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Mar 23, 2022
There’s growing recognition of how vital Indigenous-led conservation practices are to protecting the planet. Because of this, there’s a growing global movement to secure Indigenous land rights, toward safeguarding the Earth’s future.

And there’s plenty of science to support it, such as a World Bank study which found that although Indigenous lands account for less than 22% of the world’s land area, their territories protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. This protection is not passive: in fact, Indigenous-led preservation projects are a vital part of the conservation movement across the world and in the United States.

On this pre-Earth Day episode, we speak with two guests: the director of the Native American Fish and Wildlife SocietyJulie Thorstenson, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe – about how America’s 574 tribes manage more than 140 million acres of land, and which have scientists working to reintroduce and protect endangered or declining wildlife, from bison to condors, salmon, and ferrets.

We also discuss the history of Indigenous-led conservation in North America with award-winning author Michelle Nijhuis, whose latest book “Beloved Beasts” – about the history of the modern conservation movement told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it, including Native Americans – is now out in paperback. Related reading at Mongabay.com, featuring Dr. Thorstensen:

"Underfunded but passionate, Native American conservationists call for more support"

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Episode artwork: Endangered black-footed ferrets have benefited hugely from the conservation work of multiple Native American communities. Image courtesy of Kimberly Fraser/USFWS.

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