A first-of-its-kind agreement has been signed to grant Indigenous guardians from the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Nuxalk First Nations the same legal authorities as BC Parks rangers.
Announced on June 1, the Guardian Shared Compliance and Enforcement Pilot Project recognizes Indigenous guardians under the Park Act and Ecological Reserve Act, granting them new authority in their role as guardians.
Under the Parks Act, they will manage matters such as natural resources, wildlife and human activities in parks. Under the Ecological Reserve Act, they will preserve protected areas for scientific research and species conservation.
A step up from the Indigenous Guardian Watchmen Program, which only allowed guardians to monitor protected areas, this new project will enable them to carry out compliance and enforcement activities they would have previously deferred to the provincial authority.
Previously Indigenous guardians have held responsibilities such as monitoring commercial and recreational activities, gathering ecological data, playing a role in community outreach and working with the B.C. government to carry out this land management.
“Our traditional laws, knowledge systems and practices, combined with the legal authorities envisioned under this pilot project, create a unique opportunity to ensure the land and all of its natural and cultural values are protected for the long term,” Chief Doug Neasloss of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation stated in a press release.
The memorandum of understanding signed for this agreement recognizes the ability of the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Nuxalk First Nations to protect local ecosystems through their in-depth understanding of the land, the press release states.
“Building a strong, secure future requires shared approaches to caring for the land, waters and all the life that depends on healthy ecosystems,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, in the press release.
Encompassed within each Nations’ ancestral territories, more than 40 protected areas, including Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, Tweedsmuir Park, the Fiordland Conservancy and Kimsuit Estuary Conservancy, will benefit from this agreement.
Expected to run until fall 2023, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said the next steps will be determined based on their evaluation of lessons learned through this initial pilot project.