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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 39-50

Conservancies in Coastal British Columbia: A New Approach to Protected Areas in the Traditional Territories of First Nations

School of Resource and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Murray B Rutherford
School of Resource and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.161219

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Date of Web Publication20-Jul-2015


In British Columbia (BC), Canada, the provincial government and First Nations have recently created an innovative new form of collaboratively managed protected area. Designated as 'Conservancies' under the BC Park Act or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act, these protected areas are intended to provide a variety of sustainable uses, while maintaining biodiversity and recreational values and prohibiting large-scale commercial or industrial development. Conservancies evolved out of a desire to increase the protected area land base in the province, but also to accommodate traditional Aboriginal land uses and low-impact economic development. The Conservancy designation was created in 2006, and since then 156 Conservancies have been established in BC, covering a total of approximately 2,999,000 ha managed in collaboration with more than 30 First Nations. In this article, we describe the history and management framework of Conservancies, and compare the Conservancy model with international principles for governance of protected areas involving Indigenous people. Despite potential challenges involving integrated management, capacity, allocation of permits among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal users, and treaty negotiations, Conservancies appear to align well with international norms and offer a promising model for flexible protected areas.

Keywords: Conservancy, First Nations, Aboriginal peoples, Indigenous peoples, co-management, parks, protected areas, sustainable use, British Columbia, Canada

How to cite this article:
Stronghill J, Rutherford MB, Haider W. Conservancies in Coastal British Columbia: A New Approach to Protected Areas in the Traditional Territories of First Nations. Conservat Soc 2015;13:39-50

How to cite this URL:
Stronghill J, Rutherford MB, Haider W. Conservancies in Coastal British Columbia: A New Approach to Protected Areas in the Traditional Territories of First Nations. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Aug 11];13:39-50. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2015/13/1/39/161219

   Introduction Top

Over the past 20 years, the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, has made fundamental changes to its land-use policies, including the development of new approaches to protected areas. In the 1990s, the provincial government rapidly expanded the parks system, and by 2001 reached its target of protecting 12% of the province's total area (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009). However, provincial land-use planning processes during this period rarely included participation by First Nations, and First Nations people were largely excluded from using provincial parks for cultural and other traditional purposes. An important shift has taken place in the last decade, as the provincial government and First Nations have engaged in government-to-government negotiations about land-use planning and protected areas in the Central and North Coast regions (Cullen 2006) and elsewhere in the province. One innovative product of these negotiations is the concept of a 'Conservancy,' a new type of protected area planned and managed collaboratively by the province and First Nations, in which a wider range of uses is permitted than in conventional parks.

In 2006, the BC government amended the BC Park Act (RSBC 1996, c. 344) and the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act (SBC 2000, c. 17) to enable the establishment of Conservancies. By 2014, BC had designated 156 Conservancies, mainly in coastal regions along the western edge of the province. These Conservancies included a total of approximately 2,999,000 ha, to be managed jointly under agreements between the BC government and more than 30 First Nations. Conservancies typically consist of lands that were previously managed by the province as 'Crown lands,' but that are also claimed by First Nations as part of their traditional territories. Management plans for Conservancies are being developed jointly by First Nations and the provincial government.

In this paper, which is part of a special section, we describe the history and current conception of Conservancies in BC, and offer a preliminary assessment of this model for protected areas in the traditional territories of First Nations. The Conservancy model is of particular interest for this special section because Conservancies are intended not only to achieve conservation goals, but also to accommodate social, ceremonial, and cultural uses of First Nations, and sustainable small-scale resource development. If the relationship between land managed for timber values and land managed for biodiversity is perceived as a continuum-as proposed in the introduction to this special section (Wiersma et al. This issue)-in which industrial forestry constitutes one end of the spectrum, and national and provincial parks, as the most restrictive types of protected areas, constitute the other end of the spectrum, then Conservancies in BC are positioned somewhere near the centre.

Prior to the creation of the Conservancy designation, most provincial parks in BC were established as 'Class A' parks under the BC Park Act. Although the Class A designation does not prohibit First Nations' traditional uses, and the BC Park Act contemplates special agreements to allow such uses, many First Nations people feel alienated from conventional parks and have chosen not to pursue traditional uses within these areas (Canadian Parks Council 2008). In only a few select cases have First Nations in BC successfully pushed for significant engagement with conventional protected areas. In contrast, the BC Park Act (s. 5(3.1) states that Conservancies are set aside "for the preservation and maintenance of social, ceremonial and cultural uses of First Nations," along with other purposes such as the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, recreational values, and sustainable resource development. Turner and Bitonti (2011: 1) compare the Conservancy designation with other protected area categories across Canada and conclude that Conservancies are: "the first and only provincial-level [protected area] designation in Canada to explicitly incorporate First Nations' interests into its legal framework."

Our own research on Conservancies evolved from a project undertaken by the first author (Stronghill) for one First Nation on the BC coast (Stronghill 2013). The project called for a review of the first publicly available drafts of management plans for Conservancies. Stronghill's initial research culminated in a report that examined the content prescribed for Conservancy plans under a template developed by First Nations and the province, and also discussed the different ways that this template had been applied in various settings to produce draft management plans.

