Photo by Michael Snyder.

Exploring modes of funding and governance for the Lower Fraser River

Global case studies for the development of a comprehensive, place-based conservation strategy in the Lower Fraser.

June 2024
ISBN: 978-1-9993892-7-7

About Raincoast

Raincoast is a team of scientists and conservationists dedicated to safeguarding the land, waters, and wildlife of coastal British Columbia.

Our vision for coastal British Columbia is to protect the habitats and resources of umbrella species. We believe this approach will help safeguard all species, including people, and ecological processes that exist at different scales. Central to our efforts are long-term partnerships with Indigenous governments.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes.
We inform by bringing science to decision makers and communities.
We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.


By Kristen Walters and Auston Chhor.

Art by Sarah Jim.

Thank you to Riley Finn, Misty MacDuffee, Allison Dennert, Ross Dixon, and Chris Genovali for your contributions. 


We would like to thank our funders, the Vancouver Foundation, Bullitt Foundation, Sitka Foundation, and the Real Estate Foundation of BC who have made this work possible.

Logos for the Vancouver Foundation, Bullitt Foundation, Sitka Foundation, and Real Estate Foundation of BC.

Executive summary

The Lower Fraser River

The Fraser River is a legacy to the economic, cultural, and ecological backbone of British Columbia. Draining more than a quarter of the province and supporting one of the largest Pacific salmon runs in the world, it is a globally renowned river. The Lower Fraser, defined as the ecoregion between Yale, BC and Metro Vancouver, contains some of the most important spawning and rearing habitat along the entire river. Decades of development have left the Lower Fraser facing numerous challenges, including extensive habitat loss, flooding, and water pollution.

The need

There is no comprehensive funding or management plan for the Lower Fraser, despite the scale of the issues that threaten it. Funding provided for community groups, First Nations, and NGOs is on a project-by-project basis and uncoordinated, without a centralized governing body or strategic direction. This piecemeal approach can lead to overlapping of efforts and lack of prioritization that ultimately hinders the success of long-term ecological goals.


This report outlines financial strategies and governance structures that should help organizations secure a consistent, long-term revenue stream and guide large-scale, ecosystem-based conservation efforts. Our aim is for the case studies contained in this report to act as a foundation for the development of a comprehensive, place-based conservation strategy in the Lower Fraser.

Funding strategies

We present a variety of funding strategies in this report, yet it must be acknowledged that there is no single funding strategy that is ideal for all projects. It is important to weigh the tradeoffs of each strategy and determine how it may align or conflict with a region’s geography, political environment, and ecological goals. In the context of the Lower Fraser, we provide three funding strategies that can be readily applied to fund a long-term conservation strategy in the region: endowment funds, government grants, and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).

Endowment funds enable organizations to transform one-time capital investments into a consistent and relatively secure revenue stream, bypassing the need for regular funding proposals and buffering against changes in the economic or political environment that may affect granting agencies.

Government grants are common as a source of initial funding, and there are a variety of grants targeted to conservation work available through all levels of government. Within the timeframe of a 4-year political term, government grants can provide a secure funding source. However, shifts in political leadership or uncertain economic outlooks can, and often do, impact the reliability and amounts of government grants. Further, government grants often require organizations to regularly re-apply for funding and may have policies siloing the breadth of work that money can be directed towards. 

Another strategy explored in this report is Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). PES strategies quantify the economic value that ecosystems provide as free public services, such as flood mitigation, water purification, and erosion control, then provide a value-matched monetary incentive for landowners to protect those habitat components. This report details two such strategies, which involved the payment of landowners and farmers to adopt non-polluting practices and protect freshwater habitat. In both case studies, a significant amount of habitat was protected, water quality metrics improved, and municipalities were saved the cost of expensive water treatment infrastructure.

Artwork of where the Fraser River drains into the ocean.
Art by Sarah Jim.

Themes of governance

In this report we also highlight themes observed in effective conservation organizations; namely, transparency, community-led decision-making, and Indigenous leadership. These themes were key to helping organizations adhere to their long-term goals and facilitate buy-in from regional stakeholders. 

Transparent operations and regular impact reporting hold programs accountable to the public, and impact reports help other organizations learn from and adapt strategies for their own projects. This report could not have been completed without the transparency of the case studies included. 

In many of the case studies explored, communities were at the forefront of decision making. This helped facilitate greater local ownership and buy-in of the programs by NGOs, government, First Nations, and the general public. Historically, regional level management plans in the Lower Fraser River, specifically, the Fraser River Estuary Management Plan (FREMP), were managed by a “top-down” approach to governance that had conflicting mandates, prioritized industry and development, lacked Indigenous engagement, and lacked sustainable funding. Further, a lack of legislation and long-term vision to ensure program persistence ultimately led to its unpopularity and demise over time. 


In 2020, research led by Dr. Tara Martin at UBC, using a decision-making tool known as Priority Threat Management (PTM), found that a business-as-usual approach to decisions affecting the Lower Fraser will likely lead to the loss of two-thirds of at-risk species. The researchers called for an investment of $381 million over 25 years, and determined that a co-governance structure between First Nations and other governments was the most successful strategy for conserving species at risk (Kehoe et al. 2020). Biodiversity in Indigenous managed land has also been shown to equal or exceed that in protected areas, further solidifying the necessity of having local Indigenous communities lead decision-making and conservation work in the Lower Fraser.


The Lower Fraser: The ecological heart of the Fraser

The Fraser River is the largest river on the west coast of Canada1 with a watershed that drains more than one-quarter of British Columbia. With its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, the Fraser River spans the entire width of British Columbia before draining into a large and biodiverse estuary at the edge of the Salish Sea. It is one of the largest salmon-producing rivers in the world, hosting all six species of Pacific salmonids (sockeye, Chinook, pink, coho, chum, steelhead) native to North America.2 The Fraser River and its salmon are tightly linked to the culture, economy, and livelihood of Indigenous communities that have lived in the watershed since time immemorial. 

The Lower Fraser River, defined as the stretch from to the estuary, contains some of the most important salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the entire Fraser. Yet, since the 1930s, 71,000 hectares of wetland and almost 150,000 hectares of forest have been lost due to agricultural, residential, and industrial development.2 Despite a renewed focus on conservation in the region, including the creation of coordinating bodies like the defunct Fraser River Estuary Management Plan, habitat loss has continued to be one of the most critical issues facing the watershed. 

