Conservation planning with Indigenous Communities: Bridging Two Ways of Knowing for a Shared Future

Dr Kimberly Heinemeyer1, Dr. Maggie Triska1, Ms Julia O’Keefe1, Mr. Dennis Sizemore1

1Round River Conservation Studies, Bozeman, United States

Indigenous-led land planning provide unprecedented opportunities to include indigenous knowledge (IK) to understand ecological and cultural values across landscapes. The deep, long temporal breadth of knowledge as well as the enduring stewardship commitment of indigenous people to their homelands provides a strong foundation for conservation planning of large landscapes. We provide examples of utilizing IK to build species habitat models, cultural landscape models and, through the incorporation of these IK-based spatial models within a Systematic Conservation Planning framework, examples of decision-support tools that support indigenous planning for connected conservation networks, including examples from Namibia and Canada. While the communities we work with are increasingly concerned about the potential impacts of a changing climate on their natural resources, the complex suite of climate change metrics available are overwhelming, and we have found it challenging to use many of these with our indigenous partners. Developing climate-informed species distribution modeling building upon IK of species habitat requirements resonates with communities, particularly when the selected species are of high cultural value.  Our efforts to forecast species distributions provide a platform to discuss climate change and these spatial models can be incorporated into systematic conservation planning for indigenous homelands. Our work bridging Indigenous knowledge and values with western science and tools has allowed our indigenous partners to develop their own stewardship visions of large, connected landscapes which inherently support cultural and ecological resilience now and into an uncertain future.


Kimberly has been working to bridge Indigenous Knowledge and Science for over 20 years, with each way of knowing contributing to our shared understanding of ecological and cultural conservation requirements. Round River Conservation Studies, and Kim as lead scientist, has successfully worked with indigenous communities from the Arctic of northern Canada to the deserts of Namibia on conservation planning that builds on indigenous knowledge and values, western science, and systematic conservation planning to connect large landscapes that support cultural and ecological resilience.

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