In this paper, we begin by describing the evolution of Conservancies in BC and the legal and policy framework for these novel protected areas. We then consider how well the Conservancy model aligns with principles and guidelines developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Federation for governance of protected areas involving Indigenous peoples (Beltrán 2000). We conclude with observations about the potential of Conservancies and the challenges ahead. For additional background on the history of protected areas and forest management in Canada, see the introduction to this special section by Wiersma et al..

Because the Conservancy designation was only created in 2006 and management arrangements are still being instituted for many Conservancies, it is too early to conduct a full evaluation of the Conservancy model as applied in practice. Instead, our assessment is preliminary, based on a review of the legal and policy framework for Conservancies, including Conservancy management plans and associated broad agreements between the province and First Nations for cooperative land-use management. At the time of our review, management plans for 31 Conservancies were completed and publicly available. Of these, 19 had been finalised and approved by the parties, and the remaining 12 were available as drafts (BC Parks 2011). We selected 13 Conservancy management plans covering 15 Conservancies for our detailed review ([Figure 1]; Appendix 1). We included plans from four major Land and Resource Management Planning regions in BC. We also reviewed 14 higher-level agreements between First Nations and the province that were cited in the selected Conservancy plans as sources of strategic guidance for planning and management (for a detailed description of the sampling protocol and methods, see Stronghill 2013). The IUCN principles and guidelines used in our review are described later in this paper.
Figure 1
Map of the Conservancies of the province of British Columbia, Canada (grey in inset map).
Those in lighter green correspond to those listed in Appendix 1, and are those Conservancies for which management plans were reviewed in this paper

Click here to view

Given the troubled history of many initiatives promoted as collaborations between state governments and Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere (Castro and Nielsen 2001; Berkes 2007; Neufeld 2012; Smith This issue; Van Schie and Haider This issue), a degree of caution is called for in making forecasts about the future of Conservancies. Nevertheless, it appears from our review and from early assessments by other scholars (Rozwadowska 2010; Turner and Bitonti 2011) that the Conservancy model has the potential to be an important step forward in the evolution of protected areas in Canada.

   Emergence of the Conservancy Concept Top

Many Canadian jurisdictions are experimenting with more inclusive forms of governance for managing forests and protected areas. One key factor underlying this trend is the increased recognition in recent years of the rights of Indigenous peoples to own, manage, and use lands and resources in their traditional territories (Notzke 1995; Nepal 2002; Gladu et al. 2003; Smith This issue; Van Schie and Haider This issue). In 1982, the Canadian constitution was amended to explicitly recognise and affirm "the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada" (Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11, s. 35). This amendment, and a series of landmark decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada defining the nature and scope of Aboriginal rights, have shifted power and begun to transform the relationship between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments (Dearden and Rollins 2009; Low and Shaw 2011/12). In response, Canadian governments have instituted a variety of policy measures concerning Aboriginal participation in decision making, ranging from directives on consultation to alternative forms of governance.

At the federal level, Parks Canada and other federal conservation agencies now work with Aboriginal people in the management of many national protected areas. Of Canada's 42 national parks, 13 are managed collaboratively with Aboriginal communities (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012), often in accordance with land claims settlement agreements or impact benefit agreements. Aboriginal people are also involved in the management of other national parks through joint projects, advisory committees, and community consultation processes. Although the success of these initiatives has been mixed, and the problem of infringement on Aboriginal culture and rights remains a major issue for Canada's national parks (Gladu et al. 2003; Neufeld 2012), such cooperative management arrangements at least offer opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in, and influence, park decision making.

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is a prominent example of a co-managed federal protected area in BC. Gwaii Haanas Reserve was created in response to pressure from people of the Haida Nation who opposed intensive industrial logging in their traditional territory (Weitzner and Manseau 2001; Gladu et al. 2003). The Haida worked with several conservation organisations to launch an international campaign to raise awareness of the risks that logging posed to the spectacular beauty and diversity of the region. Several innovations in park management distinguish Gwaii Haanas from typical national parks. All decisions are made by a management board with equal representation from Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation, and the Superintendent of the park is a member of the Haida Nation (he is also a long-term employee of Parks Canada). Furthermore, half of the park staff are from the Haida community (National Centre for First Nations Governance 2009).

At the provincial level, the BC Parks agency has also expressed a commitment to strengthen its relationship with First Nations (BCMOE 2008). This commitment is in keeping with a recent broadening of the objectives for BC's provincial protected areas, to include a wider range of social and economic aims in addition to the typical emphasis on conservation and tourism (BCOAG 2010). The objectives of the BC Parks agency now include maintaining cultural integrity as well as ecological integrity, and working with First Nations to secure the future of protected areas (BCMOE 2008).

The Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park, established in 1995, is an unusual early example of a co-managed provincial park in BC. The Stein Valley is the largest watershed in the Fraser River drainage basin, and at the time the park was created conservation advocates argued that it was the last expansive watershed in southwestern British Columbia that had not been subjected to industrial logging or roads (M'Gonigle 1988; Notzke 1994). In the early 1970s, plans for logging and road construction in the Stein Valley sparked opposition from environmental organisations and members of the Lytton First Nation (Nlaka'pamux people) and the Lillooet Tribal Council (St'at'imc people). The Nlaka'pamux Tribal Council filed a comprehensive land claim that included the entire Stein watershed. After two decades of conflict and negotiation, the province designated the Stein Valley as a Class A Park, to be cooperatively managed by the Lytton First Nation and BC Parks (BC Parks 2000). The management agreement for the park attempts to ensure that the Stein Valley will be managed in accordance with the historical and cultural presence of the Nlaka'pamux people, in addition to protecting wilderness values (BC Parks 2000).

Both Gwaii Haanas National Park and the Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park were formed in response to First Nation's opposition to proposals for industrial logging in traditional territories. Concern about industrial forestry was also an important factor in the development of Conservancies on the Central and North Coast of BC. The nature of this concern cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of the role of forestry in the history of land management in the province. More than 90% of the land in BC is publicly-owned provincial Crown land (subject to Aboriginal claims), and approximately half of this is forested (Jackson and Curry 2004). As a result, the provincial government has been a central actor in land use planning, and forestry has been a central consideration in that planning (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009). The BC economy has been highly dependent on forestry, which has contributed a significant portion of the province's gross domestic product, exports, and employment. For example, at the time that the Stein Valley provincial park was established (1995), forest products accounted for more than 60% of BC's total exports (BC Stats 2012). The forest industry in the province has declined somewhat since that time, but in 2011 forest products still accounted for more than 30% of BC's exports (BC Stats 2012). Due to this dependence on forestry, land-use planning in BC for much of the twentieth century was basically "forest planning constrained by other uses" (Howlett et al. 2009: 387).

This forestry-centred land-use regime began to change in the late 1980s, when tensions came to a head in a long struggle over resource allocation and land-use management often referred to as the "War in the Woods" (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009). The 'war' included protests and mass arrests at Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, and conflicts over industrial logging in other areas of the province. Environmental organisations and First Nations were often pitted together on one side of these disputes, in opposition to logging companies and the provincial government on the other (Jackson and Curry 2004; Howlett et al. 2009). The intense conflict and controversy highlighted the need for more inclusive planning at a regional scale, to better account for the diverse values provided by lands and forests (Jackson and Curry 2004; Cullen 2006). Under the threat of international boycotts of BC forest products, the provincial government established the Commission on Resources and Environment in 1992 to collaboratively develop regional land-use plans (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009). In 1996, the province replaced the Commission on Resources and Environment with a revised planning process called Land and Resource Management Planning (LRMP). As a result of these two major planning initiatives, regional land-use plans were collaboratively developed for much of BC. However, the provincial government had limited success in convincing First Nations to take part in these planning processes (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009). Factors that may have discouraged First Nations' participation included their concerns about the possible effects of participation on land claims or ongoing treaty negotiations, and their desire to negotiate as sovereign nations in separate government-to-government negotiations rather than as stakeholders in regional planning processes (Smith and Sterritt 2007; BC Treaty Commission 2009).

Most First Nations in BC have not entered into historical or modern treaties ceding rights to their territories. Yet colonial and early Canadian governments relegated these people to small 'Indian reserves' in the province, taking over most of their land and transferring it to settlers or retaining it as 'Crown land.' First Nations continue to assert Aboriginal rights to the territories in BC that they occupied prior to colonisation (covering much of the province), and until recently the province has generally refused to recognise these rights. Unfortunately, the modern treaty negotiation process has not made substantial progress in overcoming this problem. As of 2014, 22 years after the modern treaty process started in BC, only eight of the 65 participating First Nations had completed and accepted final agreements (BC Treaty Commission 2014).

The province's regional LRMP processes took place outside of treaty negotiations. The last two LRMPs were completed in 2006 for the Central and North Coast regions of the province. These final planning processes were unique in that for the first time the province invited First Nations to participate in separate negotiations with the province on a government-to-government basis, distinct from the stakeholder tables of the LRMPs and from treaty negotiations with the provincial and federal governments (BCILMB 2004, 2005; Canadian Parks Council 2008). The Central and North Coast LRMPs cover much of the west coast of British Columbia, extending from the northwest entrance of Bute Inlet in the south to the southern terminus of the Alaskan Pan-handle in the north. The combined area, often called the Great Bear Rainforest, includes approximately 6.4 million ha of coastal temperate rainforest. This region contains the largest number of unlogged watersheds of any major region within BC, constituting approximately one quarter of the world's unlogged coastal temperate rainforest (Clapp 2004; Price et al. 2009). Due in part to the small extent of logging and roads, the Great Bear Rainforest also ranks as some of the world's best habitat for grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and black bears (Ursus americanus), and it provides habitat for British Columbia's official provincial mammal, the Spirit Bear (an all-white variant of Ursus americanus) (Clapp 2004; BCILMB 2004; BCMOE 2006a). The Central and North Coast planning areas also support a population of approximately 22,000 people, half of which are of First Nations' ancestry (Price et al. 2009). The traditional territories of 25 culturally distinct First Nations fall within this region. The region suffers from a severely depressed economy, with high unemployment rates, low incomes, and limited economic opportunities. These contextual features provided impetus for creating a new form of protected area that would better address ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural concerns.

