Tanya Chi Tran

University of Victoria
Indigenous-led Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) have gained global attention in recent years due to renewed interest in improving and creating protected areas during a time of Indigenous resurgence. We systematically reviewed the academic literature to synthesize the contexts, successes, challenges, and lessons learned of IPCA initiatives globally. We provide recommendations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations interested in creating and improving recognition and support for IPCAs, reviewing 58 papers describing 86 initiatives in 25 different countries. We found that Indigenous organizations managed IPCAs through leveraging discourses regarding Indigenous rights and environmental conservation, creating local- and broad-scale partnerships, and do so even without state support. IPCAs demonstrated social, political, and ecological benefits such as improving Indigenous livelihoods, increasing governance and management capacities, and improving species populations and habitat protection. State government supported IPCAs through formal legislation, agreements, and policies and also informally through local relationships and shared values. However, IPCAs faced many challenges, such as restrictive funding, conflicting state legislation, and climate change. These challenges affected benefits received and demanded additional resources from Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. Lessons highlighted strong links between social and ecological goals of IPCAs that can be elevated by nation-state recognition and support and multi-sector partnerships. We recommend shifting towards decolonial nation-state policies, improving nation-state legislation to reflect the scale and quality of Rights and Title recognition desired by Indigenous Peoples, the need for flexible support and collaborative partnerships to reflect diverse local contexts, and increasing efforts to address large-scale environmental issues impacting protected areas worldwide.