The sheer extent of industry and development pressures in the Lower Fraser combined with the overlapping of multiple jurisdictions throughout the watershed has likely resulted in the inability of regulatory bodies to mitigate habitat loss. The siloing of the many agencies responsible for habitat protection and restoration in the Lower Fraser creates an environment where habitat initiatives are completed on a project-by-project basis, without an overarching strategic direction to guide them. These systemic problems have produced a watershed whose primary value is industry, with salmon habitat, water quality, and biodiversity an afterthought. Now, more than 50% of Fraser River salmon populations are threatened or endangered.2

Table 1. Status of salmon Conservation Units (and populations) in the Fraser River watershed
A table showing the status of salmon conservation units and population in the Fraser River watershed.
Status of 46 salmon Conservation Units (and populations) in the Fraser River watershed as evaluated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Further, there is no coordinated funding strategy in place for conservation in the Lower Fraser River. Funding provided by the federal and provincial governments is inconsistent and propped up by the philanthropic sector. Many of these grants are short-term, curbing progress on long-term conservation projects that are necessary to address the scope of issues in the Lower Fraser. To address climate change, habitat loss, and water pollution, long-term projects are vital to conservation efforts; sustainable funding strategies will help to ensure that the work by NGOs, First Nations, and community groups is focused on conservation, rather than on securing funding.

Many of the funding strategies detailed in this report are built to buffer against inflation, market upheavals, and changes in the political environment, factors that would usually affect short-term funding sources. We also highlight examples of decision-making structures that facilitate collaboration among First Nations, all levels of government, community organizations, scientific experts, and private industry. 

Also detailed in this report are several Regional Conservation Strategies (RCSs), a governance structure that is highly applicable to the Lower Fraser Region. Regional Conservation Strategies guide long-term decision-making about future growth and development in a region. The development of a RCS involves establishing a geographical framework for the strategy by mapping and analyzing habitat, ecosystem types, and the presence of endangered or threatened species.3 The process provides a scientific foundation for a region’s ecological goals, and identifies place-based management priorities that are particular to the region’s climate, ecotypes, and relationship with communities and user groups. This larger, regional view extends beyond municipal boundaries and provides collaborative opportunities among municipalities on conservation initiatives, which can result in cost-savings and greater coordination of efforts. It is clear that the development of a Regional Conservation Strategy in the Lower Fraser could provide tangible benefits for the region, however the issues associated with past attempts, such as the Fraser River Estuary and Management Plan (FREMP), reveal the challenges that can arise when an RCS does not have Indigenous communities guiding decision-making and planning from the outset and no sustainable funding mechanism in place. 

Our aim is to provide organizations and agencies working in the Lower Fraser with models of funding and governance that can support sustainable, long-term conservation and restoration initiatives in the Lower Fraser River.

Case studies

Canada and North America

The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, NB, Canada


The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation was established in 2005 to provide funding and other support to community groups, First Nations, researchers, and other organizations working to conserve, restore, and protect wild Atlantic salmon.4 The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation also aims to improve watershed-level management and has a strong focus on public awareness, outreach, and education.


The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation was established with a one time grant of $30 million from the government of Canada and as of 2021 the market value of the fund was just over $43 million.5 The financial strategy is annually reviewed by the board of directors and is designed to maintain the fund against projected inflation while maintaining annual project funding. The funding formula used by the foundation provides a base allocation to each province totalling $1 million in total grant money annually. 


The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation holds a call for proposals once a year from April to mid-November, which are reviewed by staff and an advisory committee. They also rely heavily on the advisory committee structure to ensure that funds are distributed equitably among the variety of stakeholder groups interested in Atlantic salmon conservation.5 Six advisory committees exist, five of which are provincial committees made up of expert volunteers identified in consultation with stakeholder groups and governments. The five provincial committees evaluate priorities for salmon in their respective jurisdictions and make recommendations for which projects should be funded. These committees also take part in monitoring the projects that have been approved; in addition, they meet twice a year to carry out these duties. 

The Scientific Advisory Committee is the sixth advisory group and was added in 2015.6 It plays a key role in ensuring the wise investment in applied scientific research projects, as well as assisting the board of directors with maintaining effective policy and strategic direction. It is composed of eminent scientists that are capable of guiding the foundation to fund strategically important scientific projects that will produce a difference for Atlantic salmon. 


Since its inception in 2005, the foundation has funded a total of 666 projects that has totalled $10.8 million in grant funding for Atlantic salmon conservation. The total leveraged value of these projects is $58.8 million, resulting in an overall leveraging benefit of approximately five to one.5 

New York City Watershed Program, New York, USA


The New York City Watershed Program is a management strategy to protect New York City’s drinking water through habitat protection, sediment control, and a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program in the Catskill and Delaware Watersheds. In the 1980s, New York City faced looming threats to its drinking water quality primarily due to pressures on upstream farmers to industrialize. Faced with a prospect of constructing a multi-billion dollar water treatment facility, the New York Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a then-radical plan to protect the upstream watersheds by partnering with farmers and purchasing land. The PES strategy saw the state provide financial incentives for farmers to protect land or alter their agricultural practices in ways that reduced nutrient loading, runoff, and erosion. Farmers, with the support of the state’s EPA, developed a “whole-farm” management plan which aimed to link the state’s interest in water quality with the economic interests of the farmers. Over 90% of farms in the Cat-Del watershed adopted the program.7 


The program was funded by the state of New York and the New York City Water and Sewer department.


The program saw multi-stakeholder collaboration, including state and municipal governments, utility departments, and farmers and residents in the Cat-Del watershed. In 1997, the New York City Watershed Agreement was signed between the stakeholders to ensure future cooperation in protecting the watershed.


Today, New York City water consistently ranks among the cleanest in the world and the program has simultaneously protected thousands of acres of habitat in the Cat-Del Watershed. Agricultural nutrient loading in the watershed was also reduced by 80% and helped build widespread public support for other urban watershed protection plans.8 New York City is still one of the few major cities that can provide drinking water without the need for expensive filtration facilities, which would have had undue economic costs on low-income residents through hikes in utility rates.9 Many protected watershed areas also provide recreational opportunities.

