Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu is just one of the economic initiatives of the Kitasoo/Xaixais Nation

First Nations invest over $200 million to develop Great Bear Rainforest conservation economy


First Nations are developing a conservation-based economy throughout coastal British Columbia

First Nations are developing a conservation-based economy throughout coastal British Columbia and have announced the latest results from their ongoing environmental stewardship and sustainable development efforts today.  Published by Coast Funds, the conservation financing organization created in the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest agreements, First Nations are showcasing how over 250 initiatives are strengthening well-being in twenty-seven coastal communities.

“Coast Funds was created from an unprecedented level of collaboration and leadership by First Nations throughout coastal British Columbia that continues to grow stronger.  We are proud today to be announcing many significant positive outcomes that are already being realized from First Nations’ initiatives since the initial Great Bear Rainforest agreements,” stated Merv Child, Chair of Coast Funds.First Nations are attracting over $200 million in total new investment to develop and diversify British Columbia’s coastal economy, including $62 million to date from Coast Funds. Just a few of the over 250 projects include the start-up of Haida’s Taan Forest operations, commercialization of Kitasoo/Xai’xais’ Spirit Bear Lodge, establishment of Heiltsuk’s stewardship department, and creation of the Coastal Guardian Watchman Network to monitor, steward and protect coastal ecosystems.

“In a short period of time we’ve succeeded in launching a diversity of new businesses and conservation initiatives that are strengthening well-being in our community.  Spirit Bear Lodge ecotourism experiences are recognized around the world, Kitasoo Wild Seafoods exports sustainably harvested products internationally, and Spirit Bear Research Foundation supports a diversity of conservation science initiatives we’re undertaking,” said Chief Councillor Douglas Neasloss, Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation. “Our partnership with Coast Funds on these initiatives is an important part of our efforts to develop a conservation-based economy in the Great Bear Rainforest.”

First Nations have invested in projects that have created 670 permanent new jobs in science and research, ecosystem-based management, forestry, ecotourism, manufacturing, aquaculture, and more. 500 of these are held by First Nations community members, which is equivalent to nine percent of the total working age population of First Nations communities in the Great Bear Rainforest.

First Nations have finalized 18 protected area management plans based on direction from their hereditary leaders and community input for sensitive ecosystems and unique cultural sites such as Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, Tsa-Latĺ/Smokehouse Conservancy, Huchsduwachsdu Nuyemjees / Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and more; and First Nations are monitoring commercial activities by creating and expanding 14 monitoring and Guardian Watchman programs, covering an average area of at least 1.7 million hectares annually.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve seen an incredible diversity of new stewardship programs and sustainable businesses prosper across the coast. With over $100 million in funds under management, Coast Funds looks forward to the many exciting new initiatives that First Nations continue to spearhead throughout the Great Bear Rainforest,” stated Brodie Guy, Executive Director of Coast Funds.

In addition to the outcomes announced today, First Nations have launched a knowledge platform that features vibrant stories about recent initiatives, providing an interactive map that illustrates the many ecologically and culturally significant protected areas found in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“Significant progress in the development of a sustainable coastal economy has been made since the establishment of Coast Funds.  Looking forward, the challenge for all of us is ensuring the conservation-based coastal economy on BC’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii continues to grow.,” said President Marilyn Slett, Coastal First Nations (Great Bear Initiative Society). “To do so there must be recognition of the inextricable link between economic and ecological sustainability. It is not possible to achieve one without the other.”

Coast Funds is a globally recognized model of permanent conservation financing that invests to strengthen the well-being of First Nations and the ecological integrity of the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii regions of British Columbia, Canada. Founded with $118 million in 2007, Coast Funds is a partnership of private foundations and government: The Nature Conservancy, the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, Hewlett Foundation, Packard Foundation, Moore Foundation, Tides Canada, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.  As of September 2016, Coast Funds has approved over $70 million towards 271 conservation and sustainable development projects in the region.

Located on Canada’s Pacific Coast, the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii is one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests left on Earth. For thousands of years, First Nations have carefully managed the abundance of natural resources in the sea and on the land by relying on their knowledge of seasonal cycles to harvest a wide variety of resources without harming or depleting them.

Today, First Nations are developing sustainable business opportunities while continuing to steward the region’s resources and protect the integrity of coastal ecosystems. Legally established through land-use agreements between First Nations and the Province of British Columbia in 2006, this globally unique area covers 6.4 million hectares and has been home to First Nations communities since time immemorial.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is globally unique and I’m pleased to see that through the agreements reached in the area we’re able to balance the need for environmental protection in this area while still supporting job growth,” said Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations