For decades, communities around the world have been calling for more control over the management of local natural resources. In many countries, governments are looking for ways to provide communities with greater authority, realizing that conventional forms of centralized management and regulation have failed to meet community needs and sustain local ecosystems. Community-based ecosystem management is increasingly recognized as a key element in any strategy to support community economic development and to protect critical ecosystems.
One of the continuing challenges of community-based ecosystem management in British Columbia is being able to support community goals while maintaining a significant role for provincial and federal governments. To address this challenge, POLIS has advocated for the creation of Community Ecosystem Trusts. The model provides a framework for the gradual transfer of control over local ecosystems and natural resources from central governments to the communities who live in, around, and with them. Under this model, communities are given much more responsibility for regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of natural resource management and land tenure reform. And the government role shifts to one of facilitating communities to assume their responsibilities to ensure long-term sustainability. This form of ecological governance removes structural, legal, and economic barriers to ecosystem-based community management and has major implications for Aboriginal rights and title, treaty processes, and Indigenous rights and responsibilities generally.
Key outcomes from this work (see Publications section below) include the “When There’s a Way, There’s a Will: Developing Sustainability through the Community Ecosystem Trust” Report series in 2001; the research report “Hul’qumi’num Community Lands Study” and affiliated workshop “Getting to 100 Percent: Challenges to Treaty-making on Hul’qumi’num Territory” undertaken with the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group to explore alternatives to the land selection model for the B.C. treaty process in 2002; and Proceedings of “The Business of Good Forestry Conference” hosted by POLIS in November 1995 to explore sustainable forestry, appropriate technology, and the concept of “good wood.”