A salmon splashes in a stream with extreme light and dark areas.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission – Tribal Habitat Strategy, WA, U.S.A


The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) is an organization that supports over 20 treaty tribes in Western Washington.10 This includes: Lummi, Nooksack, Swinomish, Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Tulalip, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Suquamish, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah, Quileute, Quinault, and Hoh. The NWIFC aims to make more efficient use of limited federal funding for natural resource management and also provides a forum for tribes to address natural resource management issues and provides a conduit for voicing thoughts in Washington, DC. 

The Fish Habitat Strategy developed by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Treaty tribes is a tool intended to better focus and align collective efforts that aim to protect and restore salmon habitat in the Elwha and Puyallup watersheds in Washington State.11 The strategy has five key targets, including: riparian, floodplain, water quality and quantity, nearshore, and the Pacific ocean. The Fish Habitat Strategy is used to hold landowners, developers, and regulators responsible for creating habitat needed to recover salmon and meet tribal treaty obligations. Broadly, the objectives for these focus ecosystems are to protect and restore essential ecosystem processes and diversity.


Initial funding for the NWIFC came from the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington, as well as the individual tribes. Subsequently, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has provided funding. 


The NWIFC is governed by its member tribes, which elect commissioners to develop policy and steer the organizations. Commissioners then elect a chair, vice chair, and treasurer from each member tribe. Commissioners provide direction to the NWIFC Executive Director, who advances the guidance provided by the other committee members. The Commission also provides support for non-member tribes through statewide programs on natural resource management.10 


The NWIFC has developed a comprehensive process to improve the accountability of issued development permits that result in habitat loss, and has provided oversight on habitat recovery projects in the context of the Tribal Habitat Strategy. NWIFC biologists have also assisted member tribes in evaluating data relating to the genetic structure of salmon populations to evaluate gene flow and guide their hatchery broodstock operations.1

First Nations Fisheries Council, British Columbia, Canada


The First Nations Fisheries Council (FNFC) is a coordinating body that works on behalf of Indigenous Nations to protect First Nations Rights and Title relating to fisheries.12 The FNFC achieves this by convening Nations, eliciting common priorities, securing feedback, and disseminating this information back to Nations to advance the priority access to fisheries for food, cultural, and economic purposes.13 In addition, they support First Nations efforts to build and maintain capacity related to fishing, planning, policy, and law. 

The FNFC supports several environmental and fisheries programs to advance themes identified in their Action Plan.14 These include: the Aquaculture Coordinating Committee, Salmon Coordinating Committee, Oceans Protection Plan, and the ‘Water for Fish’ project. 


The internal governance of FNFC includes an Executive Council that is composed of delegates selected by BC First Nations in the 14 regions in BC. The FNFC reports to BC Chiefs in Assembly through presentations and written updates at each First Nation Summit. The FNFC also supports the members of the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), a group of political executives from the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, which was signed by all parties in September 2013.14 


The Water for Fish project was started in 2012 to advance the objectives in the BC First Nations Fisheries Action Plan under the theme of ‘Safeguarding Habitat and Responding to Threats’.15 The project aims to support First Nations involvement in watershed governance, habitat restoration, and management practices. The project received funding from The Real Estate Foundation of BC, BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, LUSH Charitable Giving, New Relationship Trust, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The Water for Fish project has established the First Nations Water Network, a network of over 270 BC First Nations staff and leadership actively collaborating to protect and manage freshwater in their territories. In addition, the FNFC hosted the BC First Nations Water Governance Roundtable. FNFC hosts workshops, forums, and monthly ‘Water Wednesday’ webinars on freshwater planning, management and governance issues. FNFC published a major research report, Protecting Water Our Way: First Nations Freshwater Governance in British Columbia, which features five case studies that highlight key elements of First Nations-led water planning and governance in British Columbia. The report focused on examining the engagement, impacts, and opportunities of Crown policy and legislation, including the Water Sustainability Act, through the lens of Aboriginal Rights and Title. In all of their initiatives, the FNFC aims to conduct collaborative efforts with ENGOs, academic, philanthropic, and Crown government partners.15

First Nations Fisheries Legacy Fund, British Columbia, Canada


The First Nations Fisheries Legacy Fund (FNFLF) is a partnership of six Lower Fraser First Nations: Katzie, Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem, Musqueam, Tsawwassen, and Tsleil-Waututh.16 These Nations work collectively to restore and enhance fish habitat in the Lower Fraser Region. FNFLF aims to pool resources and build capacity within the six nations to advance fisheries management, conservation, and water quality goals. FNFLF completed a salmon habitat enhancement project in Surrey Bend, which established rearing and overwintering habitat for coho and Chinook salmon in the Parsons Channel of the Fraser River. In 2018, FNFLF conducted a habitat risk assessment in the Salmon River, and is currently working to convene academics, First Nations, NGOs, and governments to address gaps in knowledge related to eulachon habitat.


The FNFLF was established in 2013 with a contribution of $2 million dollars from the Province of BC. Continued financing of FNFLF is from the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Gateway Program, which has built several large infrastructure projects including a new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 improvements. Operational financial support is provided by the FNFC.16 

Decision Making

The Legacy Fund is overseen by a Board of Directors composed of individuals from each of the six First Nations that manages the fund. 


Projects funded by the FNFLF include the Surrey Bend Habitat Enhancement Project, which occurred from 2014-2019. This project established fish-rearing and over-wintering habitat for coho and Chinook salmon in Pearsons Channel on the Fraser River. Outcomes of the project include 2.1k of tidal channels, 39,000 new plantings, removal of invasive species, and increased public access to a park.17 The First Nations Fisheries Council’s program Water for Fish has been funded by the Real Estate Foundation of BC, BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, LUSH Charitable Giving, New Relationship Trust, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.16 

Coast Funds, BC, Canada


Coast Funds was created in 2007 out of a shared recognition between conservationists, First Nations, industry, and government that a sustainable economy is vital to conservation efforts in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.18 The fund creates a link between sustainable development projects that embrace conservation; the social, cultural, and economic well-being of First Nations; as well as the long-term conservation of the area. Coast Funds provides a resource dedicated to empowering the First Nations of the central and north coasts and Haida Gwaii in achieving flourishing economies in tandem with conservation of their homelands. 

Coast Funds has supported the creation of 20 First Nations-led management plans, 80 protected areas, and 120 research projects on 31 different species.

