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Resource Management

Resource management has been an important issue since the era of energy mega projects beginning in the 1970s in Canada. Cycles of boom and bust tend to decrease or increase the importance of resource management. In times of economic downturns, governments and business frequently urge that environmental concerns and limits to development be waived to protect jobs. The increasing number of studies detailing energy stocks and also environmental impact studies has served to emphasize the need for stewardship and wise use of resources. The capacity to develop sophisticated computer models has also enabled scientists and scholars to look at global resource consumption in a timescale of tens to hundreds of years of exploitation. This applies to both non-renewable and renewable resources.

Traditional Use Studies (TUS) make it possible for Aboriginal communities to better understand the value of their resources when approached by development concerns, be they industrial or governmental. Such Studies also facilitate the participation of Aboriginal communities in regional land use activities.When members of a community fully grasp the potential of their resources, this makes them more likely to become involved in the management process. A further incentive occurs when the management of these resources can provide employment for community members as the demand for the resources increases. Becoming involved in land-use planning stimulates the sense of belonging and the sense of protecting resources in the long-term for future generations as well as for the present ones.

The value of the resources is not the only factor that must be considered. The potential of the land to provide resources must also be examined so as to identify the uses for which it is most suited. Questions must be answered as to whether the land is best suited for agriculture, for the support of wildlife, forestry, mining or other uses. A development project in Saskatchewan called for a soil and habitat audit, detailing the type of soil found in the area and its particular suitability.

Scientific research and analysis are an essential part of these studies in order to establish precisely the potential of the land be it for farm use, or for forestry, gas, oil and mining. This requires an integrated approach involving not only companies and governments involved in providing planning and development permissions but also Aboriginal communities, universities, research councils and wildlife and other individual resource management organisations. With this sort of knowledge in hand, Aboriginal communities are empowered when it comes to decision-making concerning the management of their resources so they will be of direct benefit to them, something which has not always worked to their advantage in the past.

The knowledge gleaned from these Studies can detail exactly what crops the soil will best support, specify if irrigation or improvements will be necessary, and, if so, in what way. Even medicinal herbs can be included in these studies, with specifics as to ways of protecting fragile areas for long-term conservation or for harvesting purposes. By combining the knowledge gleaned from oral history along with that of specialists who draw on the fields of ecology, botany, biology, geology, geography and history, resources on a particular land base can be managed to their fullest potential.

The greatest problem, however, with resource management is the slant that is given to the studies, often prepared by consultants. The data accumulated in traditional TUS may disregard the social impact on a traditional territory as used by Aboriginal Peoples. The footprint of mine operations may completely obliterate trap lines that provided a living to entire families; financial compensation for the loss of a territory cannot cover the impact of its social and cultural loss to the community forever, such as is the case for many oil sands operations.

Participatory action research, between the industry financing the research and the community the industry wished to exploit, is essential so that the community is truly involved in the collection of data, and has a say on what is done to its land and environment. This is not always possible and to deal with situations where Treaty and Aboriginal Rights risk not being protected, some First Nations communities enter into resource co-management agreements. Such memorandums of agreements concerning forest co-operative management with the Government of Alberta were signed by the Whitefish Lake First Nation (1994), Little Red River Cree and Tallcree First Nations (1995) and the Horse Lake First Nation (1997, all from the Treaty 8 region.

Through the TUS, resource management can pinpoint potential sources of conflict. By having a resource development plan, and using it with the inventories of the area, it makes it possible for Aboriginal communities to better manage the areas they inhabit and control.

Resources

"First Nations Examine Land Potential: FSIN First Nation Land Capability Project" Saskatchewan Indian, Spring, 2002, v32, n02, p14; http://www.sicc.sk.ca/saskindian/a02spr14.htm . Retrieved March 9th, 2009.

"Benefits of Aboriginal Land Use Studies", Sustainable Forest Management Network/Réseau de gestion durable des forêts, SFM Network, Research Note Series, no. 26, http://www.sfmnetwork.ca/docs/e/E26Aboriginallandusestudies.pdfRetrieved March 9th, 2009.

Noataka Hayaski, "The Rise of Aboriginal Forestry: Changing Political, Legal and Social Landscapes of Mainstream Society, Master of Arts thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Spring 2006, p. 55. http://repository.library.ualberta.ca/dspace/bitstream/10048/379/1/HAYASHI-2006-Aboriginalforestry.pdf Retrieved March 9th, 2009.

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