Several other factors motivated planning participants to devise a creative approach to protected areas in the Central and North Coast regions. Environmental organisations initially refused to join in the LRMP processes in these regions and instead launched an international campaign to boycott forest products from the area until a network of intact forests was protected and logging practices were changed (Smith and Sterritt 2007). This campaign drove the major Canadian and international forest companies operating in the area to enter into an unprecedented agreement in 2000 with environmental organisations, in which the companies agreed to cease logging activities in 100 intact watersheds for 18 months while negotiations and planning proceeded (Smith and Sterritt 2007). In the same year, many First Nations on the Central and North Coast joined together to form a 'coast-wide alliance' of First Nations (now called Coastal First Nations), with the goal of achieving "ecologically, socially and economically sustainable resource management approaches on the Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii" (Smith and Sterritt 2007: 5). Another group of First Nations in the southern part of the Central Coast formed the KNT First Nations alliance (now the Nanwakolas Council). In 2001, environmental organisations, major forest companies, and First Nations developed and put forward to the LRMP tables a framework of five planning principles, including: strategic deferrals/moratoria on logging, independent science, ecosystem-based management, commitment to a new economy, and government-to-government negotiations (Thielmann and Tollefson 2009; Smith and Sterritt 2007). Participants sought capital from external donors to fund conservation initiatives and economic diversification in the Great Bear Rainforest. According to Thielmann and Tollefson (2009: 120), "a number of private foundations based in the United States agreed to contribute approximately [CAD] 60 million, on the condition that at least one third of the region was placed in protected areas."

To put the agreed planning principles into effect, a two-tier planning process was adopted for the Central and North Coast LRMPs (Cullen 2006; McGee 2006). The first tier consisted of a main planning table for each LRMP, which was attended by representatives of stakeholder groups. First Nations did not participate as stakeholders at this tier, but did present land-use proposals and provide their perspectives. The second tier consisted of separate government-to-government negotiations between First Nations and the province. At this tier, recommendations from the stakeholder planning tables were submitted to First Nations and the province for discussion, culminating in agreed recommendations that were incorporated into a broad declaration called the 'Coastal Land Use Decision.' That decision led to a set of ratified land and resource protocols and strategic land-use plan agreements between First Nations and the province (Howlett et al. 2009; BCMFLNRO 2011; Bird 2011).

The Conservancy model was developed in these government-to-government negotiations. The final recommendations from the first tier of negotiations included the proposed designation of approximately 877,000 ha as ecosystem-based management 'Protection Areas' within the Central and North Coast LRMP regions (BCILMB 2004; BCILMB 2005). These Protection Areas were intended to conserve habitat, maintain biodiversity, and protect key natural, recreational, and cultural features. Large scale extractive use of resources, including commercial logging, mining, and hydroelectric development, would not be permitted in these areas. While participating First Nations supported the protection of areas of land from heavy commercial development, the designations available under the BC Park Act for protected areas were considered to be too restrictive with respect to traditional resource use and potential economic opportunities (Canadian Parks Council 2008). Therefore, a new protected area designation, designed to secure access for First Nations to resources within their territories, was required.

In 2006 the Park (Conservancy Enabling) Amendment Act (SBC 2006, c. 25) was enacted, creating the Conservancy designation and establishing the first 24 Conservancies ([Figure 1]). Provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner declared, "This is a historic day for British Columbia… By establishing the conservancy designation under the BC Park Act, the government of B.C. is well on its way to protecting some of the most spectacular and ecologically diverse areas of the province" (BCMOE 2006b: 1). Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations alliance, said:

For the first time, provincial legislation has been developed specifically to address First Nations traditional use and enable First Nations and provincial collaborative management. The legislation is also unique because it respects and acknowledges the Aboriginal title and rights of First Nations. (BCMOE 2006b: 1)

Dallas Smith, the chair of the KNT First Nations alliance, observed:

This new designation is a result of concentrated efforts by both First Nations and the province, and a first step in ensuring that our food, social and ceremonial rights are looked after. This designation also helps us take some steps towards much needed economic development on the coast (BCMOE 2006b: 1).

Although initially developed in the Central and North Coast planning processes, Conservancies have now been designated in other areas along the BC coast and inland, including Haida Gwaii and the Sea-to-Sky and Morice LRMP areas.

