Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 24, 1999

EAGLE project takes flight by putting environment first

A unique initiative by two First Nations bands and University of Guelph professors means future development projects will meet the needs of both the community and environment.

The Ecological Assessment of the Great Lake Ecosystem, or the EAGLE project, involves the Fort William Ojibway Band of Thunder Bay and the Cape Croker (Nawash) Cherokee Band of the Bruce Peninsula. The project is headed by U of G Prof. Walter Kehm and lecturer Robert Boraks, both of the School of Landscape Architecture.

"You can look at any urban centre today and realize that it isn't working. It's a total plunder of the environment and the human spirit," Kehm said. "The EAGLE project is different because we first consider the environment and how people and community structures can fit securely and happily into it."

Phase I of the EAGLE project included a series of "visioning sessions" in which Kehm and the elders mapped out important ecosystem components such as waterways, wildlife corridors, fish spawning habitats and important vegetation patches. The functions of these components and their interrelationships were posted for comment by the entire community. "We wanted to get local people to tell us what parts of the environment they have seen change or degrade over the years, and to give us ideas of what should be done about it," Kehm said. The researchers also looked at employment, recreation, housing, education and economic initiatives within the two communities, and compiled a list of goals relating to "community health."

In Phase II of the project, they will create community development plans to meet the First Nations' environmental and community health goals. Kehm says this will involve restoring degraded areas, developing new parks that may include nature centres and trails, and installing renewable energy systems in many buildings. He hopes community health will be improved through new educational and employment opportunities for youth and the unemployed and through the creation of new community facilities.

Kehm attributes the EAGLE project's success to the First Nations participants. First Nations bands live closely to the land and are eager to achieve a close-knit community, he said.

Beyond First Nations, Kehm believes that contemporary urban development has alienated most Canadians from the environment and destroyed their sense of community. "We bulldoze, in-fill, drain water and dump waste, destroying the plants and animals that function to help us," he said. "We need to become environmental and community healers before it is too late."

Contact: Prof. Walter Kehm, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 8745

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338

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