The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Picking loganberries.
Image by Debra Sohm.

Subsistence Rights

People are often dependent on distant, unhealthy food sources. This reduces ties to the local landscape, further eroding the stability of the food system.

Healthy food with a connection to place is a Fundamental Need. Productive Rural Areas maintain a stable land base for a wide-range of crops, with Value-Added Production used to process and store foods off-season and greenhouses and cold-frames used to extend the growing season. People in towns and cities can garden in backyards and community gardens, supplemented by urban farms. In Portland, a project called Growing Gardens teaches low-income people vegetable gardening skills and helps them install their first garden.

Wildlands represent material abundance for people living in rural and remote areas. It is the pickup truck full of firewood that will warm a house through the coldest fortnight of the year. It is the basketful of chanterelles gathered in the autumn forest that will turn a simple meal into a gourmet feast, or provide a little extra money in a cash-poor economy. The wild is berries and mussels, halibut and abalone, deer, seaweed, and salmon. People in some southeast Alaskan villages consume an average of more than a pound per day of wild foods.

All of these are gifts from the wild, which must be harvested with care and forbearance so the fount of these gifts may flow on undiminished. Our harvest binds us in a reciprocal tie to the wild, caring for it so that we may in turn be provided for.

Traditional First Nations uses of Core Reserves and other wild areas, including food and medicine gathering, ceremonies, and spiritual quests, should always be respected. Subsistence Rights ensure that people can meet needs for food, water, and spiritual connection within their ancestral lands.

For those just beginning to become native to their places, Subsistence Rights imply secure access to nutritious, affordable food, whether from harvesting in the wild, growing one's own garden, or eating local produce.

Protect the ability of people to access food and other resources from nearby wildlands, provided that care is taken to maintain the health of these ecosystems. Enhance regional food systems, drawing on the entire landscape to reconnect people with place and provide a nutritious diet.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Makah Whale Hunt
The Makah harvest of gray whales for the first time in several years is culturally significant because it marks a return to ways of old. Traditionally, the Makah have taken gray whales to provide sustenance and to culturally celebrate the whale via ceremonies and rituals.

Fighting For Subsistence Rights In Southeast Alaska
KETCHIKAN, AK - So many of the controversies in the coastal temperate rain forest are portrayed as battles between preservation and consumption that it's refreshing to run across a conflict which pits one kind of livelihood against another. On the Cleveland Peninsula, just across Behm Canal from Ketchikan, an unusual coalition of subsistence hunters, fishers and recreationists is fighting to protect 200,000 acres of wildlands from clearcuts and roadbuilding. Their agenda isn't to protect the cuddly animals and the pretty landscape, it's to preserve an opportunity to forage for the venison, salmon and crab that comprise an substantial part of their diet…

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:


Berkes, Fikret. Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Taylor & Francis. Philadelphia, PA. 1999.

Morgan, Nancy, et al. More Than the Sum of Our Parks: People, Places and a Protected Areas System for British Columbia. Ecotrust Canada and Ecotrust. Vancouver, BC. 1997.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling