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

  • Haida First Nation

    Used to conduct a feasibility study, negotiate the purchase of a forestry tenure, and establish a Haida-owned company. Today, sustainable forestry management is at the core of their operations. Learn More

  • Homalco First Nation

    Used to redevelop the Orford Bay salmon hatchery facility and to develop safety guidelines and tour protocols for the Nation’s grizzly-bear viewing business in Bute Inlet. Learn More

  • Gitga'at First Nation

    negotiate an energy purchase agreement with BC Hydro and to complete development planning for a run-of-river hydroelectric generation project providing renewable energy to Hartley Bay. Learn More

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
  • Nuxalk First Nation

    Acquired the Bella Coola Motel. Said director of administration Wilma Mack: “The value of taking ownership of this historic property has made our people proud of their heritage and nation." Learn More

  • Lak Kw'alaams Band

    High-speed broadband Internet connectivity throughout their remote community to increase the productivity of business operations and enable online workforce development training. Learn More

Quote: Jason Majore

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

Chief Operating Officer
  • Kitasoo/Xais Xais

    Expanding the Spirit Bear Lodge. Today, the majority of the trained professional staff serving the lodge and guided tours come from the Kitasoo/Xai’xais community. Learn More

  • Haisla First Nation

    Bring a development permit to the approval stage for a commercial office complex at Haisla Town Centre in downtown Kitimat. Learn More