Connecting with Local Water and Inuit Harvesting Rights

by Nathaniel Rose

This blog post was created in collaboration with Sandi Vincent, practitioner with Parks Canada.

Nathaniel Rose is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

During the winter months around Igloolik, Nunavut, the sun sets in November and doesn’t rise again until the end of January. Slowly, the daylight grows and the world around us warms up. Everyone loves spring in the Arctic after a cold and dark winter. As a teenager in Igloolik I especially loved to go camping for spring break-up, when the sea ice breaks up and the ocean opens for the summer. Towards the end of May – beginning of June, my family and I traveled across the ice in qamutiik pulled by snowmobile to Igloolik point. We spent the month of June on the land, waiting at seal holes, fishing in cracks in the ice and enjoying the sun and spring weather. When the ice had broken up at the beginning of July, we traveled back to town by ATV or boat.

I had spent many hours with my cousins silently waiting at agluit, seal breathing holes, being in and a part of my environment. When a seal came to my hole, my uncle came to where I was and showed me how to respectfully harvest it. This time spent camping is one of my favourite memories, and learning traditional knowledge camping with my extended family has helped shape me as an Inuk. “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) encompasses the entire realm of Inuit experience in the world and the values, principles, beliefs, and skills which have evolved as a result of that experience. It is the experience and resulting knowledge/wisdom that prepares us for success in the future and establishes the possible survival of Inuit.”(3). I spent that spring break-up learning Inuktitut terms, observing the weather, gaining a deeper understanding of my environment, and strengthening my cultural identity. I’m grateful for spending so much time on the land and treasure the time I spent with my family.

Inuit exercising rights under the Nunavut Agreement have unrestricted access to all Parks Canada protected places in Nunavut. Inuit are not considered “visitors” when in Parks Canada administered places in Nunavut, and can hunt, trap, fish, harvest berries and other materials, collect carving stones and establish outpost camps in Parks Canada protected places. 

After I shared this story with Nathaniel, our conversations shifted to the recent water crisis in Iqaluit NU. In October 2021 Iqaluit’s drinking water was contaminated with fuel and a do not consume order was issued. For nearly two months the city of approx. 8000 people relied on bottled water or trucked river water. This event put a clear focus on access to drinking water and the quality of water on a broader scale.

I (Nathaniel) wanted to look into bodies of water in my local area, and whether or not they were drinkable, so I turned my attention to Georgian Bay. Georgian Bay is home to many provincial Parks and one National Park (Georgian Bay Islands National Park – visited many times by the Group of Seven who painted its pristine landscapes). I have spent my summers here since a child, at a family log cabin right on the south shores of Georgian Bay. I remember we used to have a hose running from the lake, to our lawn, to water the lawn and the garden. But I don’t think I ever drank from the lake directly. I definitely swam in it, and still swim in it during the summer to this day.

I was very interested to learn when Georgian Bay water became undrinkable for residents and when the shift occurred from being able to drink it directly, to having to have it filtered. My guess is this happened this century (in the 1900s). With the pollution from many motorboats (used mostly for leisure boating and fishing) and nutrients like phosphorus from agricultural runoff, the water quality has diminished and is now filtered (where I am) by the local town, Thornbury. The water comes from Georgian Bay but must be treated to be fit to drink.

According to Pat Chow-Fraser, Professor at McMaster University, permanent and seasonal residents on Georgian Bay used to drink water directly from the lake (1). However over time, it got more polluted and required treatment. In isolated bays, where the water exchange is low, the lake became infested with Blue-Green Algae, caused by agricultural runoff from local watersheds.

Today, the water quality (though it still needs to be treated) is deemed relatively good in Georgian Bay. However, in more urbanized areas like Severn Sound, in the southeast corner of the bay, increased nutrient levels (eutrophication) have led to excessive plankton blooms, aquatic plant life and reduced dissolved oxygen levels (1). Eutrophication, caused by agricultural runoff in local watersheds, can prove toxic to fish, birds, humans and other wildlife.

 The cold water parts of Georgian Bay are home to fish such as Lake Trout and White Fish, while the warmer waters are home to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Walleye, Yellow Perch and others (1). It is important that we protect these fish, and the local bird populations that rely on them for sustenance. This will help support a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem.

It is also important to human swimmers, and I argue, everyone who drinks from the lake. Think about it: wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all drink directly from our fresh-water lakes? If fish could swim free of toxins, and we could swim with no worry about toxins as well? Have you ever drunk directly from a lake or river? My guess is this is a rare experience today in urbanized areas of Canada.