Coast Funds is composed of two organizations: the Coast Economic Development Society and the Coast Conservation Endowment Fund Foundation. The Coast Economic Development Society focuses on supporting business development by targeting sectors with potential to provide sustainable development throughout the Great Bear and Haida Gwaii, as well as strengthening community well-being. The Coast Conservation Endowment Fund Foundation provides funding to support First Nations conservation science, resource planning, capacity development, and related conservation management activities. Participating First Nations are allocated a certain amount of funding and eligible projects are funded on the basis of original allocation amounts and performance of the fund. 


Nature United (Nature Conservancy Canada) provided an initial $39 million dollar contribution to the Coast Fund endowment.19 This fund is split evenly between an endowment fund to support conservation efforts and a fund that moves forward sustainable economic development in Indigenous communities. The endowment fund provided technical support and financial resources to the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) that supports K’omoks, Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Tlowitsis, Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Xwemalhkwu (Homalco), and Haisla stewardship networks. These funds have been used to increase the capacity of First Nations to co-manage the Great Bear Rainforest with the provincial government. Since the initial investment, these funds have been leveraged to obtain an additional $300 million dollars in funding and helped create more than 900 jobs in Indigenous communities. 

The Coast Economic Development Fund Society is a not-for-profit society tasked with managing a $60 million economic development fund. The Coast Conservation Fund, on the other hand, is a registered Canadian charity responsible for managing a $2 million regional conservation planning fund and a permanent endowment fund of approximately $56 million. The income from this fund provides financial support to First Nations. These funds were initially capitalized by six private foundations (Nature Conservancy, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Tides Canada) as well as the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, with each contributing $30 million. 

As of November 2022, Coast Funds has provided $109.2 million towards 439 conservation and sustainable economic development projects. 


Both the Foundation and Society are responsible for deciding the projects that receive funding. They are both entitled to set up Project Review Committees to provide advice and assistance with proposals. Before applications are submitted to either the Society or Foundation, they must first be endorsed by either an entity wholly owned by the band council, where the band council has delegated authority to that entity by band council resolution, or directly through a resolution of the band council of the Participating First Nation.20 If a participating First Nation does not submit a successful application, the Board of Directors of the Society may provide technical expertise in order to fulfill unsatisfied requirements.


Coast Funds measures the outcomes of each project they invest in via the contributions it makes to community well-being and conservation. In 2017, Coast Funds added 27 species that are either being protected, enhanced or better understood, and increased the number of restoration and research initiatives by 48% over the previous year. Currently, there are 9 languages that are in the process of revitalization with support of cultural tourism projects, and First Nations initiatives involving access to traditional foods increased by 35% from 2016 to 2017. 

Since Coast Funds’ inception over 100 businesses have been created or have expanded in the tourism, development, and manufacturing sectors. Coast Funds projects employ 12% of the First Nations workforce within the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii alone. Coast Funds has served to benefit the communities and First Nations of the north coast and Haida Gwaii. The comprehensive focus of both conservation of the natural environment and the sustainable development of economic opportunity in the area provides an interesting model in the approach of sustainable governance. 

BC Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), BC, Canada


The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) is a compensation program created by BC Hydro to offset some of the ecological impacts of hydro power generation.21 Established in 1988, the FWCP is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of British Columbia, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, and public stakeholders. They operate in three regions of BC: the Columbia, the Peace, and the coastal region. In the Columbia and Peace regions, the FWCP represents a mechanism in order to meet BC Hydro’s water licence agreement, while the program is voluntary in the coastal region.22 The objective of the program includes three areas of focus: conservation, sustainable use, and community engagement. Each region sets conservation priorities for projects related to habitat restoration, baseline inventory studies, specific management actions, or monitoring programs. 


The FWCP is funded annually by BC Hydro and directs those funds towards projects that address priority actions across its three regions. It has a total annual operating budget of $10 million, 84% of which was invested in fish and wildlife projects. 


Grant applications that are successful in gaining funding from the FWCP will align with their regionally determined action plans.22 Each region sets conservation priorities and has an independent board that reviews all grant applications and project funding. The policy committee sits at the top of the hierarchy and represents the federal, provincial (regulators), and BC Hydro. It sets the overall policy direction of the program including governance structure, strategic framework, program evaluations and may address internal disputes. The Policy Committee does not engage in decision-making regarding project funding decisions.

Each of the three regions has a Regional Board which reports to the policy committee and provides oversight for the planning and implementation of the FWCP. The Regional Board also makes decisions on strategic priorities, annual expenditures, and investments by the program. The Regional Board performs all of the evaluation and decision-making for fish and wildlife projects that will be funded. 

Technical committees provide advice to regional boards and the program managers in the development of strategic plans, effective implementation, technical review, evaluation, and ranking of fish and wildlife project proposals. 


For the 2018-19 funding year the FWCP approved 33 fish and wildlife projects totalling $1.8 million in the Coastal region, 55 projects worth $6.1 million in the Columbia region, and 30 projects worth $2.1 million in the Peace region. FWCP requires reporting of the outcomes of the projects that it has funded. These results are summarized in the annual reports of each region. No holistic reporting is done to examine the cumulative impacts that BC Hydro has on the affected watersheds, nor is reporting required on the success of BCFWCP at effectively compensating for those impacts.

Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCRIA), BC, Canada


The Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA) is a formal relationship between the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nations established in 2010. It unifies the Nations under shared belief that resources should be managed in a way that provides for future generations and achieves a sustainable environment, healthy local economies, and communities that work together.23 


In 2019, central coast First Nations signed the Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement (FRRA) with the federal government, which provided funding for fisheries access and the development of a community-based fishery on the central coast. CCIRA has also received funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) for catch monitoring and salmon habitat restoration. 

Many salmon swim by as seen from below in the green blue light of the sun.
Photo by Tavish Campbell.


The governance of the CCIRA empowers the sovereignty and voice of each Nation, and operates under a consensus decision-making framework. The Board of Directors, consisting of eight members with two members coming from each participating Nation, provides the overall policy direction for the CCIRA. The members of the board include the elected chief of each Nation (or an appointee) and a technical advisor (often the stewardship director from each Nation).24 The technical advisor however does not have voting powers. The Central Coast Area Technical Team provides a bridge from the Board Directors to the Nation level resource staff. They provide support for the implementation initiatives and Marine Use planning. 

