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Place of Power: Lessons from the Great Bear Rainforest

By: Merran Smith

In 2006, after over a decade of campaigning by ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Sierra Club and others, and court cases and united actions by coastal First Nations, the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements were signed, protecting 5 million acres of rainforest land and shifting forest management to a new ecosystem based approach. This was followed, in 2007, by the landmark conservation financing, arranged by Tides Canada, which brought $120 million to the coastal First Nation communities to support conservation management and economic development in the region.

The links between conservation, new governance structures for First Nations, community health and economic sustainability transformed the way the region has been and will be managed for future generations. The Great Bear Rainforest agreements were heralded as the most comprehensive conservation agreement in North America by The Nature Conservancy, and awarded the ‘Gift to the Earth’ by WWF International.

Personally, I had spent over a decade deeply engaged in this work. I was asked to reflect on what the lessons were from this campaign and to put them down on paper. I thought I would work on the writing while on maternity leave but little did I know what twin baby girls would do to my life! After much juggling (and a little procrastinating!) I finally completed the project.

Place of Power: Lessons from the Great Bear Rainforest, is my version of what happened in the Great Bear Rainforest along with my sense of some of the key lessons from the experience. I hope these reflections are of interest and of value. Enjoy!

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