Our Stories

Great Bear Rainforest: Investing in Local Economies

A resilient coastal economy will underpin meaningful and lasting conservation.

with support from coast funds, First nations have created 45 new businesses and 767 new, permanent jobs — including the examples below.

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. To achieve this, we established Coast Funds. With our initial $39-million investment in the Great Bear Rainforest TNC 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, including these examples:

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Salmon drying. © Erika Nortemann/TNC 

Haida First Nation

$375,000 investment to conduct a feasibility study, negotiate the purchase of a forestry tenure and establish a Haida-owned company. As their company has grown, the Haida have ensured that world-recognized sustainable forestry management is at the core of their operations and they are accountable to the standards of the Haida Nation’s Land Use Order.

Homalco First Nation

$166,000 investment 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.

Gitga'at First Nation

$475,000 investment to 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.

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A female grizzly and her two cubs © Stephen Oachs

Nuxalk First Nation

$410,000 investment in acquiring the Bella Coola Motel to support tourism. “The Nuxalk Nation is the proud new operator of the Bella Coola Motel and our business objectives have been exceeded in five months of operation,” said director of administration Wilma Mack. “The value of taking ownership of this historic property has made our people proud of their heritage and their Nation.” 

Lax Kw’alaams Band

$920,295 investment in high-speed broadband Internet connectivity throughout their remote community to increase the productivity of business operations and enable online workforce development training.

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Klemtu Forest © Jason Houston

Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation

$727,000 (combined with $350,000 in First Nation-secured funding) to invest in expanding the Spirit Bear Lodge. “The impact was immediate,” said manager Tim McGrady. “We increased revenues 250 percent in the first year and 100 percent again the next year. There’s no looking back.” Today, the majority of the trained professional staff serving the lodge and guided tours come from the Kitasoo/Xai’xais community. Elected Chief Doug Neasloss said, “There is visible pride in the results that have been achieved.”

Haisla First Nation

$100,000 investment to bring a development permit to the approval stage for a commercial office complex at Haisla Town Centre in downtown Kitimat. “The Haisla’s ownership of a major development has created jobs for our members all the way through, said chief operating officer Jason Majore. “There were jobs during the construction of each phase of the development; and post-construction, it is expected that the jobs created will include property managers, accounting, restaurant management, hospitality, retail, and several other positions.”

To learn more about Coast Funds and see other projects that have been supported, visit coastfunds.ca.