Northern British Columbia (BC) and Alberta are sparsely populated forested lands under provincial jurisdiction (also known as Crown land) which are under intensive oil & gas exploration and pipeline development. Local Aboriginal people continue to implement traditional practices that maintain viable land and productive ecosystems by annual rotation of trap lines, hunting and gathering areas and similar activities. Aboriginal people can exert tremendous influence on pipeline projects through various means. Regulators and enlightened pipeline companies recognize the value of assessing traditional knowledge that has been collected over generations and passed down from the Elders to contribute to final routing, siting and project design identifying effects on environmental resources and traditional land and resource use and developing mitigation opportunities. Traditional knowledge includes experiential and secondary knowledge as well as accepted scientific research in the context of environmental assessments. Robust applications consider sources from all land users while being mindful of the intricacies inherent with Aboriginal engagement in order to gather substantive input for projects on Crown land.

This paper explores the contribution of Aboriginal Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in the environmental assessment process on selected case studies involving recent natural gas pipeline projects in northern BC and Alberta from a balanced perspective. It also describes the evolution of a program developed by the author from its initial emphasis on Traditional Land Use (TLU) studies to the present day application of TLU studies, and TEK studies, focusing on lessons learned and regulatory and engagement challenges and successes.

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