Conservancies constitute an exciting new model for protected areas for two main reasons. First, from a conservation perspective it has long been apparent that the total area protected as conventional national or provincial parks in BC is unlikely to increase substantially beyond the 12% level, despite the recognition that 12% is insufficient to ensure conservation of biodiversity. Conservancies offer a means of achieving conservation goals over a larger land base, complementing other conservation policies such as legislation protecting species at risk. If the Conservancy model is adopted by other jurisdictions in Canada it may even provide a feasible means of achieving the country's Aichi Targets (adopted at the 2010 International Convention on Biological Diversity) of protecting 17% of terrestrial and inland water and 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020 (Convention on Biological Diversity 2013). Second, the conventional forms of protected areas and other resource tenures in BC do not adequately meet the needs of First Nations. Conservancies offer First Nations the option of prohibiting industrial forestry and other large-scale development in parts of their territories, while allowing traditional practices and providing the benefits of a variety of other uses-under a governance model that gives greater power to the First Nations. Thus, as experience on the Central and North Coast shows, the Conservancy model may offer a bridge between the conservation goals of environmental organisations and the demands of First Nations for control and use of traditional territories, while respecting "shared antipathy to the type of large-scale resource development that has ravaged much of Canada" (Morrison 1997: 294).

   The Legal Framework for Conservancies Top

A Conservancy is provincial Crown land designated under the BC Park Act or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act, for which management and development are constrained by specific provisions of the BC Park Act. The BC Park Act (s. 5(3.1)) states that Conservancies are set aside:

  1. for the protection and maintenance of their biological diversity and natural environments,
  2. for the preservation and maintenance of social, ceremonial and cultural uses of first nations,
  3. for protection and maintenance of their recreational values, and
  4. to ensure that development or use of their natural resources occurs in a sustainable manner consistent with the purposes of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).

The inclusion of First Nations' social, ceremonial, and cultural uses among the purposes of Conservancies was an instrumental factor in garnering First Nations' support for expansion of the protected area system in BC (Canadian Parks Council 2008). A wide variety of such uses are contemplated by Conservancy management plans, including harvest of non-timber forest products, seaweed harvesting, medicinal plant harvesting, hunting, fishing, trapping, food gathering, and cutting trees for artistic and cultural purposes. The locations of Conservancies have been selected with these uses in mind:

We started the Lil'wat Land Use Plan in 2006, when we signed and completed it. That is the starting point… we did so much community consultation and we'd ask the members where do you hunt, do you pick, do you (gather) cedar bark? Those three [Conservancy] areas were significant to the people in wanting to protect and preserve and continue to practice our cultural way. (Chief Lucinda Phillips of the Lil'wat Nation, quoted in Atkinson 2012)

Note also that "development or use" of natural resources is included in the purposes of a Conservancy. In contrast with the prohibitions associated with Class A parks in the province, First Nations have the opportunity to derive much needed economic benefits from these sometimes large areas under protection, subject to certain constraints. Section 9(10) of the BC Park Act states that park use permits in Conservancies may not be issued for the following activities: commercial logging, mining, or hydroelectric power generation (other than run-of-the-river projects that will supply power within the Conservancy or to communities that would otherwise be without access to hydroelectric power). The Act also prohibits the issuance of permits for any other activity that, in the opinion of the Minister of the Environment, may restrict, prevent, or inhibit the development, use, or improvement of a Conservancy for its legislated purposes. A broad range of permissible activities remain, including wildlife viewing, guided hiking and fishing, shellfish aquaculture, and small-scale local run-of-the-river hydro projects (Turner and Bitonti 2011). In addition, a new section was added to the BC Park Act in 2014, granting an exemption to allow permits for activities related to specified types of research, including environmental assessments and feasibility studies.

Conservancy management is guided by a suite of agreements and policies (Smith and Sterritt 2007; Bird 2011). Most First Nations in the Central and North Coast regions formally agreed to the establishment of Conservancies in specific locations when they entered into strategic land-use plan agreements with the province during the LRMP processes. These strategic agreements provide direction on the purpose, location, and management of Conservancies. Some of the strategic agreements, such as the agreement between the Gitga'at Nation and the Province of BC, go even further-outlining the primary and secondary purposes, potential use opportunities, management objectives, indicators, targets, and directions for several proposed types of management areas, including Conservancies. The province and several First Nations have also agreed to general reconciliation protocols, setting up frameworks for joint decision-making within traditional territories in the absence of settled treaties.

For some Conservancies, the First Nations involved have also entered into protected area collaborative management agreements with the province. These agreements are meant to complement the strategic land-use plan agreements by setting out principles for improved communication and cooperative management of Conservancies, parks, ecological reserves, and other protected areas (Coastal First Nations 2011). Collaborative management agreements may cover all the Conservancies within a First Nation's territory or may be signed on a Conservancy-by-Conservancy basis.