The Finance committee is a subset of the board of directors (e.g. 2 of the directors). They work on behalf of the board to approve day-to-day budgetary adjustments and approve new contracts or agreements not identified in the annual work plan. In 2015, the CCIRA published their Central Coast Marine Plan in partnership with the provincial government. The plan emphasizes the use of ecosystem-based management of marine resources on the central coast. Mechanisms used in the implementation of this plan include the negotiation of joint-management agreements, which enable authority, revenue, and benefit sharing from the resources; the acquisition of specific resource tenure agreements; the development of industry, environmental organization, and other partnerships through MOUs, impact-benefit or joint venture agreements; and affirming Aboriginal Rights and Title to lands and resources where necessary.


The Central Coast Indigenous Resources Alliance published the central Coast Marine Plan report, which is the result of a collaboration between the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xais’Xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nations and the Province of British Columbia, titled the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP). The aim of the Plan is to highlight sustainable marine uses while protecting and restoring marine habitat through a two-eyed seeing approach blending Indigenous knowledge, academic science, and local knowledge.24

Columbia Basin Trust, BC, Canada


The Columbia Basin Trust was established through the effort of Columbia Basin residents in BC by their desire to live in a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable way.25 Through the creation of the Columbia River Treaty (CRT), the governments of Canada and the US agreed to build three dams in the Canadian portions of the basin and three dams in the American portion for flood control and power generation for the growing area’s population. On the Canadian side, the Treaty is guided by the Columbia River Treaty Committee, which is composed of regional districts in the Columbia Basin, the Village of Valemount, and the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments. Upon formation, the Committee approached the provincial government on behalf of the residents of the basin and negotiated that residents should receive appropriate compensation for the revenue created from benefits that are provided outside of the basin as a result of CRT. There was also an understanding that funds generated through these external benefits would be managed by a regional board made up of basin residents. This board is now the Columbia Basin Trust and was established in 1995. The foundation for the actions of the Columbia Basin Trust are established in their charter and grounded by the Columbia Basin Act (the act that created the Columbia basin treaty).


The agreement between the Columbia River Treaty Committee and the Province of British Columbia saw a one time payment of $321 million; $276 million of that was invested in local hydroelectric projects, while $45 million was put into a trust as an endowment. The Trust received $2 million of that endowment per year from 1995 to 2010 for covering operating costs. From the $276 million available for investment in power projects, the Trust also gains annual returns from those investments at a rate of 11.7% as of the 2017/2018 fiscal year.26 Through their investment in stable income streams, the Columbia Basin Trust has increased their overall value over the last 25 years to $2.1 billion, with an annual return of $65 million dollars.


The Trust is governed by a 12-member board of Directors, all of which must live in the Basin.27 The five regional districts in the basin and the Ktunaxa Nation Council each nominate from one to four directors, and the Province of BC nominates the remaining six. The Trust provides grants for many different fields within the Basin. In terms of environmental grants, specific direction is provided by the environmental advisory committee. This committee is made up of eight individuals that provide community perspective, subject matter expertise and strategic advice for the Trust activities in relation to environmental grants. There is also the environmental grants evaluation committee which selects the final environmental grants that will receive funding.


The Columbia Basin Trust is an extremely diverse fund that provides grants for heritage, the environment, culture, recreation, and youth programs. In 2017/2018, 70% of the basin’s residents perceived the actions of Trust in a positive light, while 90% of the Trust’s partners perceived the Trust to have a positive impact on the basin. The same report’s financial statements showed a total community investment by the Trust to be $48,154,000, with net assets valued at $440,307,000. 

Puget Sound Partnership, WA, U.S.A


The Puget Sound Partnership is a state agency (WA) leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound.28 The collective is driven by three guiding principles which include: 1) to align the work of partners around a shared vision and strategy, 2) to ensure smart investments through a shared and science-based system of measurement and monitoring that promotes accountability, effectiveness, and progress, and 3) to remove financial, regulatory, and resource barriers for community partners to advance policy and mobilize funding for those organizations.

The primary tool that the Puget Sound Partnership uses to achieve their goals is the Puget Sound Action Agenda, which is a collaborative plan that provides regional strategies and specific actions that are needed to recover the Puget Sound.28 The Action Agenda facilitates this recovery by providing science-based actions, funding and policy decisions, and accountability to ensure progress is made across the region. 

The Action Agenda includes two components:

  1. Comprehensive Plan: this plan outlines the vision for recovery over the long-term and outlines the recovery framework. 
  2. Implementation Plan: this is the action component of the Action Agenda. It guides implementation using a suite of strategies, actions, and program targets. 

The strategies and actions in the Puget Sound Action Agenda 2022-2026 include: protect and restore habitat and habitat-forming processes, protect and improve water quality, protect the food web and imperiled species, prevent the worst effects of climate change, and ensure human wellbeing. New focus areas for the 2022-2026 Action Agenda include the incorporation of tribal nations’ treaty and sovereign rights, environmental justice, and climate justice. It includes 11-short term targets and six Vital Sign Indicator targets that measure progress and identify success of these focus areas over the long-term.

The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan is part of the Action Agenda, but is specific to salmon recovery. Using the Recovery Plan as a guide, the Partnership works with local communities, tribes, businesses, and state and federal agencies to identify and prioritize and implement projects and programs to recover salmon in Puget Sound.29 The Partnership coordinates and funds both local salmon recovery and large-scale protection and restoration efforts through the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) program. Today, the Nations and Washington State co-manage salmon recovery and habitat protection.

The Recovery Plan articulates two goals:

  1. Recovering self-sustaining populations, harvestable salmon runs in a manner that contributes to overall health of Puget Sound.
  2. Recovered salmon populations must achieve a) the delisting of salmon listed under Endangered Species Act and b) the restoration of tribal fishing rights to this population.

