Eighty-five per cent of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest is now protected under the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative.
READ MORE: Full coverage of the royal visit
William applauded the effort to protect the area as an example of what connects Commonwealth countries as they share the benefits of Canada’s knowledge and expertise in managing the forest.
“The establishment of the canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement that the citizens of all Commonwealth countries believe that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies,” he said.
“When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres, or like today our forests, we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world.”
The Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares on B.C.’s north and central coast and is home to 26 separate First Nations. Under the land use order, the remaining 15 per cent will be available for logging and supporting local jobs.
Ken Wu from Ancient Forest Alliance says this move is a big step forward to protecting B.C.’s forests.
“It raises the bar for other areas of the province,” he said. “This means it’s internationally recognized through a very powerful force.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced Monday that a $1-million trust will be created to celebrate the royal visit and promote the unique landscape. The fund will help raise awareness about the Great Bear Rainforest and support ongoing research.
Clark said the protected area of 6.4-million hectares is about the size of Ireland and it took about a decade to reach an agreement on its management.
“It was a long, hard negotiation but we all recognize we have a unique responsibility to preserve this jewel for the world,” she added.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) was launched in 2015 with the goal of uniting the Commonwealth’s 53 members in conserving forests for future generations. The Great Bear Rainforest is the first region in B.C. to be protected under this program.
“We don’t have anything like that in the rest of the province,” said Wu. “High levels of protection of forest is an important step forward.”
Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council, said they appreciate the recognition of the QCC. “We are pleased that our years of hard work and leadership are being showcased as a positive example of how to do things right for the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem and the peoples that are a part of it.”
The Great Bear Rainforest was originally established through land-use decisions first announced in 2006. It is home to many of B.C.’s species, including the Kermode (Spirit) bear.
Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilyn Slett said William and Kate’s focus on youth during their tour of B.C. ties in with plans for the rainforest.
“While the canopy designation recognizes the work we did around land-use planning, the interconnection between our lands and our waters cannot be understated,” she said.
“The Heiltsuk do this work because our children’s … futures depend on it.”
With files from The Canadian Press