IMN@UCBerkeley Meeting: Herb Hammond

Note: IMN@UCBerkeley convened mapping practitioners, indigenous community members, indigenous rights organizations, researchers, and technology professionals to discuss current issues in indigenous mapping. Our meetings were intended to create a platform for supporting indigenous mapping collaborations and linking communities with emerging technologies. We organized a series of invited talks hosted on campus; I wrote articles about these talks which were posted on the IMN website to share with other members of the group who weren’t able to attend. Below I have reproduced the article with permission.

March 2010 IMN Berkeley Chapter meeting: co-hosted with the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) at their weekly Geolunch seminar. Speaker: Herb Hammond, Forest Ecologist and Forester, Silva Ecosystem Consultants Ltd., “Ecosystem-Based Conservation Planning with Canadian Indigenous People: Using GIS to Facilitate Ecologically and Culturally Sustainable Land Use”

Article by Melissa Eitzel

This co-hosted lecture was an excellent way to bring some of our people together with our indigenous mapping people; I have attended Geolunch before, and I must say that it was nice to see familiar faces from that group and from our IMN group all together in the same room. Herb comes to us from working with First Nations across Canada from temperate rain forests to the boreal or “snow forest;” his focus is on ecologically sustainable land use and stewardship through a combination of indigenous knowledge and what he calls “appropriate western science.” It is really exciting to hear someone who actually works on that combination talk about this experience ­ he says that in general he just takes it case by case, how best to let the two sources of knowledge dovetail together. In general, he suggests that the indigenous knowledge provides a holistic, observation-based
view of the ecosystem, giving the context, while the western science knowledge helps to see how all the little parts interact. It sounds to me like he has made a similar internal process ­ allowing his emotional connection to the ecosystem to be a part of his career without sacrificing scientific rigor. He made the important point that not choosing to advocate for something means that you are by default advocating the status quo, an important thing to remember for those of us who are scientists and struggle with the level to which we advocate as part of our work.

Herb stressed many times that you must make the approach walk on the land; that for either the indigenous knowledge, the scientific knowledge, or their combination to work, you must get out on the land and see how it all works firsthand. He went through many of the motivations for managing ecosystems sustainably ­ from carbon sequestration to retaining species diversity. Emphasizing that we are connected to the ecosystems we depend on for resources, he advocated that we think first of what to protect, and then second what we can use. He displayed the considerable ecological knowledge of a trained scientist who has spent a great deal of time observing these ecosystems, and the sensitivity of a person who deeply cares what happens to the ecosystem and the people who are connected to it. He pointed out that people who spend a great deal of time in contact with the land have a great deal of knowledge about the subtle things going on in the ecosystem.

In addressing the uses of mapping, he first emphasized that the GIS or map should fit the forest, not the other way around. In their mapping approach, they use different map scales, starting at big landscapes and working all the way down to individual patches; they find that the decision on what to do at any scale turns out to be a very locally based decision. At each scale, they design networks of ecological reserves, which define areas where resource extraction may occur, subject to local decision-making processes. In the case of forestry or timber management, cutting and other forestry practices only occur outside of multiple spatial scale ecological reserves. Importantly, where forestry occurs these areas are never clearcut: there are always trees and other ecosystem composition and structure remaining in clumps or else scattered throughout the reserve. The aims of management here are to maintain the natural forest composition, structure, and function. Dead trees are essential for water retention. Herb said “decayed wood is the foundation for future forests.” As an example of how to manage for species, he pointed out that fish depend on small, sometimes ephemeral streams, and usually those are not the type of watercourse that is protected. He suggested turning that around, and pointed out that trees have a big impact in maintaining those smaller streams. Herb also described their approach as long-term, planning over a long time scale and through many ecological disturbances; they want people to live in the system and make adjustments over time. The appropriate time scale for planning is on the order of hundreds of years. Finally, he emphasized that they designate both ecological and cultural reserves. Both are very important, and between the two they protect about as much land as conservationists indicate is necessary to maintain ecosystems.

After describing the forest and some of the specifics of creating reserves and how they might be managed, Herb moved on to the root of the problem: the values need to change. If the ethics of protecting the forest and then deciding what is safe to use are not in place, it won’t matter what you find in terms of science. He introduced a term created by Dennis Martinez (refer to him): kincentric, which is a play on the sustainability Venn diagram. This diagram shows society, environment, and economics as three circles which intersect. When, he asked, is society or economics ever present without the environment? Really, we’re looking at concentric circles with ecosystems containing society which contains economics. He suggested to us that we need to all come to grips with our needs vs. wants, and in the case of managing these forest ecosystems, we need to start with the basics of protecting ecological integrity across all spatial and temporal scales, and then move on to the ideas of use for recreation, tourism, wildcrafting, and possibly some limited extractive uses.

We had a lively set of questions, including how to manage tree mortality (for example, from bark beetle outbreaks), how to map when there are no hard boundaries, and how to educate young people on how to care for the land. Herb suggests that dead trees are protected the same way as live trees (“thin as if they were alive”), describes some strategies to bring the youth to the process (including bringing youth and elders together on the land for teaching and learning), and discusses how indigenous knowledge and western science differ and how they can work together. He says that there are indeed troubles with mapping areas that aren’t really there because there are no real hard boundaries. He sees maps as a vehicle to get from here to there: when the ethics have shifted, there will be less need for us to carefully map what can and cannot be used.

Herb’s talk was fantastic and he covered so many topics ranging from the ecology of the boreal forest to management plans to ethics to education that I don’t believe that even this long article does it justice. To learn more about all these areas, go to his book, “Seeing the forest among the trees, the case for wholistic forest use.” Herb’s experience working with First Nations and integrating western ecology with indigenous knowledge – both personally and in management – is an inspiration. Thank you to Herb and to our Geolunch

Note: To learn more about all these areas, go to his books, “Seeing the forest among the trees, the case for wholistic forest use” and also “Maintaining Whole Systems on Earth’s Crown: Ecosystem-based Conservation Planning for the Boreal Forest,” which details his approach to mapping with communities.