Greater Cultural Diversity is Needed in Ecological Restoration Projects

Two widely smiling people, Sidney on left and Christina on right, holding a plant between them with a field of buffalo in the distance behind

(By Sidney Fellows, Program Specialist-on left- and Christina Stucker-Gassi, Healthy Food & Farms Program Manager-on right)

NCAP is celebrating a decade of on-farm habitat work that has helped dozens of farmers and ranchers prioritize habitat projects that benefit pollinators and other valuable insects!

We have contributed tens of thousands of dollars toward habitat projects that have lasting impacts. Not only do these plants provide vital nectar, pollen, and nesting material for numerous species, they also cycle nutrients and sequester carbon. In addition to these benefits, our work positively contributes to the rise in initiatives to plant more native plants. While we celebrate this work, we want to share with you some guiding thoughts for the next ten years.

Our organization’s habitat work will continue to prioritize planting native plants. Intermountain west plant species have long been part of Indigenous communities as food, medicine, materials, and creation stories. In honor of these rich relationships, NCAP’s team of Sidney Fellows (Shoshone-Bannock and Chippewa-Cree) and Christina Stucker-Gassi (European American) are taking native plant habitat efforts in new directions. Through collaboration with Sho-Ban tribal citizens and departments, the Fort Hall Native Plant Project was created to Indigenize our plant conservation efforts and support Indigenous-led restoration at the Tribes’ reservation in what is now Fort Hall, Idaho.

Closeup of Hera buckmoth with gold marks on its head, reddish antennae, light gray body and black markings, resting on a plant with fields and trees behind
Over the past year, the Fort Hall Native Plant Project aided in restoration and enhancing activities centered around native flora on the reservation to advance tribal-led priorities of land management, exercising tribal plant knowledge, and strengthening human-plant relationships. This work has provided us the opportunity to better prioritize the human-nature relationships that tribal citizens often understand to be the backbone of ecological restoration and conservation efforts. 

The Sho-Ban tribal community, during our team’s work with tribal departments to implement native plant habitat, communicated their interest in incorporating tribal values into our team’s conservation efforts. These tribal priorities complement NCAP’s work that encompasses wilderness protection, river and wetland conservation, and biodiversity conservation through native habitat installations. The Tribes’ guidance to integrate their cultural values into our conservation efforts represents valuable innovation in conservation.

Our habitat team is contemplating how the cultural keystone species concept can guide our teams’ part within the conservation community to incorporate diverse social values.

Ann Garibaldi and Nancy Turner introduced and defined the concept as the culturally salient species, such as plants or animals, that “shape in a major way the cultural identity of a people”. Even the Endangered Species Act, which is among the best pieces of federal legislation we have to support ecological restoration activities, has undermined tribal sovereignty and cultural identity and continues to.

We are learning that good ecological restoration restores both social and ecological systems.

Restoration efforts can prioritize, and therefore help maintain, Indigenous social, ecological, political, epistemological, and moral systems through implementing efforts like the cultural keystone species concept. In this way, ecological restoration can be a path that exudes goodness and diverse expansion. Through purposeful diversification, restoration can go beyond restoring ecological systems by uplifting tribal sovereignty, honoring different cultural values, and strengthening human-nature relationships.

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  • Ncap Staff
    published this page in BLOG 2023-02-23 09:18:36 -0800