Incorporating Biocultural Approaches in Forest Management: Insights from a Case Study of Indigenous Plant Stewardship in Maine, USA and New Brunswick, Canada
Biocultural approaches promote consideration of diverse values and cultural practices into resource management. However, cultural inclusion in North American forest management is limited. Drawing on a case study of Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq communities in Maine, USA and New Brunswick, Canada, we examine the practice of plant gathering, including associated values and cultural norms. Through interviews and participant observation, we find that gatherers value and care for plants and habitats that are not priorities for forest managers. Gatherers do not describe their actions in terms of management, with its connotations of dominance and control. Rather, they are guided by community-driven values and responsibilities. Our analysis suggests that their plant gathering activities align with a stewardship paradigm, which may be one useful way to characterize, legitimize and communicate approaches to caring for forests. We offer five suggestions for managers wishing to use biocultural approaches.