The Beaver River flows into Georgian Bay and is a major spawning spot for Salmon. Every year you can watch the salmon swim upstream to where they lay their eggs

Motor Boats

Apart from agricultural runoff,  motorboats are one of the major polluters of Georgian Bay. From fishing to leisure boating, motorboats have existed on the bay since the early twentieth century (4). Though not as busy as the Muskoka region (a major cottage getaway location in Ontario), there are still a significant amount of motor boats on the Bay today. According to an article published by Georgian Bay Forever, a local conservation group, a 20 HP 2-stroke outboard engine that operates for 1 hour makes 11, 000 m3 of water undrinkable (2). That’s a lot of water that is now unfit to drink, from one motor boat engine. A 5 HP 4-stroke outboard engine (which is the latest technology) still produces 38 times the amount of hydrogen and nitrogen oxide emissions than a small gas-powered car does (2). Therefore, even if there aren’t a lot of motorboats on your lake or river, they can still have a large impact.

Solutions

Electric powered boats are a viable solution as they are emission free. They use an electric battery instead of an Internal Combustion Engine. Kerry and AJ Mueller, owners of an electric fishing boat and pontoon, said they can fully charge their battery at their house in as little as 7 hours (2). They also have a solar charging option so you can charge your boat as you go boating (2). However, there are financial barriers involved as electric motors are more expensive. There is also limited availability and less choice to date. However, if there were government incentives, like there are for electric cars, this option could become more affordable.

Using an electric motor costs approximately 1/5 the price of gas, depending upon your region (2). They don’t release emissions that contribute to water or air pollution.  In the Georgian Bay area, 34% of total community air emissions are from waterborne transportation. That’s a large chunk of emissions that could be reduced if people switched to electric boats.

PARKS

How does this relate to Parks? Parks have a unique position as many are situated on, or have water running through, their park or protected area. My hope is that this will inspire you to look into the history of the body of water in your area or park, and it’s history of pollution. Is the water in your park drinkable? What are the major polluters to the water in your park? Are there any solutions out there, (eg. encouraging electric boats or enforcing a ban on pesticides), that you can implement?

Call to Action
We invite you to connect with your local water system, and encourage you to learn about indigenous groups and harvesting rights in your area. Please share what resonates with you.

References

1) Chow-Fraser, Pat. “Water Quality: A Middle Great Lakes Dilemma.” Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation, https://www.georgianbaygreatlakesfoundation.com/water-quality/. Accessed 16 March 2022

2) Sargaent, Heather. “Electric Powered Boats Reduce Pollution Emissions, But They Also Make Boating More Enjoyable”.  GBF Winter 2022 Newsletter, Georgian Bay Forever, 2022. https://georgianbayforever.org/flipbook/winter2022/6/. Accessed 16 March 2022.

3) Tagalik, Shirley.  “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: The role of Indigenous knowledge in supporting wellness in Inuit Communities in Nunavut”, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, 2022. https://inuuqatigiit.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Inuit-IQ-EN-web.pdf. Accessed 28 March 2022.

4) Hatherly, Gerry. “Boating History: Gidley Boats”. Canadian Yachting: Canada’s Boating Source, Digital Magazine, April 11, 2019. https://www.canadianyachting.ca/home/digital-archives/96-boat-reviews/boatyards/5007-boating-history-gidley-boats. Accessed 29 March 2022.

Photos of Georgian Bay and the Beaver River ©Nathaniel Rose

All other photos ©Sandi Vincent

ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: What Is It?

by Sky Jarvis

Sky Jarvis is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

Adap·​tive (adjective): arising as the result of adaptation

Ad·​ap·​ta·​tion (noun): the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation; the process of adapting

https://sustainablymotivated.com/2019/02/01/climate-action-now-greta-thunberg/

#FridaysForFuture

There is an inherent need for urgency when dealing with the challenges facing my generation namely the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, plastic pollution, and extreme poverty. Right now, British Columbia is an example for the rest of  Canada on the far-reaching impacts which climate change and seemingly more frequent weather events have on parks and societies from never-before-seen wildfire seasons to atmospheric rivers and polar vortexes. The impacts of climate change are staring residents right in the face: from declining pacific salmon numbers to the heatwaves, fires, and landslides. And who else can forget, the global COVID-19 pandemic? The leaders of today don’t only need to come up with new and creative solutions to these complex and wicked problems, but they also need to start implementing actions and approaches to mitigate the potential negative effects of these complex socio-ecological dilemmas.

