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Stewardship Principles

Effective stewardship helps maintain and restore the function of the natural resources (air, land, water, biodiversity) we rely on to produce the goods and services we depend on. So how do we make stewardship of these resources a priority? We must learn to set stewardship goals and then apply stewardship principles to our planning and implementation processes.

Putting Stewardship First

How do we make stewardship a priority? Stay informed and get involved in issues and developments which incorporate the four guiding principles of environmental sustainability:

Caring for the system as a whole – Adopting an ecosystems, holistic resource management approach includes understanding the fundamental roles and values of natural systems, building up biological fertility in the soil, incorporating an understanding of the ecological cycles on the landscape (water, energy, nutrients) and how land-use practices can either benefit, be in harmony or negatively impact these cycles and other land-users, flora and fauna.

Conserving resources – Maximizing efficiency and striving to reduce the consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources; long-term optimization versus short-term maximization of production.

Maintaining and enhancing stability in nature – Sustaining and encouraging natural biological diversity and complexity; maintaining natural areas and functions on the land (i.e. wildlife habitat conservation).

Applying cultural values – Caring for the health of the land for future generations and long-term economic stability; the link between civilization (urbanization) and the land-base and ecosystems that are vital to survival; the intrinsic value and right to exist of all life on Earth.

Small Changes, Big Difference

Remember, the concept of cumulative effects is particularly relevant to stewardship; small changes, when combined, can make a big difference. Here are a few more basic stewardship principles that can help landowners and land mangers become better stewards and make more sustainable use of the resources in their care:

  • In all land-use decisions, try to maintain and enhance the remaining natural communities of our landscapes: wooded areas, ponds, streams, shelterbelts, native grasslands and aspen parklands;
  • Restore and maintain water quality, improve livestock management practices, as well as other land-uses beside rivers, creeks, streams and other water bodies. Just about everything you like about and need from these water sources depends on keeping the vegetation alongside them in a natural state;
  • Learn about and use existing and emerging knowledge of land and resource use practices and techniques that help to maintain biodiversity and mimic natural processes on the landscape;
  • Use the wide variety of resources and programs available to monitor and assess the environmental sustainability of your land-uses; from home energy audits to on-farm environmental risk assessments and holistic resource planning;
  • Set goals to restore and maintain at least 10% of land in a natural state (natural to the landscape region). There are many ways to do this while still making good use of the land;
  • Develop plans and adopt practices that help reduce the consumption of resources – especially non-renewable resources. Aim to mimic natural, continuous cycles of reuse and renewal of all the resources on your land and in your landscape;
  • Work towards setting quality of life goals for your family, business and community that are not measured by money and possessions.

Many excellent resources, programs and organizations exist to help identify regional or individual stewardship priorities, adopt a wide range of beneficial management practices, and achieve land-use goals that are environmentally sustainable. Check out the online Resource Centre for more information.

Photo credit John Zylstra.

Setting Priorities

Adopting Principles

Learning by Example

Becoming a Steward

Having access to valuable stewardship information and resources is an important part in helping you become a good steward. Learn how you can get involved…