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A new perspective in Aboriginal natural resource management - Co-management

Notzke, C.






Co-management is a recurrent theme of growing importance in the management of renewable resources in Canada, particularly where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are interested in utilizing these resources. 'Co-management' broadly refers to the sharing of power and responsibility between government and local resource users. This is achieved by various levels of integration of local and state level management systems. In practice there is a wide spectrum of co-management arrangements, ranging from the tokenism of local participation in government research to local communities retaining substantial self-management power. Comanagement regimes may be area-specific, or they may be focused on one particular species. Co-management regimes for renewable resources between aboriginal and non-aboriginal parties are being established in all parts of Canada under widely varying circumstances and for different purposes. One of the most important vehicles for the establishment of co-management regimes is the settlement of comprehensive aboriginal claims, which usually involves exclusive and/or preferential harvesting rights for aboriginal people on Crown lands within their claim territory and their involvement in the management of these resources. Other comanagement regimes are initiated by government in response to a perceived or real resource crisis, or by aboriginal groups as a means of conflict resolution and to protect treaty and aboriginal rights. More recently co-management has also been adopted by provincial governments as a tangible expression of a fundamental rethinking of rights and relationships. Not surprisingly, the success rate of comanagement schemes varies. The integration and mutual accommodation of such dissimilar entities as the indigenous and state systems of resource management in any form of co-management is an extremely complicated and potentially frustrating process. Nevertheless, this route has assisted aboriginal people in Canada in regaining considerable influence over the management of resources they depend upon. Furthermore, there is a distinct possibility that down the road of political evolution co-management of natural resources will be recognized as a constitutionally entrenched right of aboriginal people.

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