The Recovery Plan was established in 2005 by regional experts and was adopted by NOAA to meet obligations under the Endangered Species Act. Subsequently, experts in each watershed created 16 individual chapters of the Recovery Plan to specify local recovery goals, priority actions and monitoring needs. Regional priorities for Puget Sound salmon recovery include restoring degraded habitat and fish populations, and developing a viable funding strategy for protection and restoration.29 

Sockeye salmon in a clear river on a sunny day.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The effectiveness of projects under the Recovery Plan are tracked by Vital Signs, which are measures of ecosystem health directly aligned with the six recovery goals established by the Washington State legislature. Most Vital Signs are represented by one or more specific metrics (called indicators) that provide information about the condition of the Puget Sound ecosystem.29 


The greater Puget Sound ecosystem recovery effort is funded by a combination of federal, local, state and tribal governments. Nonprofits, businesses, and foundations also make investments in the recovery effort. Specifically, the Puget Sound Partnership receives the bulk of their funding from the federal government or the State of Washington. The funds that the Partnership receives are used to l support partner organizations through contracts and grants. These funds are from either the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund (PSAR) or the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF). The PSAR is funded through the state legislature, which secures money for the fund every two years. The funds are managed jointly by the Puget Sound Partnership and the Recreation and Conservation Office. ‘Lead Entities’, which are community-based groups in the Puget Sound, identify priority projects for funding,which are often focused on Endangered Species Act listings of salmon species. Once projects are completed they undergo an evaluation process to determine ecological impact. The Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) was created by Congress in 2000 to support conservation initiatives in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska to reverse the declining trajectory of Pacific salmon. The fund is administered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries team which has supported 15,300 projects. As of October, 2022, $1.7 billion have been awarded to states and Indigenous Nations through grants, and have leveraged an additional $2.1 billion from other contributions.29 


The Puget Sound Partnership has several boards that support and guide the agency in mobilizing and accelerating the science-based effort to protect and restore Puget Sound. They consist of: 

  1. The Leadership Council, 
  2. Ecosystem Coordination Board,
  3. Science Panel,
  4. Salmon Recovery Council. 

The Leadership Council is the governing body of the Partnership and serves as the regional organization for Puget Sound salmon recovery efforts. The Leadership Council is a seven-member panel appointed by the Washington Governor that makes decisions relating to salmon recovery and the implementation of the Puget Sound Recovery Plan. Members are appointed to serve four-year terms but can continue on until official reappointment. 

The Ecosystem Coordination Board acts to advise the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council on carrying out its responsibilities. The Board is made up of 27 members representing specific interests around the Sound.

The Science Panel provides significant expertise and acts to advise the Puget Sound Partnership’s work to develop a comprehensive, science-based plan to restore Puget Sound. The members are appointed by the Leadership Council and are chosen from the top scientists in Washington State.

The Salmon Recovery Council advises the Leadership Council on matters relating to salmon recovery and the advancement of the Puget Sound Recovery Plan. These issues include policy direction for implementing the Recovery Plan, strategic approaches for near-term issues and actions, and the allocation of capital for funding capacities. The Recovery Council is composed of individuals working on salmon recovery throughout Puget Sound, including representatives from federal and state agencies, local jurisdictions, all Puget Sound tribes, businesses, and the agricultural sector. Indigenous Nations also participate in the Puget Sound Tribal Management Conferences, where they provide input on the Puget Sound Action Agenda update process and identify priorities for Puget Sound recovery.


From 2006-2022, the Puget Sound Partnership and the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund provided $303 million dollars and leveraged $123 million for 705 projects across the Puget Sound region.29 This has resulted in 13,514 acres of restored habitat, 14,565 acres of acquired and protected habitat, 152 river miles of restored fish passage, and the reconnection of 5,848 acres for salmon access. Additionally, these projects have created 4,097 jobs in the Puget Sound region.

Okanagan Nation Alliance, BC, Canada 


The Okanagan Nation Alliance was formed in 1981 as the first First Nations government in the Okanagan region. The ONA represents eight member communities, which includes: the Upper Nicola Band, Okanagan Indian Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Upper Similkameen Indian Band, and Colville Confederated Tribes.30 

 The ONA works as a liaison between federal and provincial fisheries agencies and other NGOs. They are actively involved in conservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of fish stocks, in particular Okanagan Sockeye salmon, which is one of the two remaining populations of sockeye salmon in the Columbia River Basin. 


The ONA is one of the 81 Tribal Councils in Canada that functions within the framework of the 1984 Cabinet approved policy, which mandated the principles and requirements for funding Tribal Councils. As of 2017 to 2018, the ONA continued to maintain an annual budget of $6 million dollars.31 

The Chief Executive Council negotiated a Recognition Agreement with the federal government to protect and advance the Sylix Nation Rights and Title. This agreement requires the federal government to make a significant funding commitment to the Sylix Nations to develop and implement their governance structure. 


The ONA mission is to collectively advance and assert the rights of Sylix/Okanagan Nation Rights and Titles over the Sylix/Okanagan Nation territory. The ONA is governed by the Chief Executive Council which is composed of the Seven Nations Chiefs and the CCT Chairman of the Nation. There are committees in each Nation which assist and provide technical support to the Chief Executive Council. 


The ONA Fisheries Research Program conducts fisheries monitoring activities, including a Chinook Head Recovery Program and tagging of sockeye smolts. They also have an extensive habitat restoration program, conducting restoration activities in Pass Creek, Bessette Creek, and Skaha Lake, which have improved spawning habitat for salmon and facilitated connectivity for western painted turtles. ONA’s restoration work is guided by traditional ecological knowledge and consultation with Syilx elders. 

The ONA has also started the Building a Better Future Bursary,31 partnering with industry to provide financial support for Okanagan Nation members who attend post-secondary education. Since 2009, the ONA has partnered with FortisBC to provide two students with $1,500 in tuition assistance each year. The consulting firm EMB Management has also partnered with the ONA to offer grants totalling $10,000 per year for students studying engineering, geomatics, business, and trades.

North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, BC, Canada


The North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS) was established in 2005 to enable First Nations people on the British Columbia north coast and lower Skeena River to collaborate on projects of shared value.31


The work conducted by the North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society is primarily funded by DFO’s Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Ocean Management Program. This funding is used by the NCSFNSS to support engagement with the member and partner Nations in advisory and decision-­making processes related to fisheries science and management. NCSFNSS also received funding from the Coastal Restoration Fund to conduct habitat assessment, restoration, and rehabilitation in the Lower Skeena and estuary.31


The NCFNSS is governed by a Board of Directors composed of the elected Chief Councilor of each of the four member First Nations. The Board of Directors sets direction, establishes policy, and reflects the interests of the member Nations. The staff conduct research and provide technical advice to the Board for consideration. The staff receive direction from the Board and implement projects and programs in response. 