Salafsky and Margoulis (1998; 2003) have defined adaptive management as an approach where managers can systematically test assumptions and take the knowledge gained from this experimental process to adapt future designs and management actions based on the information gained through monitoring to guide learning. This may be very beneficial when considering field conservation which is situated within a complex socio-ecological system (Figure 1) containing many different interactions, feedback loops, and tipping points; all of which occur across an array of different spatial and temporal scales. Adaptive management frameworks can assist with creating a flexible approach to dealing with the complex environmental problems seen today.

Image from Virapongse et al. 2016: Depiction of an SES (adapted from SNRE, University of Florida, (2015)).

Figure 1: Multidisciplinary approaches that integrate social and ecological sciences could be one such way to address some of the pressing environmental issues faced by today’s generations (Virapongse et al. 2016). Socio-Ecological systems are a product of human economies, culture, and policies as well as larger-scale biogeochemical processes which have shaped not only Earth’s physical environment but also the evolution of species for billions of years.

The World is Changing - So Must We

For much of the past 100-200 years, dominant worldviews have considered natural resources to be limitless, the bounty of the new world. However, 200 years of utilitarian management paradigms, coupled with overexploitation, have finally begun to reveal the scarcity of many of these resources. The need to sustainably manage resources such as biodiversity, old-growth forests, clean air, and fresh water has become more apparent than ever. This desire for sustainable management which not only provides for today’s society but also for future generations and the needs of other species has led to increasing conflict and social pressures for politicians and practitioners. New theoretical perspectives and approaches are now starting to view ecosystems as complex and highly dynamic systems and have begun to acknowledge that we may have to start shifting towards more holistic and flexible management tactics (Virapongse et al. 2016).

There may be inherent risks when implementing management actions without a full comprehension of the system and how it may react. However, this uncertainty shouldn’t be a reason not to implement actions when we know that something must be done. We need to act now, and adaptive management frameworks (Figure 2) may provide one way for resource managers, park leaders, and decision-makers to proceed with taking actions in the face of complexity and uncertainty. Through the experimental implementation of an array of alternative approaches, each with its own consequences and potential effects, we can begin to build knowledge of the system, its components, and its behavior. At first, we may not truly understand how the system may respond, but hopefully over time and with monitoring and re-evaluation resource managers can reassess their assumptions and incorporate local knowledge sources to develop site-specific approaches that are reflective of the uniqueness of that system and the human communities who interact and rely on it.

Figures sourced from Salafsky & Margoulis (2003). (Click figures to enlarge)

Figure 2: The adaptive management framework can be broken down into 5 basic steps where resource managers, stakeholders, and decision-makers can work together to design, develop, and implement experimental approaches to addressing social and environmental issues (Salafsky & Margoulis, 2003). This is a cycle, so iteration is part of the process- if at first you don’t succeed take that information, make some changes and try again.

Holistic and Flexible Approaches may be Better Suited for Adaptation

Although project design, management, and monitoring are high-cost activities it is believed that current investments can save resources in the future through increased effectiveness of projects (Salafsky and Margoulis, 1998). It has recently been thought that inadequate monitoring and evaluation is one of the main challenges associated with adaptive management of complex systems and that it’s a hindrance to the successful implementation of this type of approach (Waylen et al. 2019). According to Virapongse et al. (2016), robust and clearly defined monitoring plans can address other known challenges to adaptive management, such as the need to manage at broader landscape-level scales, accommodating abrupt changes/shocks, and addressing empirical data needs. I personally also feel that another main hindrance is the lack of including the perspectives and values of local and indigenous communities within the design phase. Local communities should be consulted before a main objective and goal are established so that their values are considered and hopefully reflected in the project before different alternatives are selected for implementation. This may help with public acceptance and support of the project as important stakeholders. Furthermore, local peoples have invaluable sources of knowledge about the system with which they and their ancestors have interacted with for generations and can assist with evaluation as different approaches are implemented. One example of how local and indigenous communities have been engaged within park planning and resource management can be seen in the Land-Sea-People Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park, where Indigenous knowledge systems and Haida Laws have been acknowledged and incorporated with scientific principles (Figure 3) to generate a zoning plan that attempts to accommodate recreation, economic, and cultural land-uses.

