Over the past 20 years, Tracey has lived and worked in the Northwest Territories, working on NWT food sovereignty and food security issues, land claim negotiation research, large landscape conservation planning and community-driven protected area establishment, resource management and environment assessment projects at the First Nation and regional levels.
Tracey joined Nature United in February 2017 to lead our conservation efforts with the Thaidene Nëné Initiative and other people-driven initiatives centered on First Nation communities local autonomy, leadership and diversified economic development with conservation as a primary and valuable goal in the Northwest Territories.
She has worked for the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, World Wildlife Fund, and has sat on numerous local and regional boards, including as a National Trustee for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and CPAWS-NWT Chapter Board Member. She has a B.A. from Ripon College in Wisconsin, and a post graduate diploma in International Leadership Development from The Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
What drew you to Nature United?
In a previous role, I worked with Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in negotiating their land claims. The Nature Conservancy (Nature United's global affiliate), was invited there by the Dene, and I witnessed firsthand their collaborative approach to conservation. I saw how the organization builds long-term relationships, and works to advance toward self-governance. Understanding how to provide support for community-driven conservation is critical to lasting success.
What project are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about Nature United’s support for establishing Thaidene Nëné — a protected area of more than 6.5 million acres of forest and tundra in the Northwest Territories. The vision of Thaidene Nëné is one of governance by traditional knowledge‚ teachings passed from generation to generation. The community will set its own agenda to meet their needs for economic opportunities, access to clean water, and sustainable food sources, and will meet these needs by creating and enforcing their own laws.
Every day, I see people directly confronting the greatest threats to their environment. They are safeguarding ecological processes that define human well-being in search of a higher quality of life. This is the road to the future: aligning economic drivers and conservation initiatives at a local level. The boreal forest has some of the largest carbon-storing capacities of any forest in the world. There’s an abundance of fresh water, and an incredible wealth of natural resources. I’m excited by the opportunity to merge traditional, cultural and Canadian values to conserve this rich expanse. Supporting Indigenous peoples—champions of this holistic approach—can have an incredibly positive impact on people’s lives here and across Canada.
What’s your favorite thing about life in the North?
I enjoy the land and its people immensely. The NWT’s rivers run through the oldest rock on the planet—4-billion-year-old gneiss—and are the stuff of legend for the white-water canoeist in me. I’m a student of traditional hide-tanning alongside friends here, and I like to harvest spruce tips, blueberries, cranberries and morels. My family and I spend weekends at a remote camp in winter months. We enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s an active lifestyle up north, and it allows me to raise my children as part of the landscape.
Who inspires you?
My earliest inspiration was my great aunt Kay, who founded the Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve, in Niles, Michigan. She was a self-taught botanist dedicated to the study of ferns, and was said to have planted 50,000 of them in her life!
Today, Elders of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation have a profound impact on me. They embody a deep love of their land, and despite personal hardships and sacrifice, they’ve always been willing to share their knowledge and wisdom. Their generosity has given me everlasting perspective on resilience, courage, and grace, and I thank them.