10-to-1 Annual Return on Investment for Indigenous Guardians programs

Guardians from the member-Nations of Nanwakolas Council conduct clam surveys in 2015. Photo by Scott Harris, Nanwakolas Council.

A business case of seven Guardian Watchmen programs in the Great Bear Rainforest shows that communities receive, on average, a 10-to-1 return on their investments into the programs.

The report commissioned by Coastal First Nations (CFN) and Nature United (formerly TNC Canada) looked at the Guardian programs of all CFN member-Nations. It examined the net value of program costs and benefits from the perspective of the First Nations.

The primary finding of the analysis was that “investments in Coastal Guardian Watchmen programs generate significant value for their Nations and communities.” At the low end, that value is a 10-to-1 return on investment annually. On the high end, some Nations experience a 20-to-1 return on their investment.

Benefits were widespread, extending well beyond the core objectives of the programs, ranging from improved community and cultural well-being, to increased capacity, economic opportunities and improved nation-to-nation relationships.

Investments in Coastal Guardian Watchmen programs generate significant value for their Nations and communities.

The business case study, conducted by EcoPlan International, examines how value is generated through Guardian Watchmen programs.

Ross Wilson, Stewardship Director for Metlakatla Nation—a Nation that recently established a lands-based Guardian program—says these programs have a huge impact on every individual involved. “The Guardians love to be out there in all kinds of weather, and out on the front line,” he says. Their work consists of everything from dealing with spills and accidents on the water, to greeting visitors, ensuring people are following rules and regulations, and keeping people safe.

“Our Guardian program has been incredible for our Nation to be able to visit remote parts of our territory and original communities that have been inaccessible for years,” says Sherry Thomas, Band Administrator for Tlowitsis First Nation. “It also enables us to collect data to ensure the next generation are going to have the same resources we have today.”

Former Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Guardian Leslie Walkus watches a safety demonstration at a 2013 Guardian Watchmen gathering. Photo by Scott Rehmus.

 

Including the Coastal Stewardship Network, First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii operate 14 unique regional monitoring and Guardian Watchmen programs, covering an average area of 2.5 million hectares annually.

The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations (GNN) have operated their Guardian Watchmen program since 2009. It has played an integral role in the Nations stewarding their lands and waters and has also helped community members reconnect to their homelands.

Our Guardian program has been incredible for our Nation to be able to visit remote parts of our territory and original communities that have been inaccessible for years.

“I could sit here for hours and talk about my job and how much I love it. To go out there in such a beautiful part of the world and to have this feeling that you’re doing something so important is a very good feeling,” said former GNN Guardian Leslie Walker during a 2014 interview for AWEENAKOLA MAGAZINE. “Being able to come home to the community and talk about the work being done, and see how much comfort that gives them—I think that’s my favourite part.”

The Guardian Watchmen business case will support future efforts at raising funds to support ongoing Guardian programs says Wilson. “When we speak to funders, we can point to that business case and say that for every dollar you put into the program, you get this much value out of it.”

Read more about the business case on the Coastal First Nations website and learn about the well-being outcomes of Coast Funds-supported Guardian programs here.