ForestEthics supports First Nations in asserting rights and title to protect their Territories from industrial development.
Securing the world-renowned Great Bear Rainforest Agreements would not have been possible without the efforts of First Nations to protect their land and way of life. In 2006, the government of British Columbia committed to designating over 5 million acres (2.2 million hectares) as conservancies, and in 2009 those commitments became law.
ForestEthics supported First Nations in the region to be recognized as governments with authority over their traditional territories. In 2006 British Columbia’s coastal First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest signed Government-to-Government Agreements for land management with the provincial government. We worked with them to establish new laws to create protected areas called Conservancies and to institute Ecosystem Based Management, a system of lighter touch logging. The conservancies prohibit industrial development, but allow First Nations’ traditional and cultural uses. Putting in place Ecosystem Based Management is currently underway. When fully implemented, logging will not exceed the carrying capacity of the forests – with the goal of maintaining 70% of the natural level of old forests and high levels of human well-being.
For conservation measures to be truly environmentally responsible, local communities must have access to economic alternatives to harmful resource extraction. We helped catalyze $120 million Coastal Opportunity Fund specifically dedicated to First Nations' conservation-based businesses and the planning and management of the protected areas in First Nations' territories.
In British Columbia's Sacred Headwaters, communities fought back and they won. Beginning 2005, a handful of courageous Tahltan First Nations blockaded Shell’s access to the pristine region in northwest BC. The result? Fifteen people were arrested, including nine elders. Opposition mounted, and by 2006 hundreds of surrounding local community members took to the streets to protest the energy giant's plans to frack in that iconic wilderness.
In 2008, the government of BC announced a four-year moratorium on Shell's plans to destroy the Sacred Headwaters. Yet a temporary moratorium was not enough for a region so important, ecologically and culturally speaking. That moratorium on drilling was set to expire on December 18, 2012. The following day, the BC government announced that Shell would be withdrawing its plans to develop coalbed methane (for natural gas) in the Sacred Headwaters, and that the area will be forever protected from gas and oil drilling.
Thanks to the courage of the Tahltan Nation, the communities downstream from the Sacred Headwaters, and concerned people worldwide who stood up to Shell and raised their voices to the government of British Columbia, this stunning region is now protected from Shell’s coalbed methane drilling for good.