Great Bear Rainforest

Nature's First Defenders

See how we work in partnership with indigenous peoples, like the Heiltsuk.


A Healthy Future for Great Bear

A quick overview and powerful case statement for our work in the region.



British Columbia Coast between Vancouver Island and Southeast Alaska


64,000 square kilometers


British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is part of the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on Earth. This is a land of mist-shrouded valleys and glacier-cut fjords, old-growth forests, rare spirit bears and rich salmon streams. It’s also home to First Nations people who have been linked to the rainforest since time immemorial.


Industrial developments, logging, and the combined effects of climate change continue to threaten the cultural and ecological integrity of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Our Impact

TNC Canada works in the Great Bear Rainforest to foster local natural resource management, support First Nations leadership, and engage the next generation to steward their lands and waters.

Our Approach

The historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreement places 9 million acres off limits to logging and millions more acres under strict forest management guidelines.

We’re helping build sustainable and resilient communities by supporting local leadership, and natural resource management agencies, schools, and conservation-based businesses.

We’re combining our scientific and conservation planning know-how with traditional First Nations knowledge, including approaches to decision making that incorporate indigenous laws and customs.

Our Initiatives
  • The SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) initiative—a program supported by TNC Canada—provides hands-on educational opportunities for indigenous youth in leadership and natural resource management. For these young people, SEAS connects youth to their culture and builds a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to support the ongoing stewardship of the lands and waters in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • TNC Canada also supports community exchanges and peer learning networks with indigenous communities in the Great Bear Rainforest and around the world. Recent learning exchanges include the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia to share strategies for indigenous-led natural resource stewardship, and a workshop between the Dzawada’enuxw and Nuxalk tribes to discuss fisheries management.
  • Working with local First Nations, TNC Canada supports the use of strong science and traditional knowledge to protect culturally important sites and resources. The TNC Canada-supported Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network is filling the need for ongoing monitoring and stewardship in coastal British Columbia.
  • With TNC Canada’s support, First Nations have developed rigorous scientific data on grizzly bear abundance on the central coast of British Columbia. We’re working with the Central Coast First Nations Bear Working Group, an intrepid group of young leaders taking decisive action to steward the bears they live with in the Great Bear Rainforest.
The Spirit Bear

The living symbol of the Great Bear Rainforest is the rare and elusive spirit bear. Spirit bears are actually black bears—a recessive gene makes approximately one in ten black bears as white as a polar bear. Only about 400 spirit bears persist in remote regions of coastal British Columbia.

Though rarely seen, the spirit bear is promoted as a symbol of the Great Bear Rainforest—and a reminder of the importance of protecting this special place on the planet.

Other Wildlife
  • Grizzly bears
  • Orcas
  • Humpback whales
  • Fin whales
  • Bald Eagles
  • Marbled murrelet
  • Wolves
  • Salmon

First Nations are the traditional stewards of the lands and waters within the Great Bear Rainforest. The well-being of the Great Bear Rainforest goes hand in hand with the well-being of the those who habit it.

We work with First Nations leaders to support local resource management that enhances the ecological and cultural well being in the region and ensures the sustainability of communities for generations to come.

We strive to develop meaningful partnerships with First Nations communities that create a dialogue of trust and respect for indigenous rights and cultural traditions.

How You Can Help

We need your support to continue our momentum working with local indigenous communities to develop a model for sustainable resource management that will have global implications. The time is now to invest in the Great Bear Rainforest.


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