Located within the boreal forest of northern Alberta, the Cree, Dene and Métis community of Fort McKay lies at the center of a large-scale oil sands (bitumen) extraction area. For people who view human and environmental health as inextricably linked, the effects of developmental activities, including subsequent restoration or reclamation processes, are experienced on both social and ecological levels. Consequently, for reclamation efforts to be meaningful to local people, they must take into consideration more than ecological functionality and address the linked social factors. This paper assesses the use and value of the Cultural Keystone Species (CKS) model in the community of Fort McKay, Alberta as a mechanism to address social, ecological and spiritual values in regional land reclamation. As salient species with a defining influence on culture, CKS offer a culturally meaningful tether for communities with landscapes in transition. As part of the Fort McKay Traditional Environmental Knowledge Project, a literature review and extensive community interviews identified seven CKS which were used to focus discussions and ultimately recommendations for relevant land reclamation within Fort McKay traditional territory. This community-based collaborative project illuminated environmental, social and policy implications for Fort McKay.
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