Ambitious Program Takes Root in Canada

A Canadian Model Forest is about to undertake an ambitious study that could fundamentally alter the way local indigenous communities and the forest industry interact.

Bob Phillips, a Métis with 20 years experience in the oil and gas industry, has been hired by the Foothills Model Forest in Alberta to help develop a multi-partner Traditional Culture Knowledge Study in search of a workable consultation process between the indigenous communities and the forest, oil and gas industries.

Phillips is hopeful the process, or protocol as it’s been termed, will provide a means of communication and understanding between the groups. An improved understanding will reduce the number of disputes over harvesting, exploration, and other sensitive disturbance issues on indigenous lands.

But the study goes far beyond mapping. “It’s meant to capture aboriginal knowledge in conjunction with the land,” Phillips explains. The study captures traditional knowledge “such as spiritual areas, gravesites, berry and food gathering areas, trap line locations . . . details of the community way of life and how it’s attached to the land.”

Seventeen aboriginal communities hold an interest in the research area. While the Foothills Model Forest is leading the initiative, the program is community-driven. It’s hoped the project will ultimately present ways for communities, industry and government to come together over common goals.

For more information, please contact Lisa Jones, FMF Communications and Extension Manager, at Lisa.Jones@gov.ab.ca, or visit the FMF web site.