The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) steward the largest intact and unprotected watershed on the Pacific coast of North America. With its headwaters deep within British Columbia’s boreal landscapes, the Taku River flows through Alaska into the Pacific Ocean. This vast 1.8-million-hectare watershed supports 6 species of wild salmonids, grizzly bears, bald eagles, and an entire ecosystem that depends upon the salmons abundant returns each summer. The TRTFN have fought tirelessly to protect the integrity of their watershed and their deep cultural connections across their territory that extends north into the Yukon and covers more than 10 million hectares of unceded territory.
The TRTFN commitment to protecting the health of their territory has led to impressive conservation success across this broad landscape, achieved through the strength of their leaders and people against overwhelming odds as mining interests pushed to open up their territory to industrial activities. In response the TRTFN completed a protection vision for their lands and waters, the Tlatsini (Places that make us strong) Vision. The TRTFN’s determination eventually led to the co-development of a land use plan with the British Columbia government that included creative land designations, innovative management arrangements, and, with support from philanthropic conservation organizations, a supporting economic infrastructure. This process, even though successful did not include the whole of the Tlatsini Vision The TRTFN today continues to implement the land use plan agreement, while also seeking advance their Tlatsini Vision for land protection and its stewardship.
Round River’s Work
Beginning in 1998, RRCS understood that the best prospect for achieving conservation success in this vast region lied in increasing the wildlife, fish, and land management capacity and authority of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Each component of our work has been designed to best equip the Taku River Tlingit to assume their desired management authority throughout their territory.
Round River has assisted the TRTFN in ecological, cultural and governance work for many years. All the work that RRCS and Taku River Tlingit have partnered on recognizes the immense wealth of knowledge held by the Tlingit community while also valuing the information that western science can add. Over our decades of work with the First Nation, we have worked on many important initiatives to support TRTFN stewardship of their lands, waters, fish and wildlife. Our primary role is to provide technical support working with their staff and citizens to collect and compile traditional knowledge, traditional use and western science to inform their decision-making. From our first work with the First Nation to assess grizzly bear health in the Taku watershed in the late 1990s to our current work, we continue to be honored to work with the TRTFN government and people.
Our current work with the Taku River Tlingit is varied and employs a wide range of technical and community-based approaches. Current initiatives include the following:
- Climate Change Adaptation and Traditional Food Security: We are working with Taku River Tlingit and T’akhu Â Tlèn Conservancy to support traditional practices and land values in the face of climate change. This includes community food security workshops and on-the-land camps, predicting changes in wildlife habitat values and distribution, wildfire vulnerability and winter hazard mapping, and community outreach and education efforts.
- Taku Wild Salmon Cultural and Ecological Resiliency Project: The Taku River Tlingit have long advocated for a salmon management system that is based on ecosystem resilience and cultural sustainability. In this initiative, we are working with TRTFN Land Guardians and salmon experts synthesizing traditional knowledge and western science information to provide the foundation for managing Taku River wild salmon for cultural and ecological resiliency, and to provide Taku River Tlingit leadership the necessary technical tools to propose, justify, detail, and effectively negotiate improved management for international sockeye and Chinook populations.
- Tlatsini Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Initiative: The TRTFN developed the Tlatsini (Places that make us strong) Vision as a map of areas of high ecological and cultural value to inform their land use planning efforts. This long-term vision provides the basis for pursuing enhanced conservation and governance of high value landscapes in their territory, including implementing management commitments of the co-developed Atlin Taku Land Use Plan and government-to-government collaborative management arrangements. Round River is providing on-going technical support for TRTFN land and water stewardship work.
- TRTFN Land Guardians: The Taku River Tlingit have developed a strong Land Guardian program to monitor and protect their traditional territory. Tlingit Land Guardians are responsible for a wide array of field monitoring efforts and community outreach. They ensure that there is an indigenous presence on the land and are the eyes and ears of the First Nation. RRCS and partners Taku Atlen Conservancy provide technical support to the Land Guardians, where needed, to support their efforts as stewards to their territory.