In May 2007, the province and three regional alliances of First Nations (Coastal First Nations, North Coast Tsimshian, and Nanwakola) developed policy guidelines and a template for Conservancy management plans (BC Parks 2011). All of the Conservancy management plans we reviewed followed this prescribed template. The typical process for developing a specific Conservancy management plan is quite similar to the process used for other types of protected areas in the province. Initially, the province and the First Nation(s) agree to the procedures, timeline, and terms of reference to be followed. Public input on management of the Conservancy is then sought through an open house and/or comment form available on the BC Parks website. These mechanisms for public input are aimed at informing nearby communities and other potentially interested people about the proposed protected area. Comments are accepted from interested or affected parties, often as part of a larger effort to obtain social and ecological background data required for management planning. A draft management plan is then developed by the First Nation(s) and the province, followed by a second round of public review. The draft plan is made available on the BC Parks website, and any feedback is to be taken into account when the final management plan is prepared. The final plan is then submitted to the First Nation(s) and the provincial government for review and acceptance (BC Parks 2011).

   Conservancies and International Norms for Governance of Protected Areas Top

The importance of including Indigenous peoples in the planning and management of forests and protected areas has been recognised internationally for many years. For example, the 1982 Third World Parks Congress in Bali, Indonesia, called for more inclusive and participatory decision making for protected areas, including community-based conservation (Nepal 2002). More recently, at the 2003 World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, it was recommended not only that the rights of Indigenous peoples be recognised, but that measures be instituted in existing parks to provide restitution (IUCN 2005). The 2003 Congress also called for increased support for non-traditional governance models, such as co-management arrangements and community-conserved areas. Nations worldwide are acknowledging that state governments are but one of many actors with concerns about, and rights to take part in, the conservation and management of protected areas. As a result, state governments have entered into collaborative agreements for protected areas with Indigenous and local communities, private operators, and non-governmental organisations (Beltrán 2000; Dearden et al. 2005; Baral and Stern 2009).

In support of such initiatives, the IUCN, the Canadian Institute on Governance, and other researchers have issued reports exploring the characteristics of good governance for protected areas (e.g., Graham et al. 2003; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2004; Dudley 2008; Lockwood 2010; Lausche 2011; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). For example, the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and other international organisations recently issued a set of draft 'Best Practice Guidelines' for protected area governance (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). These guidelines define governance as "about the institutions and processes used by rightholders and stakeholders to make and influence decisions, and to exercise authority and responsibility in society," and "who decides what to do, how those decisions are taken, who holds power, authority and responsibility, [and] who is (or should be) held accountable" (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012: 25).

The IUCN reports use the term "governance type" to identify which actor or combination of actors has the power and responsibility to make decisions for a protected area (Lausche 2011). Potential actors include state governments, non-government organisations, Indigenous peoples, local communities, and private land owners. There are four main governance types for protected areas: 1) governance by government, 2) shared governance, 3) private governance, and 4) governance by Indigenous peoples and local communities (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2004; Dudley 2008; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). Shared governance arrangements can be further subdivided by distinguishing between "collaborative governance" and "full governance" (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). In collaborative governance (sometimes referred to as collaborative management) authority ultimately rests with one actor, but that actor is bound by law or policy to consult the other actor(s) before making or implementing a decision. Under full governance (also called joint management) all actors have authority in decision making, and decisions must be made jointly (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012).

The IUCN reports also discuss "governance quality," a normative assessment of the calibre of the processes and mechanisms through which decisions are made and implemented, focusing on adherence to values and principles (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). Values and principles may be derived from a state constitution, international agreements, legislation and policy, customary law, or cultural norms and practices (Dudley 2008; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2012). A variety of criteria for assessing governance quality for protected areas exist, some broad and others that more specifically emphasise Indigenous participation (e.g., Beltrán 2000; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2004). The report Indigenous and traditional peoples and protected areas (Beltrán 2000), which is part of the 'Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series' of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, identifies five major principles, each with associated guidelines, for assessing the quality of protected area governance involving Indigenous peoples ([Table 1]). The principles emphasise shared governance, recognition of Indigenous rights and title, shared benefits, and procedural aspects of decision making, including transparency and accountability (Beltrán 2000). These principles and guidelines have been formally adopted by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the World Wildlife Federation, and have been used to inform evaluations of co-managed protected areas in many different settings in the world (Gladu et al. 2003; Nelson and Hossack 2003; Fernandez-Baca and Martin 2007).
Table 1 IUCN principles for Indigenous and traditional peoples and protected areas (Beltrán 2000)

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In the remainder of this paper we consider how the governance arrangements established for BC Conservancies compare with the IUCN principles and guidelines for Indigenous and traditional peoples and protected areas (Beltrán 2000). Our discussion is organised into three main themes: 1) vision, goals, and objectives; 2) shared governance; and 3) the right to utilise and benefit from natural resources. These themes feature prominently in both the Conservancy management plans, and the IUCN principles and guidelines.

Vision, goals, and objectives

The IUCN's principles and guidelines emphasise the importance of jointly establishing common objectives, standards, and regulations in management agreements for protected areas. It is expected that under such joint agreements, the management and operation of the protected area will be less likely to conflict with the lives, rights, and aspirations of Indigenous peoples. All of the Conservancy management plans we reviewed were developed jointly by the province and one or more First Nations. Each plan sets out a vision, objectives, strategies, and monitoring indicators in a detailed and organised manner. These provisions, which correspond with the purposes set out in the BC Park Act, include preservation and maintenance of social, ceremonial, and cultural uses, and cultural heritage values; protection and maintenance of terrestrial and intertidal ecosystem diversity; assessment, maintenance, and enhancement of recreational values and uses; and provision of compatible development and use of natural resources.

