Upstream, Downstream

This story was written for Vancouver Foundation.

Nature doesn’t operate in silos like humans do. Our industrial activities have a combined effect on habitats – sometimes creating disastrous results for communities and wildlife alike. Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) has a plan to fix this with a project led by First Nations. The initiative brings together experts from industry, conservation, government and academia to assess the big picture impact of industry in B.C.’s Peace region.

The Peace region in northeast B.C. is a hotbed of industrial activity, with a burgeoning fracking industry, multiple pipeline projects, coal mines, extensive forestry and road-building. It’s also home to more than 60,000 people including First Nations communities, plus an iconic array of wildlife and natural habitat.

Taken individually, each of the industrial initiatives could have huge effects on the community and ecosystem…but taken together they present an extraordinary threat to the region. The pace of development is faster than in Alberta’s tar sands, and only 4.2% of the land is protected.

Y2Y proposed to pilot test an innovative type of community planning for the Peace region’s Murray River watershed, led by First Nations. The aim is to connect a diverse set of people to look at the cumulative effect of industry, and figure out an overall plan to protect the environmental, cultural and economic health of the region.

Rising Above Traditional Decision Models

Y2Y’s view is that if we want to take an honest look at the impact of industry, we need to rise above traditional decision models, and get people with divergent views to make decisions as a region, rather than as isolated entities.

To do this, Y2Y is facilitating a Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) to examine the projected consequences of industry on the overall community, First Nations’ ways of life and the local ecosystem.

Treaty 8 First Nations Lead the Way

The project is led by three Treaty 8 First Nations: Saulteau First Nations, West Moberly First Nations and MacLeod Lake Indian Band. The plan is to conduct 10 working group meetings and 4 to 5 community workshops.

The primary outcome will be a framework for the Murray River region that provides guidance for land-use, reflecting the combined wisdom of the participants. The framework will be rooted in First Nations Treaty rights and values, supporting responsible industry in balance with people and nature.

The University of Northern British Columbia will provide a forum for publication and dissemination of the research produced.

The project will provide a forward-thinking model and best practices for similar projects worldwide.