Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


First Nations welcome rainforest opportunities

April 24, 2006

(Victoria, BC) – First Nations will be allowed to open fishing lodges and eco-tourism operations in the newly protected areas along B.C.‘s North and Central Coast under new legislation being introduced by the provincial government.

Environment Minister Barry Penner has announced that more than 1.2 million hectares of the protected sections of the area, widely known as the Great Bear Rainforest, will be classified as “conservancies.”

That’s a level of protection that stops short of park status.

The area includes one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world, and is home to one of the world’s last large populations of grizzly bears and a rare, white variation of the black bear – the Kermode or Spirit Bear.
Penner said the new legislation will not permit heavy industrial use such as commercial logging, mining or large-scale hydroelectric projects.

However, the government will allow fishing lodges, wilderness tourism operations or power projects – if they’re consistent with conservation values and the interests of First Nations.

“Any economic activity or proposal for activity in the conservancy has to be consistent with the principles in the legislation which is to preserve the conservancies for future generations.” said the minister, who noted the conservancies were created in consultation with First Nations.

Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, says the new designation will permit aboriginal people to pursue economic opportunities in their traditional territory.

“It was important that we not be seen as just some curiosity within our traditional territories; that we actually get involved in the economy,” he said.

Penner said there are no plans to convert any existing provincial parks to conservancies.