Presented by: Susan Leech, Anne Hervieux, Lori Cyprien
For generations, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) have stewarded the lands and waters of their territories in northeastern Alberta. Boreal woodland caribou—tâdzié in Dené; atihk in Cree—are an integral part of the boreal muskeg ecosystem and are key to sustaining the culture and way of life of these Nations. The disappearance of tâdzié/atihk and the lack of an effective range plan to protect critical habitat is troubling. Recently, ACFN and MCFN jointly entered into a Conservation Agreement with the Federal Government to develop their own stewardship plan. The Tâdzié/Atihk Stewardship Plan was developed with guidance from Dené and Cree knowledge holders, upholds and respects the fundamental rights of ACFN and MCFN to steward their territories, and meets federal range planning requirements. Knowledge holders identified a target of 80% undisturbed habitat by 2061, with 100% undisturbed calving grounds, for tâdzié/atihk populations to recover to the extent that the Nations can rely on tâdzié/atihk for subsistence and cultural practices. The plan uses Indigenous knowledge and western science to identify and map three management zones within the study area: protection, restoration, and active management. The plan also identifies management actions to be undertaken in the zones. Based on habitat recovery modelling, the proposed arrangement of these zones across the study area generally achieves undisturbed habitat targets within the four ranges in 40 years; additional management actions to consolidate development and manage access within the Active Management Zones will further accelerate habitat improvements.