a group of people sitting around a table with plans and maps
Healthy Country Planning Colleagues and partners collaborate at a Healthy Country Planning conference in Vancouver in August 2017. © Michael Pietrocarlo

Investing in People

Healthy Country Planning

We are sharing lessons from colleagues around the world to help our partners develop stewardship plans that reflect their values.

What is the key to a healthy territory? Flowing rivers. Abundant moose. Traditional food for your family. Robust fish stocks. Connections between youth and elders. These are just a few of the values identified by participants from Indigenous communities in Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories at a natural resources planning workshop hosted by Nature United in August 2017.

So how do we bring these social and cultural values together with our conservation goals? To answer that question, Nature United is trying an innovative technique called Healthy Country Planning. 

What Is Healthy Country Planning

Indigenous-Led Planning   

First developed with Aboriginal people in Australia, Healthy Country Planning (HCP) is a modified version of methodology used by our global affiliate and other environmental groups to create land-use plans, wildlife management plans, protected area plans, etc. It is increasingly being used by Indigenous peoples worldwide (including in Canada’s Northwest Territories) and by others involved in resource planning with Indigenous peoples. Nature United staff and staff from Indigenous communities that we partner with gathered to go through HCP together, learn practical skills for facilitating the process, and explore whether this approach to resource planning could be useful for our work in Canada.

Practical Sessions

The HCP process involves a series of meetings and workshops where Indigenous leaders, resource managers, and community members, and potentially non-Indigenous stakeholders, gather to create a plan to look after the land and keep it healthy.

The training session was led by Jenny Brown, Nature United's Director of Conservation, and Stuart Cowell, who has been deeply involved in the development of the Healthy Country Planning process in Australia. Jenny and Stuart led the group through each of the steps required to develop a plan, so that participants could understand how HCP could be used by their communities or others.

What sets HCP apart from other planning approaches:

  • INCLUSIVE: HCP involves and relies on community members and others to build a vision for taking care of their land.
  • PLACE-BASED: HCP happens on the land—not in an office — so that people are connected to the places they are making a plan about.
  • INDIGENOUS-LED: The process is led by Indigenous people, creating roadmaps for how their territories should be managed — rather than Indigenous people reacting to plans developed by others for their territories.
  • INFORMED: HCP relies on local and Indigenous knowledge about values, threats, and strategies to protect lands and waters. It also draws on other information and expertise as needed. 
a group of men talking outside in the woods
A Collaborative Approach Colleagues and partners collaborate at a Healthy Country Planning conference in Vancouver in August 2017 © Michael Pietrocarlo

Global Lessons and Sticky Notes 

Stuart shared experiences of how HCP has played out in Australia, and the similarities offered insight on the challenges and circumstances at play in Canada. The group discussed what things they most want and value in a stewardship plan — access to traditional food, clean water, protection of cultural sites, abundant berries and medicinal plants , passing of knowledge between generations, healthy animals — and the best ways to take care of them. And they did so using interactive techniques that encouraged collaboration with everyone in the room. Like sticky notes.

"The use of sticky notes throughout the process really stood out for me," says Diane Ballantyne of Opaskwayak Cree Nation Natural Resources. First Nations people are visual. We need to see to understand it. The work was so much easier because everyone could see it. I also liked that everyone had something to say, and everyone was brainstorming together. That’s what I would like to apply to the work we do: Use those processes to get everyone’s perspective — youth, adults, and the elders.” 

a man pointing at a board during a brainstorming session
Making a List Colleagues and partners collaborate at a Healthy Country Planning conference in Vancouver in August 2017. © Michael Pietrocarlo

What Comes Next

Indigenous stewardship is at the centre of Nature United's work, with a focus on working in partnership with Indigenous communities as they strengthen governance, build on-the-ground stewardship capacity, support and build leaders, and catalyze local economies. As an affiliate of the world's largest conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy, Nature United has access to a global network of community conservation programs and practitioners. We draw on these connections whenever possible to share ideas and innovative tools from around the world with our partners in Canada.

This workshop exposed participants to an overview of a multi-step planning process designed to meet the needs of a community and engage people throughout the planning and implementation stages. The Indigenous participants at the workshop will bring the tools and resources about Healthy Country Planning back to their communities to explore whether this approach to resource planning is a fit for them. Nature United will continue to partner with these communities to support Indigenous-led stewardship in Canada’s Northwest Territories and Boreal region.