International environmental groups and Canadian officials said Sunday they have struck a C$120 million ($103 million) deal to help fund environmentally friendly businesses in Canada's Pacific coast rainforest.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- International environmental groups and Canadian officials said Sunday they have struck a C$120 million ($103 million) deal to help fund environmentally friendly businesses in Canada's Pacific coast rainforest.
The deal comes nearly a year after environmentalists, the timber industry and aboriginal communities in the coastal region reached a landmark agreement to end a long battle over protecting wilderness valleys in the area often referred to unofficially as the Great Bear Rainforest.
International donors, primarily in the United States, had pledged C$60 million to help develop eco-tourism and other industries. That money was contingent on both Ottawa and the province of British Columbia paying C$30 million.
The federal share had been tentatively agreed to by the previous Liberal government, but the final deal stalled after the Conservatives were elected in January 2006.
Earlier this month Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged that voters feel his government has not made the environment a high enough priority.
"The environment is not the domain of any one political party," Environment Minister John Baird told a ceremony in Vancouver.
The Great Bear Rainforest region, on the Pacific coast from Vancouver Island to the southern end of the Alaska Panhandle, contains some of North America's most dramatic scenery, with rugged mountains, coastal islands and few people.
Environmentalists said the deal to use private and public funds to promote environmentally sustainable businesses should be an example for international wilderness conservation.
"We need to succeed here, because if we do we can succeed in other places," Merran Smith of ForestEthics said.
Much of the money will be used in small native Indian communities, where unemployment is often more than 70 percent because of the decline of the fishing and timber industries.