Northwest British Columbia’s communities are in a time of change. Unsustainable resource use is putting pressure on the region’s remaining undeveloped areas and threatening the future of communities. At present, this area is less developed than any other part of the province, its rivers are without dams and largely unpolluted, and it is still rich in natural resources. Compared to other parts of the world, there are many options available to us.
First Nations people make up over 30 per cent of the Northwest’s population and land-claim discussions are well advanced in much of the region. Transferring responsibility for management of land and resources has already begun and will continue in years to come an important opportunity to enhance land management policies in the region.
The Northwest has a history of First Nations and environmentalists working together. Examples include opposing the proposed supertanker port in Kitimat, protecting South Morseby Island (Gwaii Haanas), and opposing the Kemano II project. In these cases, motivation came from an outside threat. Now there is a desire to move beyond simply reacting, to take a more proactive role in identifying values and supporting resource use that is ecologically sound and supports communities.
In 1996 a number of northwest First Nations and environmental leaders came together with scientists to form a non-profit organization called the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research. Board members are from the Hazelton-Smithers area and an advisory council with representatives from throughout the region as well as from a variety of disciplines has been established.
The Northwest Institute seeks to:
- Undertake research and the publication of educational information about conservation and environmentally sound, sustainable uses of natural resources, primarily in northwest British Columbia.
- Promote cooperation within and among communities in the region, including First Nations and others interested in resource uses that protect biological diversity and support sustainable communities.
- Initiate model projects in the fields of education and conservation which demonstrate these objectives.