A Great Spirit Bear captured on camera in the Great Bear Rainforest. Images like these are now part of a resource that fits B.C.’s Grade 7-9, touching on topics such as conservation. Photography by Natalie Bowes

Sustainable economy flourishing in Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest thanks to First Nations investments

From 2008-2018, funding initiatives led to more than $286 million in new investments

First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii have created a flourishing economy that “links a healthy environment with the prosperity and well-being of their communities,” according to a report released by Coast Funds earlier this month.

Coast Funds is a finance organization led by Indigenous peoples. From 2008-2018 funding from the group has led to more than $286 million in new investments in the region.

“First Nations are building on a long tradition of stewarding their territories for the benefit of current and future generations,” says Brodie Guy, executive director of Coast Funds. “The benefits are substantial, and together we are demonstrating that conservation finance led by Indigenous people is the key to protecting the world’s most precious ecosystems, such as the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.”

Coast Funds was established in 2006 out of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement – a deal with the provincial government to enshrine in legislation laws that protect 85 per cent of the region’s forest from the north of Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle.

READ MORE: Great Bear Rainforest protection takes effect Jan. 1

The Coast Funds helped lead more than 200 species research and habitat restoration initiatives, 71 projects involving access to traditional foods, and 50 projects protecting cultural assets. They have also worked on economic development investments to support ecotourism projects, the sustainable aquaculture businesses, and the start-up of First Nations-run economic development corporations.

“First Nations investments in stewardship and sustainable development are having major impacts in communities across the coast.” said Huux Percy Crosby, of Haida Nation, board chair for Coast Funds. “They are creating a new conservation economy that protects this globally significant ecosystem for generations to come—a benefit that stretches far beyond the region.”

READ MORE: Ryan Reynolds to narrate movie about B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest

The report goes on to list the results of the sustainable investment work done over the course of the decade:

  • More than 1000 permanent jobs have been created.
  • One hundred businesses have been expanded or developed.
  • Fourteen regional monitoring and Guardian Watchmen programs, operating across an average area of 2.5 million hectares annually, have been created, expanded, and sustained.

“Over the last 10 years First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii have created a road-map for how we can sustain the most ecologically significant places on the planet while enhancing the well-being of the people who have lived in those places for thousands of years,” said Crosby. “This model can and must be replicated across the globe.”

Coast Funds announced its findings from 10 years of conservation finance in a publication which can be read online.

Jenna Cocullo | Reporter
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