side view of a man fishing on a small boat
Fishing in Great Bear Ernest (Charlie) Mason, a hereditary chief in the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation, is also a fisherman. He works as a boat operator and a bear guide for the Spirit Bear Lodge. © Jason Houston

Indigenous-Led Conservation

Great Bear Rainforest: Investing in Local Economies

A resilient coastal economy will underpin meaningful and lasting conservation.

Quote: Doug Neasloss

There is visible pride in the results that have been achieved.

Elected Chief, Kitasoo/Xai’xais

A unique goal of our work in the Great Bear Rainforest has been to support a resilient coastal economy to underpin meaningful and lasting conservation. Our global affiliate, The Nature Conservancy, helped established Coast Funds. With an initial $39-million investment in the Great Bear Rainforest, The Nature Conservancy leveraged additional private and public funding, resulting in the $120-million Coast Funds—divided evenly between an endowment to support conservation activities and a sinking fund to drive sustainable economic development.

From 1996-2017 Coast Funds have helped create:

  • 20 management plans led by First Nations prescribing how ecological areas, cultural features and traditional harvesting sites will be conserved forever;
  • 80 protected areas conserved through direct action by First Nations including land- and marine-based stewardship, research and monitoring activities;
  • 120 research projects on 31 different species.

Communities in this region are remote and in many cases can only be reached by float plane or boat. And yet the creativity and resilience of First Nations has spurred local economies, resulting in new businesses, jobs and sustainable resource development. Over time, we are seeing local economies become increasingly less reliant on single industries as new investment creates a diversity of small businesses.

As a result of these investments, 45 new businesses and 767 new, permanent jobs have been created in First Nation communities.

Some of the Coast Funds Success Stories

Quote: Wilma Mack

The value of taking ownership of this historic property has made our people proud of their heritage and their Nation.

Director of Administration, Bella Coola Motel

Quote: Jason Majore

The Haisla’s ownership of a major development has created jobs for our members all the way through.

Chief Operating Officer