increasingly recognized as important (Batiste and Youngblood Henderson, 2000; Sillitoe, 1998). TEK has a strong potential to contribute to more effective and sustainable approaches to forest management in particular and natural resource management in general (Kuhn and Dueden, 1996; see also, our reference bibliography uploaded with the application in which we provide a selection of citations that our theoretical approach and methods are derived from). This project is specifically designed to focus on TEK as a pathway toward effective forest management. FN are securing a stronger position in land use planning, forest management, and forest-related economic development. FN communities also continue to participate in traditional economies, including such activities as the harvesting of plants and hunting of wildlife from the forest. Community well-being can be strengthened both by enhancing traditional economic activities and realizing economic development opportunities. If strengthening the traditional economy improves the well-being of FN communities, it is a means of achieving the goals of EBM and sustainable forestry. Well-being is a measure that considers indicators of social and economic conditions and captures those dimensions that include and are discrete from conventional measures of income. They are particularly important to peoples where principles regarding identity, culture, community and the necessity of subsistence economies prevail. One factor that contributes to the reduced well-being of FN communities is lower levels of meaningful labour force activity, which results in both diminished income and diminished status as derived from occupational satisfaction. Improving access of FN to forest resources has the potential to enhance well-being by addressing both poverty reduction and the lack of meaningful employment and by weighting as important prized traditional or land-based skills that might be affiliated with non-timber forest uses and subsistence-level food gathering strategies. Building upon a long term relationship between the lead researcher (Menzies) and Gitxaala and the formal relationship established by Satterfield with Nuxalk Nation, this project will: 1. document the current state of the traditional economy in the two FN communities; 2. describe the linkages between forest management, participation in the traditional economy, and community well-being; and 3. predict how changes in access to and/or management of the forest will impact traditional economies and community well-being. This project is aimed at developing reliable and cost-effective FN-based indicators to determine the relative strength of and changes to a community’s economy expressed in reference to measures of well-being. The indicators will enable the monitoring and evaluation of the success of EBM specifically and sustainable forestry generally. Once indicators are developed, we can measure how changes in access to and management of forests impacts FN‚ non-timber resource use, and participation in the traditional economy. Finally, we will determine how FN, government, and industry can create management frameworks that support and enhance traditional economic activities. This research will be conducted with Gitxaala and Nuxalk Nations. Our research design ensures that we will work closely with Gitxaala and Nuxalk Forestry staff (which include registered professional foresters) and, in Gitxaala, with their forestry company. We combine the specialized, local knowledge of community-based research assistants with the technical expertise of the university researcher. This approach is especially important when working with FN communities. Methods will include interviews and/or focus groups with community leaders, resource managers, subsistence harvesters, and traditional food processors and users. Interviews will be complemented with data from documentary sources and participant observation. Indicators will be developed through a series of workshops with community members and university researchers, and will be pilot tested in the communities. This research will result in: 1. a clearer understanding of how traditional economies are connected to FN community well-being and the land base; 2. a set of indicators that will assist in monitoring and evaluating the success of EBM and increased access to forest resources by FN communities; and 3. concrete policy recommendations. These results will be shared with Gitxaala and Nuxalk Nations through community workshops. Results will be shared with other stakeholders and policy makers through digital, video, and print resources that highlight how traditional economies are related to community well-being, and how managers and policy makers can support and enhance these traditional economies through forest management activities.
Related projects:  FSP_Y092001
Contact: Menzies, Charles, (604) 822-2240,


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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