Decision-making at NCFNSS when considering novel project proposals and processes takes place in two ways. First, during Board meetings, members are free to propose an activity or project to the Board for consideration. The Board can then ask NCSFNSS staff to carry out research on the proposed activity and report back to the NCSFNSS Board for a decision. Secondly, staff or members can propose an activity at a meeting, and then it is placed on the agenda for the Board members. 


The Salmon Habitat Restoration and Assessment program was created to identify, prioritize, design, and implement several sockeye, chum, or Chinook salmon habitat restoration projects. These projects are designed to mitigate the impacts of human activities, restore or improve lost or degraded habitat, and increase habitat capacity to support the salmon life cycle. A component of this program is capacity for creel surveys of recreational angling in Area 3, 4, and 6 in the Lower Skeena.32

Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, BC, Canada


The Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP) in partnership with the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) provides funding for projects that benefit conservation in the area from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats through the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund (CVLCF).33 The purpose of the CVLCF is to provide funding for conservation projects within the Columbia Valley that are not the existing responsibility of federal, provincial, or local governments.


The Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund raises money for local conservation projects by requiring property owners in the service area to pay a parcel tax of 5 cents per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, up to a maximum of $230,000 annually. The Regional District then allocates these funds via an application process to conservation projects that are not the existing responsibility of federal, provincial, or local governments.


The Kootenay Conservation Program is overseen by a Board, composed of elected representatives and provides ongoing feedback on strategic direction and operations, including funding, budget, program priorities, and workshop themes. The Securement Committee identifies, evaluates, and coordinates property purchases and the establishment of conservation covenants. The Stewardship Committee supports stewardship on private land with the goal of maintaining ecological diversity. 


In 2021, CVLCF granted $20,000 for the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners to map biodiversity hotspots in the Columbia Wetlands and Columbia Valley. The project identified 131 biodiversity hotspots for local conservation groups to focus their efforts. In addition, the project also created habitat for western painted turtles by installing basking logs, creating nesting areas, and installing educational signage. CVLCF also provided a total of $19,300 to Wildsight Golden to increase awareness of swallow conservation and fund swallow nest monitoring, habitat creation, and public outreach.33 

From 2010 to 2017, the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund approved 69 grants totalling $1.7 million, including ecosystem restoration, invasive species control, lake management, water quality monitoring, and a pilot ecological services project. This local investment has leveraged six times that amount in additional grants. 

Birds eye view of a coastline with a bull kelp forest on a sunny day.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.


Yallahs-Hope River Watershed Project, Jamaica


The Yallahs-Hope River Watershed Project was a five-year conservation, restoration, and outreach program implemented by the government of Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).34 The program is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), an international conservation granting and financing organization. The program aims to address habitat degradation and water quality issues in the Yallahs River and Hope River watersheds, through direct habitat restoration, outreach campaigns, and a Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) strategy, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.


The project received a $3.9 million grant from the Global Environment Facility and $8.8 million from the Government of Jamaica. The project received federal support due to the alignment of its goals with the government’s Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan.34


The project resulted in collaboration between multiple levels of government, as well as the creation of multiple working groups and advisory committees that linked various government departments. The project was also subject to multiple effectiveness reviews, which increased its transparency and held the project accountable to its stated goals. A midterm effectiveness review determined that the project’s strong alignment with the mandate of involved agencies built a sense of ownership and commitment, which likely led to higher on-the-ground impact.


The project created “Farmer Field School,” which trained over 150 farmers in the Yallahs-Hope Watershed on proper land husbandry practices.35 A terminal review of the field school program determined that an 8% reduction in downstream sedimentation was directly attributable to the field school program. The project also trained 6 communities in forest fire management, restored more than 70 hectares of forest, and developed a payment for ecosystem services framework that would further support community-led protection in the watershed.36 Lastly, the project produced a watershed scale management policy, which will be used to guide future efforts in the region.


Mersey Basin Campaign


The Mersey Basin Campaign was a conservation effort between 1985 and 2010 by the Department for the Environment in northwestern England to address deteriorating water quality in the Mersey River and its tributaries.37 The campaign spread from the east of Manchester to the sea beyond Liverpool and had the main objective of restoring the water quality and riparian habitat.

The campaign consisted of three organizations: Mersey Basin Campaign Administration Ltd; the Mersey Basin Trust (later renamed the Healthy Waterways Trust); and the Mersey Basin Business Foundation (MBBF). The Mersey Basin Trust is a registered charity and coordinates voluntary groups in undertaking environmental action, and supports stewardship and education endeavours.38 The Business Foundation served as a link with the business community and acted as a conduit for sponsorship for the Mersey Basin Campaign. The campaign formally ended in 2010, however the Mersey Rivers Trust has continued to pursue natural flood management, education, and ecological restoration projects in the region.39


The Mersey Basin Campaign was considered a nominally independent body of the government. It received core government funding of £0.5 million annually. The majority of this core funding was used to pay for overhead and staffing costs. The Mersey Basin Campaign utilized this core funding to leverage substantial contributions from other public, private, and voluntary sectors amassing a financial value of £3.2 million in 2004-05.39 


At the time of the Campaign’s inception, most partnerships operated between the public (government) and private (business) sectors. The Campaign’s governance structure includes an independent Chair which led a unit from the Government’s Department of Environment. Advisory partners included the water authority, local government, and professional officers. The Campaign is essentially a project-based organization, with projects delivered at the catchment or sub-catchment level. The decision-makers at the catchment scale are the council members. The council is an unincorporated stakeholder partnership of 38 representatives with two types of members: partners, with voting rights; and advisers/observers without voting rights. Members are appointed as representatives of their organizations.

The MBBF is the actual recipient of the core funding government funding and carries out the task related to the operational management of the campaign. It actively seeks to expand the number of businesses linked to the Campaign and specific Campaign projects. Member organizations are encouraged to support Campaign objectives and incorporate them into their daily activities. The two levels of organization (the Council and the MBBF) offer multiple levels of cooperation and varying levels of commitment for businesses.


Water quality in the Mersey Basin received an evaluation of “fair” in 2010, accomplishing the MBC’s primary goal.40 Porpoises, dolphins, and seals are now regularly seen in the estuary and in 2007, salmon were observed spawning in the headwaters of the Mersey Basin. The success of the campaign was attributed to their multi-stakeholder collaboration with government, local authorities, businesses, and residents of the Mersey Basin. Further, having a clear vision and realistic timescale contributed to the sustained momentum of the program and the broad political support.