 

Table sourced from: Parks Canada; Gwaii Haanas (Click photo to enlarge)

Figure 3: Together traditional knowledge and scientific information can intertwine to provide placed-based responses to the drivers of social and environmental change. Gwaii Haanas also known as the Islands of Beauty, is in an oceanic upwelling region in the North Pacific. This provides cold nutrient-rich waters that have supported high levels of biological productivity, endemic species, migratory birds, and the Haida people for thousands of years. This National Park has intrinsic conservation potential for an array of environmental and social values.

It is vital to the success of the project that design, management, and monitoring are not separated, but rather that a holistic approach is taken to integrate these components. Systematic use of the cycle and steps listed above can allow practitioners to learn more about the system they are working in and can lead to increased effectiveness and efficiency over time (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

Image sourced from: Waylen et al 2019

Testing Assumptions: The process of experimentally implementing different actions in attempts to achieve a desirable outcome based on knowledge of the problem, the objectives, the operational environment, management alternatives, and potential consequences. This is not a random process and post-implementation monitoring will be needed to evaluate (1) the ability of the different approaches to meet the desired outcome and (2) how they compare to the assumptions. This will allow managers to see which actions worked as well as develop a better understanding of why some approaches performed better than others (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003)

Adapting: The ability to incorporate newly gained knowledge, different perspectives, and values into the project. This may also involve critically assessing the validity of the results, the assumptions, and the implementation and monitoring of the project. This may include changing assumptions, tweaking the study design, and/or considering different approaches.

Learning: Documenting the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project so that others may review the processes taken to achieve the outcomes. Knowledge sharing will allow for others to benefit from these experiences and build upon the successes or failures of the project (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

The realist approach which acknowledges that many of our environmental issues are a result of an off-balance within the socio-ecological systems that we eat, breath, and sleep in, may in fact get us much closer to the actual problem. There is no simple solution. More than ever, we need to find ways to balance our social needs (livelihoods, culture, economics, equity) within the means of nature to provide these goods and services. As with many other organisms, we humans may have to adapt, evolve, or die as we continue further into the Anthropocene.

Adaptive management is only of several frameworks which attempt to provide leaders and managers with the ability to start implementing actions in the face of uncertainty. Together we can be the change we want to see. Together we can build a better planet for future generations by addressing some of the issues seen today and creating more diverse and equitable management approaches to conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. I would love to hear and share any success stories where (1) adaptive management approaches have been implemented in parks and/or resource management or (2) examples on how local and indigenous ideas, values, and perspectives have been incorporated into strategic plans, policies, and projects.

Share your story with me at: skyejarvis333@live.com

REFERENCES:

Salafsky, N. and R. Margoluis. 1998. Measures of Success: Designing, managing, and monitoring conservation and development projects. Island Press Washington DC.

Salafsky, N. & Margoluis, R. (2003). Adaptive management: An Approach for Evaluating Management Effectiveness. (PDF).

Virapongse, A., Brooks, S., Metcalf, E. C., Zedalis, M., Gosz, J., Kliskey, A., and L. Alessa. 2016. A social-ecological systems approach for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management 178: 83-91.

Waylen, K. A., Blackstock, K. L., Van Hulst, F. J., Damian, C., Horváth, F., Johnson, R. K., … & J. Van Uytvanck. 2019. Policy-driven monitoring and evaluation: Does it support adaptive management of socio-ecological systems? Science of the Total Environment 662: 373-384.

Global Landscapes Forum Amazonia: The Tipping Point – Solutions from the Inside Out

On September 22-23, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) will host the largest-ever global conference on the Amazon Biome. With coverage in English, Portuguese and Spanish, this event will explore how we can preserve and restore the biological and cultural diversity of the world’s mightiest humid tropical forest.
The event will be held as 40 percent of the Amazon nears the tipping point of irreversibly losing its function as water generating rainforest – a catastrophe for human well-being and planetary health, which can still be prevented if the world acts now.

Who is this event for?

Global Landscape Forum: Amazonia invites new and traditional knowledge and perspectives from key actors across the Amazon Biome. Scientists, policymakers, activists, youth, investors, restoration practitioners, community and Indigenous groups, organizations, media – all are welcome to join. We will leverage the latest evidence, innovation and business cases; convene partnerships; generate public support; and help build propositions to balance competing land-use demands between forestry, agriculture and restoration across the biome.