Blog Post

Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities are Essential Partners in Protecting at Least 30% of the Earth by 2030

The Campaign for Nature’s goal of protecting at least 30% of our land and oceans by 2030 can only be achieved with full respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and with the leadership of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities around the world.

The Campaign for Nature’s goal of protecting at least 30% of our land and oceans by 2030 can only be achieved with full respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and with the leadership of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities around the world.

The identities, cultures, and spirituality of many Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) are linked to ecologically intact, biodiverse landscapes. According to a recent study in Nature, Indigenous Peoples manage or have tenure rights over at least 28% of the global land area (roughly 38 million square kilometers spanning 87 countries or politically distinct areas on all inhabited continents). These areas intersect with at least 40% of the global protected areas and account for approximately 85% of areas proposed for biodiversity conservation worldwide.

Additionally, many landscapes are managed by community-based conservation institutions, Indigenous Community Conservation Areas, or other local governance systems, which are often more effective than external conservation methods at preventing habitat degradation. Despite their efforts, however, these ecosystems are under increasing pressure from the impacts of a warming climate, the rapid loss of biodiversity, and the pressures of global development. Indigenous territories have been subject to deforestation, the destruction of wetlands, legal and illegal mining and oil drilling, and the spread of industrial agriculture, forestry, and fishing practices. In some areas, Indigenous Peoples face increasing intimidation, criminalisation, violence, and forcible displacement from their ancestral lands. In addition, historic “fortress conservation” attempts to establish protected areas have not always respected the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There is no doubt that transformative change is needed to meet the biodiversity and climate emergencies head on. At its core, this change necessitates establishing a new relationship with nature and people. The Campaign for Nature believes that any effort to protect at least 30% of the Earth’s land and oceans by 2030 must advance a conservation paradigm that not only fully integrates and respects Indigenous leadership and Indigenous rights, but is Indigenous led in key places and gives Indigenous Peoples direct representation in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework negotiations.

The Wyss Foundation and The National Geographic Society, through the Campaign for Nature, are committed to addressing the crisis facing nature by supporting stronger, more equitable relationships with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. The Wyss Foundation has worked hard to partner with IPLC leaders to foster this conservation model by forming strong conservation partnerships that are Indigenous Peoples- and local community-led from the beginning and that support IPLCs in protecting territorial land rights and supporting effective land management practices. These partnerships include:

Lustel K’e Dene First Nation in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Photo by Pat Kane, courtesy of Nature United

Designated in 2019 with the help of the Canadian federal government, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, the 5.7 million-acre Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve and Territorial Protected Areas are a vital source of subsistence and hold deep spiritual value to the Łutsël K’é Dene people. This complex stands as the largest single area ever permanently protected with the help of a grant from Hansjörg Wyss and Wyss Foundation philanthropy. It is anticipated that an additional 730,000-acre territorial wildlife area will be added to the complex in 2021. Thanks to Wyss Foundation support, the Łutsël K’é Dene have the long-term resources needed to co-manage their traditional homeland alongside Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Learn More

Badger-Two Medicine, Montana

Photo by Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, courtesy of the Wyss Campaign for Nature

The Blackfeet Nation’s ancestral homelands were stolen through dishonest and inequitable treaties during the 1800s. After a decades-long effort by the Blackfeet Nation to safeguard their cultural and traditional homeland, the Badger-Two Medicine and the Rocky Mountain Front were permanently withdrawn from future mineral leasing in 2006. The Wyss Foundation has provided over $3.5 million to support the purchase or donation and permanent retirement of more than 140,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the area. An effort is now underway to ensure the Badger-Two Medicine is not only permanently protected, but that the Blackfeet Nation has a meaningful management role in securing their homeland in perpetuity. Learn More

Gayini Nimmie-Caira, Australia

[@portabletext/react] Unknown block type "span", specify a component for it in the `components.types` prop

In December 2019, The Wyss Foundation partnered with the Nari Nari people to help establish the 216,222-acre Gayini Nimmie-Caira Indigenous Protected Area in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin. Gayini is an environmentally and culturally significant property on the Murrumbidgee floodplain. It has been the ancestral homeland for the Nari Nari people for 50,000 years and is now legally secured for their long-term stewardship to ensure the area’s incredible biodiversity and vital environmental water flows continue in perpetuity. Learn More

Supporting Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ rights and priorities and pursuing culturally appropriate approaches to conservation is critical to achieving The Campaign for Nature’s goals and safeguarding a healthy and equitable future for our natural world, people, and all forms of life that call our planet home.

Back to Top
About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.