We compared the visions, goals, and objectives set out in the Conservancy management plans with similar provisions in the management plans for provincially-managed Class A parks. The vision statements in park management plans developed or revised after 2007 for Class A parks are quite similar to those for Conservancies. These recent Class A management plans also appear to be based on a similar template to that being used for Conservancies. This suggests that the similarity between the vision statements for the Class A park plans and the Conservancy plans at least partly reflects a broader provincial policy shift towards acknowledging First Nation's interests and recognising the importance of ceremonial, social, and cultural values in protected areas, as opposed to being an outcome unique to Conservancies. Further support for this proposition comes from our examination of Class A park management plans that were approved prior to 2007, where the vision statements tend to stress only the importance of wilderness protection and the provision of recreational opportunities.

Unlike the vision statements, the general goals and objectives in both older and more recent Class A park management plans are similar to those in the Conservancy plans, with the exception that economic development is not included as an objective in the park plans. Also, in the park plans cultural heritage goals do not refer to the protection of social, cultural, and spiritual resource use by First Nations. Rather, they focus primarily on the protection of cultural heritage and historic sites, improved relationships with First Nations, cultural tourism, education, and collaborative stewardship.

Shared governance

Shared governance is a theme that runs through several of the IUCN's principles and guidelines. Principles 2 and 3 are prominent in this regard, as they call for recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples, decentralisation of power, and participation. Shared governance includes recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples to participate in the control and management of their traditional lands, participate in decision making, and utilise traditional institutions and authorities in doing so. The principles and guidelines also call for the development of interim arrangements when legal recognition of Indigenous rights cannot be fully achieved by managers.

The collaborative planning and management arrangements described in the Conservancy plans and other associated agreements align well with these IUCN principles and guidelines. Conservancies incorporate aspects of decentralisation, participation, accountability, and transparency. All the Conservancy management plans and higher-level agreements we reviewed affirm that Conservancies are to be collaboratively managed by First Nations and the provincial government. The locations and boundaries of Conservancies were jointly agreed upon by First Nations and the province, and all the management agreements we reviewed were jointly prepared. Moving forward, Conservancy management plans clearly state that both First Nations and the province will participate in management, including the development of work plans, creation of operating budgets, monitoring, funding, staffing and resourcing, strategy implementation, and management plan review. Further affirmation of the role of First Nations is found in the overarching government-to-government agreements, which speak to a spirit of cooperation and express a commitment to working collaboratively to implement land use plans.

Through these higher-level protocol agreements, strategic land-use plans and collaborative management agreements, First Nations and the government of BC have committed to manage Conservancies in a cooperative manner. Under the collaborative agreements, First Nations have the right to participate in the planning, management, and use of Conservancies within their territories. In some cases where collaborative agreements have not yet been finalised, the parties have agreed to develop management plans in the spirit of collaborative agreements. Some collaborative agreements also provide for collaborative management boards. While several of the Conservancy management plans that we reviewed explicitly refer to the development of such a management board, most do not. Where management boards are referred to, they are made responsible for park administration, including the review of new and existing park permits, joint planning, capacity building, and development of economic opportunities consistent with Conservancy purposes.

The extent to which First Nations will actually be equal participants with the province in ongoing decision making as Conservancies are developed and managed cannot be determined from the documents alone. It is likely that the level of participation and influence will vary depending on the relative power and capacity of the First Nation involved. In Rozwadowska's (2010) case study of nine Conservancies in the Sea to Sky LRMP region, she found that First Nations "played a lead role in the designation and establishment of Conservancies," including "a lead role in boundary demarcation, working with the Province to establish Conservancy boundaries according to identified values and natural features for protection" (p. 123). An anonymous First Nations' interviewee in her study observed:

The nature and meaning of a Conservancy… really gives [the Nation] the upper hand. It gives them full control over how they want that area protected or managed… it really gives them the opportunity to do with a parcel of land what they want to do, as opposed to larger areas or general areas within the territory, that may be more heavily involved in by third parties, either by different government agencies, mining companies, development companies, or forestry companies. (Rozwadowska 2010: 63)

Thus, Conservancies would appear to fall in the shared governance/joint management category of the IUCN classification scheme. However, the protocol agreements and other government-to-government agreements typically include clauses stating that these agreements do not affect treaty negotiations, Aboriginal rights, or the existing jurisdiction and decision-making authority of the parties. Bird (2011) examined the extent to which First Nations have "acquired a share of governmental decision making authority" (p. 4) under such agreements. She concluded that the agreements for the Central and North Coast establish what she calls a "co-management" relationship, under which plans are collaboratively developed but the province retains statutory decision-making authority to approve or reject the results. In contrast, she found that the agreements for Haida Gwaii, which are worded differently and are supported by the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act (S.B.C. 2010, c. 17), establish a "joint management" arrangement under which plans are jointly created and approved and neither party may make a decision unilaterally. The key informants interviewed by Bird (2011) suggested that the Haida were able to negotiate this arrangement due to the strength of their claim to rights and title, as well as the absence of competing claims to their territory from other First Nations. The Haida, however, are still without a treaty, and the Reconciliation Act can be rescinded unilaterally by the provincial government (Bird 2011).

