Though discredited by many apologists for savage capitalism, the threat of climate change has a root deeply engrained in social injustices. In the United States, this root is directly related to indigenous groups.
As The Guardian reported, an important pattern of collaboration has emerged between conservationists and indigenous peoples through land transfers in recent years. The effect has been twofold: to protect ecologically vital spaces and to help correct historical injustices by returning properties to their original caretakers.
In 2020, for example, an environmental nonprofit returned more than a dozen acres in Oregon to the Confederated Clatsop-Nehalem Tribes.
Two months later, a conservation group worked with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County to return more than 1,000 acres in California to the tribal group.
And late last year, in one of the most significant transfers of its kind, an environmental organization returned thousands of acres of wild grasslands in Washington state to the Colville Tribes.
These agreements seek to return lands to tribes and coincide with efforts north of the border, such as The Land Back Movement, which aims to protect biodiversity.
Although indigenous peoples make up only 5% of the world’s population, their territories encompass 80% of global biodiversity, according to the 2020 report The Indigenous World. And nature on indigenous peoples’ lands “often declines less rapidly” than on other grounds, according to a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
That’s why initiatives like the Nature Conservancy’s transfer of the 132-acre Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve last September are more critical than ever.
As The Guardian continued, the preserve was transferred to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana, which has a significant natural resources department and has joined forces with environmental organizations.
“Tribal people have in their histories knowledge that before geologists or hydrologists can prove scientific fact,” Jill Sherman-Warne, executive director of the Native American Environmental Protection Coalition, told The Guardian. “Tribes have stories about the environment that existed before any of the science, which now is proving their oral histories to be true.”
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