Forty-two Indigenous-led conservation projects across Canada receive federal funding to protect more nature

News release

Indigenous peoples in Canada have been environmental stewards of their traditional land, ice, and water and are the original leaders in sustainable development and natural resource management. That is why the Government of Canada is committed to working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to support Indigenous leadership in conservation.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced approximately $66 million in funding to support 42 Indigenous-led conservation projects across the country. These projects aim to conserve more land that will support Canada’s area-based conservation targets.

The Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation initiative provides funding to Indigenous peoples to lead, or co-lead, projects to establish protected areas or recognize Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures, many of which may lead to the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.

Projects funded through this initiative include:

  •  The Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, and the Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission, receiving a combined total of up to $10.2 million over three years to support the protection of ecologically and culturally significant land across Nova Scotia.
  • The Council of the Abitibiwinni First Nation, receiving up to $1.4 million over three years to support a cross-border Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area south of James Bay. The project aims to conserve land in Quebec and Ontario to support woodland caribou within the range of the Detour Kesagami Caribou population.
  • Meadow Lake Tribal Council, receiving nearly $1.5 million over three years to support efforts to establish protected and conserved areas in northwest Saskatchewanby 2026. Five Cree and four Dene First Nations are working together to protect and conserve biodiversity and culturally significant land and resources and develop community capacity.

To date, 94 Indigenous communities across the country have received a combined amount of $202 million in Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation funding, and its precursor Target 1 Challenge, to either establish new protected areas or Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures or undertake early planning and engagement work that could result in new conservation areas. Some of those projects are nearing completion and will contribute to meeting Canada’s goal of conserving 30 percent of land and water in Canada by 2030.

Expanding Canada’s network of protected and conserved areas helps address issues such as biodiversity loss and climate change, while also providing important benefits for Indigenous communities, the natural environment, and species at risk.


“Indigenous peoples have long taken care of the land we all share, and these Indigenous-led projects are a testament to their unique perspectives, knowledge, rights, and cultural responsibilities to teach, inspire, and help improve natural balance. It is only by working in partnership with Indigenous peoples and recognizing their traditional roles, knowledge, and science that we can slow biodiversity loss and achieve Canada’s conservation goals.”

– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Our government is proud to partner with Indigenous leadership to conserve more land and waterways in northern Saskatchewan. Working with First Nations must be a priority as we continue to fight climate change. This funding will go a long way to address biodiversity loss and expand the local network of protected and conserved areas.”

– Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Special Advisor for Water

“Our government remains committed to working with Indigenous peoples, who were the original stewards of the land. As part of the important work to advance reconciliation, we have heard from Indigenous peoples that they want to be involved in protecting the environment for future generations. I’m proud of this important announcement and our government’s work to ensure Indigenous peoples are leading the charge on the important work of environmental sustainability, known in Mi’kmaw as Netukulimk.”

– Jaime Battiste, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Member of Parliament for Sydney–Victoria

“The Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources has been Unama’ki’s voice on Mi’kmaq-led conservation for 25 years. Working closely with our communities, Elders, and Knowledge Holders, the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources’ work is guided by Mi’kmaw traditional laws of Sespite’tmej (caring for our territory), Msit No’kmaq (all our relations and everything is connected), and Etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing). The Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation funding allows us to work with our partners using a two-eyed seeing approach to protect lands and waters for future generations.”

– Lisa Young, Executive Director, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources

“We as Mi’kmaq People have always prided our organizational principles toward Etuaptmumk, and this funding will once again help with the preservation and protection of ecologically and culturally significant lands. The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq is very proud to be partnered and working in collaboration with other Mi’kmaq organizations and partners toward our collective goal of protecting and conserving our lands and reaffirming our mutual goal of conserving and stewardship for the next seven generations.”

– Angeline Gillis, Executive Director, The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq

“The Eskasoni First Nation is fortunate to have received this funding. Biocultural diversity sits at the core of all that we do in the community. This Indigenous-led community engagement initiative will provide the means to rebuild that reciprocal relationship between our people and the land.”

– Tom Johnson, Executive Director, Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission

“This funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada will allow us to promote the protection of Abitibiwinni Aki’s natural environments, the Abitibiwinni First Nation’s traditional territory, and our cultural values. We will continue to work with neighbouring First Nations to protect this territory together, including the transboundary Detour Kesagami Caribou population and, more broadly, the boreal forest in southern James Bay, which we believe is essential to the connectivity of woodland caribou populations and forest stands between east and west.”

– Benoit Croteau, Director, Territory and Environment, Abitibiwinni First Nation Council

“We appreciate the support we received from Environment and Climate Change Canada on this extremely important project. Our livelihood and traditions are tied to the land; we have to ensure the land and the habitat remains healthy for our future generations. One of our goals is to increase climate change awareness and change attitudes and behaviours among the citizens with the assistance of our traditional land users and science specialists.”

– Richard Ben, Tribal Chief, Meadow Lake Tribal Council

Quick facts

  • The Government of Canada is advancing its conservation and biodiversity goals in partnership with Indigenous peoples, the original guardians of the land.

  • Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation funding supports the costs associated with establishing new Indigenous-led conservation areas.

  • Distinct Indigenous groups have different perspectives on Indigenous-led conservation, and Environment and Climate Change Canada works with each group independently respecting their rights, vision, interests, and needs.

  • The Government of Canada recognizes Indigenous peoples are best positioned to determine if a conserved area is also an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area.  

  • Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas can contribute to Canada’s conservation targets if they are also recognized as Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures or protected areas in Canada’s Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

  • Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures are areas that are managed for a purpose other than biodiversity and are governed in ways that also achieve positive biodiversity outcomes equal to those of a protected area.

  • United Nations data suggests that while Indigenous land makes up only around 20 percent of the Earth’s territory, they contain as much as 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

Associated links


Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Twitter page

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Facebook page

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