Environmental Conservation

Coastal Guardian Watchmen programs monitor the land and sea, conduct field research, and lead habitat restoration projects across the coast. Photo by Meaghan Hume
Coastal Guardian Watchmen programs monitor the land and sea, conduct field research, and lead habitat restoration projects across the coast. Photo by Meaghan Hume

The Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii regions of British Columbia encompass the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest remaining in the world. First Nations have sustainably managed the abundant resources and ecosystems of this unique region for thousands of years.

Today, First Nations continue to lead conservation efforts in the region by combining traditional stewardship practices with modern science and regional monitoring that protects and restores ecological integrity across the coast. First Nation initiatives are resulting in robust research, habitat protection and restoration, and monitoring of key species and resources. These programs help to protect First Nations’ values and traditions, ensuring that resources and natural surroundings are sustained for future generations.

Environmental Conservation Outcomes

First Nations are working collaboratively with each other and the Province of British Columbia to develop management plans for designated protected areas.

Developing Management Plans

First Nations have published 26 protected area management plans through investments with Coast Funds. These plans prescribe how important ecological areas, cultural features, and traditional harvesting sites will be conserved for future generations.

Published Conservancy Management Plans since 2007

Conservancy Name Published Region
Duu Guusd Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Nang Xaldangaas Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Tlall Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
K’uuna Gwaay Heritage Site/Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Kunxalas Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Damaxyaa Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Yaaguun Suu Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Yaaguun Gandlaay Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Kamdis Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Daawuuxusda Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
SGaay Taw Siiwaay K’adjuu Heritage Site/Conservancy 2011 Haida Gwaii
Khutzeymateen Park (K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary) 2011 North Coast
Khutzeymateen Inlet Conservancy 2011 North Coast
Khutzeymateen Inlet West Conservancy 2011 North Coast
Huchsduwachsdu Nuyemjees / Kitlope Heritage Conservancy 2012 Kalum
Qwiquallaaq/Boat Bay Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Mahpahkum-Ahkwuna Deserters-Walker Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Tsa-Latĺ/Smokehouse Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Ẁaẁaƛ/Seymour Estuary Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Neǧiƛ/Nekite Estuary Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Ugʷiwa’/Cape Caution-Blunden Bay Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Ugʷiwa’/Cape Caution Conservancy 2013 Central Coast
Allison Harbour Marine Provincial Park 2013 Central Coast
Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy 2015 North Coast
K’nabiyaaxl/Ashdown Conservancy 2015 North Coast
Lax Kwil Dziidz/Fin Conservancy 2016 North Coast

Community Well-Being Impact

First Nations are engaging with British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment (BC Parks) on a government-to-government basis to develop management plans that affirm the significance of protected areas and provide guidelines for preserving important ecological and cultural values.

These plans outline cultural features, archeological sites, harvesting sites, and ecologically sensitive areas, ensuring that they can be protected and maintained for current and future generations. By establishing management plans, First Nations and the provincial government have guidelines  to regulate activities that can occur within protected areas.

We completed five drafts of conservancy management plans for areas of environmental and cultural importance to the Gitga’at people.

— Chris Picard, Science Director, Gitga'at First Nation

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State of the Gitga’at Ocean Report

The State of the Gitga’at Ocean Report aims to present Gitga’at members, leaders and research partners with the outcomes of key monitoring activities that have been occurring in the territory in recent years.

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First Nations are proactively managing protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii to preserve and enhance the ecological integrity of the region.

Managing Protected Areas

First Nations conducted conservation and stewardship work in 113 protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii through investments with Coast Funds.

Conservation Work Led By First Nations In Protected Areas

Community Well-Being Impact

There were 195 separate conservancies, parks, and protected areas established within the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii as of December 31, 2021. These areas include important animal habitats, sensitive ecosystems, and First Nations’ cultural and heritage sites.

First Nations are taking an active role in protection of these areas through land- and marine-based stewardship, research and restoration initiatives, preparing protected area management plans, and regional monitoring activities. Managing protected areas reinforces First Nations’ connection to their territory and helps to sustain cultural features and resources for the future.

We completed conservancy work including bivalve and crab assessments and research on potential harvest and oil spill impacts so we can protect important areas.

— Kyle Clifton, Environmental Assessment Officer, Gitga’at First Nation

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First Nations are protecting their territories through regional monitoring programs that patrol, survey, and collect valuable data from land and ocean environments with funding support from Coast Funds.

Guardian Watchmen Programs

First Nations operate 18 unique regional monitoring and Guardian Watchmen programs, covering an average area of 5.6 million hectares annually.