Canadian courts have not yet ruled on the full legal implications of these government-to-government agreements, but the decision of the BC Supreme Court in Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala First Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Environment) (2011 BCSC 620) indicates that even for those agreements that are not intended by the parties to be legally binding, the Province may be required to engage meaningfully with the First Nation in the manner specified in the agreement, in order to satisfy the legal obligation of the Crown to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples when decisions infringe on Aboriginal rights. This legal obligation is potentially a powerful lever, but to exercise it First Nations will need the resources and capacity to be able to respond to provincial notifications about possible infringement, and to take the province to court when it does not appropriately deal with their interests.

Given these complexities, it is not surprising that there are differing views about the legal obligations and relationships associated with Conservancies. In Rozwadowska's (2010) study, First Nations interviewees said that the province and First Nations have equal power in decision making for Conservancies. Provincial government interviewees agreed that Conservancies are to be collaboratively managed, but said that First Nations do not "have a veto or the same level of power as government" (p. 81). In Bird's (2011) research, interviewees said that although authority ultimately rests with the Crown, the province is genuinely committed to reaching consensus and First Nations' recommendations carry great weight.

Negotiating and adapting under such new relationships and processes will be challenging for all parties. The IUCN recommends that collaborative management frameworks should strive to apply both western and traditional institutions and decision-making mechanisms. The parties are expected, then, to integrate very different ways of seeing, knowing, and operating. For Conservancies, the provincial government and First Nations have yet to demonstrate whether, and if so how, they will share power to achieve integrated management as Conservancy plans and agreements are implemented. Experience in other jurisdictions in the world shows that the recognition of community rights to resources does not always translate into significant changes in actual control over management decision-making (Larson and Dahal 2012).

The right to utilise and benefit from natural resources

The sustainable use, development, and commercial exploitation of natural resources is permitted in Conservancies, subject to specified restrictions. First Nations are also able to exercise social, ceremonial, and cultural rights. They may do so not only for sustenance or traditional purposes, but also for economic gains. Conservancies, therefore, follow a number of the guidelines associated with IUCN Principle 2, including the right of Indigenous peoples to traditional sustainable use of their lands; the right to improve the quality of their lives; the right to benefit directly and equitably from the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources within their territories; and the right to maintain and enjoy their cultural and intellectual heritage.

As discussed earlier, the economic opportunities available to First Nations and others in Conservancies do not include commercial logging or major resource development, and must be carried out in a sustainable manner that does not interfere with other objectives set out in the BC Park Act. The Conservancy management plans that we reviewed show that First Nations intend to engage in tourism and guiding activities, commercial filming, commercial aquaculture, commercial fishing, log salvage, and the harvest of non-timber forest products, seaweed, and herring roe-on-kelp. Each management plan lists the specific economic activities that will be allowed in the Conservancy.

Allocating the various economic opportunities available in Conservancies among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal applicants presents an additional challenge for the successful management of Conservancies. Under the BC Park Act, Park Use Permits for Conservancies may be allocated to non-Aboriginal users as well as Aboriginal users. The government-to-government agreements say that First Nations are to receive an equitable portion of permit and tenure opportunities within their traditional territories, that economic benefits to First Nations from Conservancies and tourism are to increase substantially, and that First Nations will have the authority to jointly review and make recommendations on the issuance, non-issuance, and renewal of Park Use Permits. First Nations may also choose to enter into partnerships, joint ventures or benefit-sharing agreements with non-Aboriginal parties to pursue economic opportunities in Conservancies.

   Conclusion Top

Conservancies designated under the BC Park Act or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act are an innovative new form of collaboratively managed protected area, designed to allow a variety of sustainable uses while maintaining biodiversity and recreational values, and prohibiting large-scale commercial or industrial development. Based on a review of initial agreements and plans established for Conservancies, it appears that the Conservancy model aligns well with evolving international norms concerning Indigenous peoples, land management, and protected areas. Key issues in the development of Conservancies that remain to be resolved include-how Conservancy management will integrate Western and Aboriginal perspectives and forms of governance, how the parties will ensure that First Nations have the resources and capacity to participate fully in Conservancy management, how managers will allocate permitted uses between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people, and how Conservancies will be dealt with in treaty negotiations. In addition, it remains to be seen whether decision-making power is shared equally in practice so that the potential of collaborative joint management is realised. To date, Conservancies have been established primarily in coastal regions of BC, but they appear to offer a promising model for other regions and other jurisdictions interested in developing flexible protected areas in the traditional territories of First Nations.[54]

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