Legacies: Success Stories in the Great Bear Rainforest

Feature story - February 27, 2012
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements of 2006 and 2009 protect the forest's many ecologically intact valleys. They are the result of a decade of negotiations between Greenpeace, ForestEthics and Sierra Club BC, and the government of British Columbia, the region’s First Nations, and the forest products industry The Agreements include the creation of a $120 million Coast Opportunity Fund (COF), which supports conservation and sustainable economic development in the region. Although implementation of the Agreements has been slow, COF-supported initiatives are underway. This story is the first in an ongoing series profiling successful sustainable businesses and conservation initiatives that have benefitted from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements of 2006 and 2009 protect the forest's many ecologically intact valleys. They are the result of a decade of negotiations between Greenpeace, ForestEthics and Sierra Club BC, and the government of British Columbia, the region’s First Nations, and the forest products industry The Agreements include the creation of a $120 million Coast Opportunity Fund (COF), which supports conservation and sustainable economic development in the region. Although implementation of the Agreements has been slow, COF-supported initiatives are underway. This story is the first in an ongoing series profiling successful sustainable businesses and conservation initiatives that have benefitted from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.

Spirit Bear Lodge

We started with community walking tours, then we started getting into kayak tours, culture tours, and wildlife tours, which include Grizzly and Spirit Bear.

— Doug Neasloss, Spirit Bear Lodge guide and cultural interpreter

Photo: Doug Neasloss / Spirit Bear Lodge
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest intact coastal temperate rainforests on Earth. It is home to many species including Orcas, Salmon, Eagles, Grizzly and Black Bears, and the rare Spirit Bear. It spans an area of about 64,000 square kilometres. For thousands of years First Nations have called the region home.

 

Spirit Bear Lodge, a cultural ecotourism, community-based business owned and operated by the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation, has benefitted from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements and Coast Opportunity Fund. Since 2001, Spirit Bear Lodge has welcomed visitors from around the world, sharing the history and culture of Klemtu—a community of 420 people at the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Spirit Bear Lodge was built in 2009 and expanded with a $727,000 award from the COF in 2010. The operation as a whole gives visitors a chance to learn about Kitasoo/Xaixais culture at dozens of ancient cultural sites in the region.

Klemtu emerged in the 1850s. There are differing interpretations of the meaning of the name. One interpretation means “can't get through,” likely due to the thick kelp bed that once spanned the Inside Passage—a coastal route around myriad islands that traces the southern half of the Great Bear Rainforest.

The village borders Princess Royal Island, home of the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, where visitors can watch for Spirit Bears and Black Bears. The Spirit Bear is a genetic variant of the Black Bear.

As a cultural ecotourism leader, Spirit Bear Lodge works to ensure the environmental and economic sustainability of its operations – essential principles for a conservation economy enshrined in the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.

Photo: Doug Neasloss / Spirit Bear Lodge
Humpback whales bubble net a meal.

In a conservation economy, community needs are met through the use of the bioregion's local natural resources. Economic opportunities that improve cultural, social and environmental conditions are sought to sustain and restore the local environment.

With one-and-a-half full time, year-round positions, and five full-time positions during tour season, direct employment from Spirit Bear Lodge is significant for Klemtu's community. The tour company would like to see over time local entrepreneurs purchase and operate charter vessels for contract guiding.

Tourism in the region continues to grow and Spirit Bear Lodge expects to increase its market share in the years to come. Growth has increased patronage for the village's store and fuel station, as well as the demand for local souvenirs and artisan wares.

A community-based business

As a community-based business, Spirit Bear Lodge works to ensure that its efforts align with the needs of the community. Each year the community's input and feedback is sought at the operation's Annual General Meeting and the community's perspective on expanding tourism is surveyed every decade. This allows Spirit Bear Lodge to strike a balance between cultural imperatives and environmental and economic sustainability in a rainforest it helps gift with a sense of place.
 
To help ensure these sorts of initiatives will only thrive in the Great Bear Rainforest, take the pledge to Take the take it taller to safeguard the Great Bear Rainforest.

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