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COP15: Government of Canada Commits Funding for Indigenous-Led Conservation in the Great Bear Sea

Group photo of Dallas Smith, PM Justin Trudeau, Christine Smith-Martin, and Merv Child.
From left to right: Dallas Smith – President, Na̲nwak̲olas Council; Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister, Canada; Christine Smith-Martin – CEO, Coastal First Nations; Merv Child – Executive Director, Na̲nwak̲olas Council. (Photo: Coastal First Nations, Na̲nwak̲olas Council.)

Coast Funds welcomes the Government of Canada’s $800-million commitment, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the COP15 conference in Montreal, to supporting four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, including one in the Great Bear Sea.

Along the Pacific coast, 17 First Nations are working through Coastal First Nations and Na̲nwak̲olas Council, with support from Coast Funds and other partners, to secure durable protections and conservation financing for marine ecosystems in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, also known as the Great Bear Sea. First Nations are developing a Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative, a model first applied in the Great Bear Rainforest, through the establishment of Coast Funds, that brings partners, financing, and regulations together to support lasting conservation of a region.

“Our success in the Great Bear Rainforest has proven that Indigenous-led conservation works for nature and for people, and the extension of this PFP model in the Great Bear Sea will bring our vision full circle by linking management and stewardship across land and sea. This PFP is about more than funding, it’s about a new model of conservation and sustainability founded on principles of stewardship and collaborative governance,” said Dallas Smith, President of Na̲nwak̲olas Council and Chair of Coast Funds’ board of directors, in a joint media release. “We’d like to thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to bring Canada to the table, alongside our philanthropic partners, so we can deliver this new PFP by 2025.”

Our success in the Great Bear Rainforest has proven that Indigenous-led conservation works for nature and for people.

woman faces away from camera and stands in a forest, clipboard in hand
Guardians like Angela Davidson (Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala First Nation) act as the “eyes and ears” of their Nation and work to monitor species and habitats, restore ecosystems, gather ecological and cultural data, and ensure that resource users follow rules and protocols. (Photo: Barb Dinning, Na̲nwak̲olas Council.)

Fifteen years ago, in the Great Bear Rainforest, 27 First Nations partnered with Crown governments, funders, environmental groups, and the forestry sector to protect 6.4 million hectares of coastal temperate rainforest. Together, they developed a plan to support stewardship in this region and created the world’s first PFP, securing $120 million in stewardship and economic financing and creating Coast Funds, the world’s first Indigenous-led conservation financing organization, to manage those funds.

With Coast Funds, First Nations have leveraged PFP financing in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii to:

  • Expand and launch 18 Guardian programs, which monitor 5.6 million hectares each year
  • Complete 344 research and habitat restoration projects, benefitting 68 species
  • Create, expand, and acquire 112 businesses across a range of sectors
  • Support 1,198 permanent jobs, employing about 13 per cent of the Indigenous workforce on the coast
  • Attract $370 million of investment in coastal economies

“Conservation and protection take money: for land planning work, for funding for communities, for stewardship and monitoring, for supporting local jobs and growth. It takes resources to create a conservation economy where caring for the land is a career opportunity, where people can be stewards of their own homes,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at yesterday’s announcement. “By working together, we’re able to deliver that major, necessary support, that no individual partner could make alone.”

The federal government’s commitment to funding for Indigenous-led conservation is an important milestone in protecting the Great Bear Sea and recognizes the pivotal role of Indigenous Nations in helping to achieve Canada’s goal to conserve 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030.

Looking ahead, Coast Funds is proud to support First Nations and our partners at Coastal First Nations and Na̲nwak̲olas Council in building a next-generation PFP that extends protections, stewardship financing, and economic opportunities into First Nations’ marine territories.

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