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Unique in the world: New journal article showcases NWT’s approach to assessing species at risk

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The unique approach to species assessment used in Northwest Territories (NWT) is being highlighted this month in a leading international journal.

Plants and animals that may be at risk of disappearing from the NWT are assessed to determine their biological status and recommend management actions. In 2021, the Species at Risk Committee (SARC) changed its species assessment process to better reflect Indigenous ways of knowing.

Two separate assessments are carried out—one based in Indigenous knowledge, and one based in science. This helps to ensure each knowledge system’s autonomy, uniqueness and validity are represented and respected. From these two knowledge-specific assessments, SARC arrives at a final assessment based on a consensus among members and supported by criteria from either or both knowledge systems.

The dual assessment process adopted by SARC is unique in the world. Although Indigenous knowledge is sometimes ‘integrated’ into species assessments elsewhere, the strongly technical and quantitative nature of the process favours scientific knowledge, often to the exclusion of expertise from Indigenous knowledge systems.

The new perspectives paper published in the May 2023 edition of Biological Conservation provides a case study of how to meaningfully include Indigenous knowledge in decision-making and calls on others to reconsider how species at risk assessments are completed.

For more information, contact:

Species at Risk Committee
Email: sara@gov.nt.ca
Toll-free: 1 (855) 783-4301