Feds kick in money, after a year

  • Feb. 5, 2007 5:00 a.m.

The federal government finally added its $30-million to complete a $120-million groundbreaking conservation and economic development initiative on the central and north coast. Known as the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, the details were signed by the province, First Nations, industry and environmental groupsa year ago. An astonishing $60-million was raised from private sources, but the initiative was contingent on $30-million in matching funds from the federal and provincial governments. Premier Gordon Campbell pledged his $30-million last year. Council of Haida Nation president Guujaaw, along with elders and band councillors, were in Vancouver when John Baird, Minister of the Environment made the announcement on January 22. He says coastal First Nations sought a new kind of funding because they weren’t eligible for a different pot of economic development money available to muncipalities. Guujaaw says no priorities have been set for the money on Haida Gwaii, nor is it clear how First Nations from the tip of Vancouver Island, up the coast as far as Port Simpson and over to here, will be able to access the funds. Other First Nations spokespeople have talked about shellfish aquaculture projects that may now be able to move from pilot project stage to full implementation. Eco-lodges, such as King Pacific Lodge found on the central coast, are also possibilities. The funding is also earmarked for resource management initiatives connected to consensus land use plans, which have already been signed by 14 coastal First Nations. Guujaaw says the islands’ Land Use Plan is “pretty well there.” While other First Nations may have signed higher-level plans, they still haven’t done some of the on the ground work like cedar inventories that have been done here. He says the federal announcement came as quite a surprise, as many who have been involved in the long campaign to protect areas of the north and central coast, were skeptical this funding source would ever come through.

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