Regional Monitoring and Guardian Watchmen Programs
‘Namgis Nation
Council of the Haida Nation
Da’naxda’xw First Nation
Gitga’at First Nation
Gitxaala Nation
Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations
Haisla Nation Council
Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Kitasoo / Xai’xais Nation
K’ómoks First Nation
Lax Kw’alaams Band
Mamalilikulla Nation
Metlakatla Governing Council
Nuxalk Nation
 Tlowitsis First Nation
 Wei Wai Kum Nation
 Wuikinuxv Nation
Xwémalhkwu (Homalco) Nation

Keepers of the Coast is a documentary film by the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance that takes a close look at how the Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nations are stewarding their marine territories.  

Community Well-Being Impact

For thousands of years, First Nations have been caretakers of the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii, managing natural resources to ensure they were not depleted. Today, First Nations are continuing this vital role as proactive stewards of their territories through regional Guardian Watchmen programs.

Working with fisheries, forestry, and parks as technicians, guardians, and rangers, First Nations contribute to the successful implementation of land and marine use plans and other sustainable resource management initiatives. By monitoring activities for ecosystem-based management, First Nations are ensuring a vibrant future with continued access to the rich resources of the territory.

Our Guardian program has been incredible for our Nation to be able to visit remote parts of our territory and original communities that have been inaccessible for years. It also enables us to collect data to ensure the next generation are going to have the same resources we have today.

— Sherry Thomas, Band Administrator, Tlowitsis First Nation

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First Nations are leading research to assess and restore habitats, protecting species of special concern in a wide range of ecosystems found throughout the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.

Scientific Research and Habitat Restoration

First Nations have conducted 344 scientific research or habitat restoration initiatives, through investments with Coast Funds, on 68 different species, including whale, bear, wolverine, salmon, herring, and more.

Species Research and Restoration Initiatives By First Nations

Community Well-Being Impact

The Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii region is one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world. First Nations are working to protect this resource with habitat-oriented science that examines the ecological conditions for species to be protected.

Through species enumeration, invasive species management, stream assessments, water sampling, zooplankton analysis, biotoxicity monitoring, and other ecosystem science, First Nations are ensuring the delicate and productive ecology of the region is maintained.

Bears are culturally and economically significant to the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people. Using non-invasive hair snagging, we have been studying the population dynamics and distribution of bears in our territory so that we can better understand their movement and how to protect them.

— Doug Neasloss, Chief Councillor, Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation

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First Nations work with the Province of British Columbia to assess all applications for proposed commercial activities in the region.

Regulating Commercial Activities

First Nations operate 18 referral programs that are connected with Coast Funds-supported stewardship initiatives. These referral programs assess at least 1,985 applications each year for commercial land, marine or resource use in the region using First Nation land use planning, cultural, and resource data.

Referrals Processed by First Nations directly related to Coast Funds projects
First Nation Conservation Office that Evaluates Referrals
Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
Gitga’at Gitga’at Oceans and Lands Department
Gitxaala Gitxaala Nation
Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation
Haida Haida Solutions Table, Haida Gwaii Management Council
Haisla Haisla Natural Resources Department
Heiltsuk Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department
Kitasoo/Xai’xais Kitasoo Resource Stewardship Program
K’omoks Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
Kwiakah Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
Lax Kw’alaams Lax Kw’alaams Band
Mamalilikulla Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
Metlakatla Metlakatla Stewardship Society
Nuxalk Nuxalk Integrated Resource Office
Tlowitsis Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
We Wai Kai Nation We Wai Kai Nation
Wei Wai Kum Nation Na̲nwak̲olas Council Society
Wuikinuxv Wuikinuxv Resource Stewardship Office

Community Well-Being Impact

First Nations referral offices take a leading role in evaluating development applications proposed within First Nations territories. Applications are submitted to First Nations by the Province of British Columbia. The First Nations’ referral offices are often comprised of a multi-disciplinary team within First Nations’ integrated stewardship departments who evaluate proposals and provide the Nations’ leadership with advice on how proposed commercial activities may affect existing the Nations’ land use planning, important cultural features, and resources. These offices enable First Nations to collaborate with the Province of British Columbia to regulate ecosystem-based management, helping to ensure that future development is aligned with the conservation goals of First Nations’ communities.

Each referral we receive is reviewed and considered for decision using the existing Ecosystem-based Management Land Use Objectives and the Heiltsuk cultural and heritage information.

— Kelly Brown, Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, Heiltsuk First Nation

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