Spaldings Campion is a rare plant found in the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it - Tobacco Plains KBA., Maddy Lucas / iNaturalist / CC-BY-NC
Spaldings Campion is a rare plant found in the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it - Tobacco Plains KBA. © Maddy Lucas / iNaturalist / CC-BY-NC

Key Biodiversity Areas and Indigenous-led conservation


Peter Soroye
Key Biodiversity Areas Assessment and Outreach Coordinator


Indigenous partnerships



How KBA Canada works together with Indigenous peoples

The Canadian Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) program identifies sites of importance for biodiversity across Canada, looking at places on lands and waters across the territories of hundreds of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and groups.

In most cases, communities already know the values these sites represent. In many cases, these sites only persist because of the careful stewardship by Indigenous peoples. As WCS Canada staff work to identify KBAs, creating a genuine space for collaboration and engagement with Indigenous Peoples is a central pillar of the work. This is a learning process, but we work as respectful partners with Indigenous communities in the spirit of reconciliation, seeking to understand how science-derived conservation values interact with (and support, complement or even conflict with) the conservation priorities of different Indigenous Nations and communities. While KBAs are based on an international, quantitative standard that was not co-developed with Indigenous Peoples, these designations can complement and support Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship based on Indigenous values and priorities.

A few years into the program, we now have some great examples of this working in practice.

How we work together

Together with KBA Canada partners at BC Nature, Birds Canada and Université de Sherbrooke, we have reached out to over 500 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities and organizations around KBAs, and have developed some exciting relationships and collaborations. Collaborations have ranged from working with staff within Nations to co-propose sites, like the Yat'aayi Héen KBA co-proposed by Taku River Tlingit First Nation, to meeting with Nations and simply keeping staff notified on the status of KBA proposals within their regions of interest.

Our approach to engaging communities around potential KBAs revolves around building awareness of the work and inviting and enabling participation. By building awareness of the work, we make sure that communities have a chance to explore how KBAs may fit into their own efforts to protect biodiversity and to see how this information tool might be helpful for them. KBAs will not be of interest to everyone’s work and communities sometimes decline to participate but as we acknowledge roles and responsibilities of Indigenous Peoples in taking care of the lands, waters, animals and plants, we see it as our responsibility to provide opportunities for participation for those who are interested, and in the manner that works best for them. Through this work, we are not only supporting the inclusion of diverse forms of knowledge into KBA proposals, but also the long-term stewardship of KBAs by communities.


Some of the most exciting collaborations to date have been with the Environment and Consultation Department at Caldwell First Nation, and the Wildlife and Stewardship Office at Six Nations of the Grand River.

Since late 2022, our team has been working with the Wildlife and Stewardship Office at Six Nations of the Grand River to review and co-propose draft KBAs that are of special interest to their communities. The Six Nations team ensured that the information on sites like Wainfleet Bog KBA and Nith River KBA painted a picture of the holistic importance of these sites, beyond their importance to a few Species at Risk. Working together, we highlighted information about the uniqueness of these sites on a regional scale, local threats to the site, species of importance to people within it, and information on the ongoing management and stewardship across the site, by Six Nations and others.

Since spring of 2023, the KBA team at WCS Canada, alongside colleagues at Birds Canada, has similarly been working with staff at Caldwell First Nation to co-develop KBA proposals across Caldwell’s traditional territory in southern Ontario. The recently published Ojibway Prairie Complex and Greater Park Ecosystem KBA (also co-proposed with Wildlife Preservation Canada) is a great example of a site where we were able to work together to highlight information about Indigenous Peoples’ historic stewardship of the site. The KBA also highlights the traditional Anishinaabemowin names of species found within the site, including Wiingashk (Sweetgrass), Bashkodejiibik (Sage), Ode’iminan (strawberries) and Nika (Canada Goose). Collaborations with these Nations have ensured that the KBA information and boundaries are as relevant and helpful as possible for informing and supporting the excellent stewardship and monitoring work that is ongoing.

British Columbia

Some other interesting collaborations are also taking place further west in British Columbia, facilitated by our provincial partners at BC Nature. In this area, partnerships around KBAs have included work with Nations such as the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi'it (Tobacco Plains) First Nation and the Kitasoo/Xai'xais Stewardship Authority to co-develop KBA information for sites like the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it - Tobacco Plains KBA and Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) Candidate KBA.

Through BC Nature’s longer-term partnerships with coastal First Nations and on-the-ground field presence, recognition of these important areas has increased, and KBA Canada has been able to support biodiversity monitoring within these sites by these Nations.

Collaboration benefits nature - and all of us

On this Indigenous Peoples Day, we are especially grateful that we are able to play a small role in supporting Indigenous-led conservation through our work on KBAs. While we acknowledge that our process is imperfect and ever evolving, we are thankful to all the individuals and groups who have seen value in the KBA work and shared their time and knowledge. We are especially grateful for the many discussions we have held across the years with communities about conservation priorities, conflicts and values, and how we can work together for nature and people. Our approach to collaboration around KBAs is helping further our commitment to transforming how conservation work is done in Canada and is creating a stronger set of KBAs for everyone – especially nature – to benefit from.

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