Indigenous peoples conserve an estimated 21 percent of all land on Earth, but they’re rarely credited as conservationists

In Vox, Benji Jones reports on new research from the ICCA Consortium, a group that advocates for Indigenous and community-led conservation, indicating that Indigenous peoples and communities conserve an estimated 21 percent of all land on Earth. That makes Indigenous peoples the world’s biggest conservationists. Academic research has shown that Indigenous knowledge is crucial in preserving global biodiversity and responsible land management, yet local communities are rarely credited for their efforts by the modern conservation movement (are we surprised?). Although more countries are formally recognizing Indigenous land rights, Indigenous communities continue to be constrained by lack of political power and legal ownership over lands. Some advocates worry that the “30 by 30” global conservation effort currently spearheaded by more than 50 wealthy nations may come at the expense of Indigenous land rights. Many are calling on countries involved in the effort, which seeks to conserve at least 30 percent of land and water by 2030, to integrate Indigenous rights into their draft plans. Notably, the Biden administration has included tribal conservation efforts as part of its proposed “America the Beautiful” initiative. It’s a start.