Photo: A David Suzuki Foundation moment in history: The Pacific Salmon Project -- Part 1


When the Foundation staff reflects on its most significant work, one initiative in particular always gets mentioned: the Pacific Salmon Forest Project. A four-year project created in 1998, the P.S.F. was a landmark initiative that involved First Nations communities in choosing and shaping economic development initiatives.

In the late-90s, the future of B.C.'s coastal temperate rainforests was uncertain. Home to 3000 distinct runs of wild Pacific salmon, as well as grizzly bears, bald eagles, and countless other species, the forests and oceans had sustained local First Nations communities for thousands of years. But decades of unsustainable resource extraction had taken a serious toll, depleting the rainforests and reducing salmon populations.

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The Foundation had long been concerned about the ecology and economy of B.C.'s coast. Convinced that its biological integrity depended on ecological principles for sustainable economic initiatives that created and maintained jobs in each community, staff envisioned an entirely new model of resource management, which depended on putting the ecosystem first, ensuring the well-being of the forests and waters before short-term economic gains. This vision was guided by executive director Jim Fulton, who had served as the M.P. for the Skeena riding, board member Miles Richardson of HaidaGwaii, and many others.

Of course, the Foundation could only achieve so much by itself. The next step was to get coastal communities involved and leading the initiative themselves.

In early 1998, Foundation co-founder Tara Cullis set out on the first of hundreds of diplomatic visits to gauge First Nation community's sentiments toward the P.S.F. project. Reception ranged from warm and welcoming to decidedly cool, but in time, Cullis returned to report that we had permission to begin the project in earnest.

She set out again in the summer of 1998, this time with a group of highly respected and professional women. The "Spice Girls tour," as they called themselves, comprised Pacific Salmon Forest Project community liaison Lula Johns, Dr. Joan Ryan of the Arctic Institute, lawyer Jane Woodward, and Dr. Roslyn Kunin, an economist and then-president of the Vancouver Stock Exchange. The team met with each community and discussed ecologically sustainable strategies, priming local leaders for the project's next steps.

March 16, 2012

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