The Saami Council


The Saami Council is an NGO representing the cultural and environmental interests of the Saami people in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.41 It is an active participant in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum consisting of Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the United States. The Saami Council has also chaired the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat. The primary aim of the council is to advance Saami recognition in the four countries in which they live. In 2019, the Saami Council received funding from the EU Interreg Nord program for the project Filling the EU-Sapmi Knowledge Gaps. The project provides Saami-specific educational resources for EU decision-makers and has created an EU-Saami Think Tank and established a Saami Cultural Week. 


The Saami Council receives federal funding through grants from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, as well as private donations. An issue highlighted in their 2022 report was a lack of a consistent funding stream. 


The Saami Council is a voluntary organization governed by a charter adopted in 2008. The board is composed of 15 members, five from Norway, four from Sweden and Finland, and two from Russia. The Council’s president is elected from the board and serves a two-year term. The Council convenes every four years at the Saami Conference, bringing together representatives from the four countries to discuss decision-making and policy advancements. The Council is divided into four units: the Arctic and Environmental Unit, the EU Unit, the Cultural Unit, and the Human Rights Unit.41


The Saami Council has established several cultural and educational programs, including the EU-Sámi Youth Idea Lab, a virtual course for the Saami language, and a Saami Cultural Week. The Council has also provided grants for cultural projects through the Saami Cultural Fund of the Saami Council. Funded projects include a cartoon series, a film about Saami culture, and a project to incorporate aspects of Saami design into modern appliances. The EU unit has also backed successful lawsuits against industries encroaching on traditional Saami land. The Saami Council represents a pan-national collaboration of Indigenous people to achieve recognition and advance cultural goals at international forums.41


Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)


The Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) is a community-based non profit working to advance the rights of the Karen people in Kawthoolei, Myanmar.42 KESAN conducts programs related to food security, sanitation, wildlife conservation & research, and small-scale renewable energy. Through their Community Based Livelihoods Initiative, KESAN has created community rice banks, established fisheries protected zones, and provided technical support and equipment for traditional farming practices. KESAN has also provided grants for villages to install small-scale hydropower facilities to increase local resiliency to electricity disruptions stemming from climate change and the ongoing civil war. 


Salween Peace Park received funding from the Norway-based Rainforest Trust and the WWF to conduct initial mapping and biodiversity surveys within the park. 


KESAN’s decision-making process stems from a “democratization-from-below” model with protecting traditional Karen ways of life underpinning decisions. KESAN collaborates heavily with local Karen communities and operates on a principle of “free, prior, and informed consent.” Salween Peace Park is a unique collaboration of local Indigenous communities to self govern a large tract of land. Land use is dictated by a traditional zoning practice known as kaw, which maintains cultural taboos about the proximity and locations of uses such as agriculture, conservation areas, and burial grounds. Salween Peace Park is unique in that local communities have full control over the land they manage without oversight from a regional or federal government, representing a high level of Indigenous self-determination. 


In 2018, KESAN helped to establish Salween Peace Park, a 6000 km2 area of land sustainably managed by Indigenous Karen communities.43 The park includes 27 community forests and three wildlife sanctuaries, as well as land set aside for sustainable farming practices. Land use in much of the park is governed by a traditional zoning system known as Kaw, demarcating areas for uses based on traditional taboos. Salween Peace Park is a model for Indigenous-led conservation and self governance, drawing on aspects of traditional Karen culture and shifting decision-making away from western scientific principles. In 2020, Salween Peace Park won the acclaimed Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of its unique approach to community-led conservation.44 Salween Peace Park has successfully protected thousands of acres of habitat from industrial development, and has become a sanctuary for endangered populations of tigers, Sunda pangolins, black and sun bears, gaur, and Hoolock gibbons. Their community-managed self-governance has also protected traditional ways of life for the Karen people in a region torn by conflict.




Gayini is a 87,816 hectare property of land owned and managed by the Nari Nari Tribal Council in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia.45 The land jointly serves as a conservation area, cultural heritage site, and a space for sustainable agriculture, and is managed by the Nari Nari people who are the traditional stewards of the land. In 2013, the governments of Australia and New South Wales purchased the land and water extraction rights of 19 properties, and management of the land was awarded in 2018 to a cross-sectoral consortium consisting of The Nature Conservancy, the Nari Nari Tribal Council, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group, and the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales. In 2019, ownership of the land was transferred completely to the Nari Nari Tribal Council. 


The land ownership transfer was funded by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation and the Wyss Campaign for Nature. Gayini also received funding from John B. Fairfax for continued management of the land.

Decision Making

Gayini is governed solely by the Nari Nari Tribal Council, who are overseeing an innovative approach to sustainable agriculture to continue to fund management of the lands. Tools such as low impact grazing, carbon farming, and opportunistic cropping will help the tribal council generate funds to transition the land towards an eco-tourism and education based funding model.45


In addition to honouring the Nari Nari peoples’ traditional rights to manage and own the land, Gayini also protects important wetlands in the Murray Darling Basin that are home to significant colonies of migratory waterbirds. These wetlands also provide habitat for endangered species like the Southern Bell Frog, Australiasian Bittern, and the Australian Painted-snipe. The Nari Nari are also working to identify, manage, and protect sites of significant cultural heritage within Gayini, and have reinstated the natural flooding processes that occurred in pre-colonial times.45

Drawing of multiple identical fish of varying sizes.
Art by Sarah Jim.


Funding strategies

There are a variety of strategies discussed within this report that help secure consistent, long-term funding. We outline a few below that are highly relevant to the Lower Fraser River. We have also noted other funding strategies in the Appendix of this report. 

Endowment funds

An endowment fund is an invested portfolio of assets where the initial capital has been sourced through grants or donations. Establishment of an endowment fund early in a program’s life helps to secure a consistent revenue stream as the fund’s market value grows over time. In many of the case studies above, conservation programs were first initiated with a large one-time investment into an endowment fund, with the initial capital held in the market and investment income used to fund projects. Many case studies also had policies to tie spending to a metric of fund performance, in order to respond to changing market forces and ensure the stability of the fund.


  • The New Relationship Trust48An independent non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening First Nations capacity. The New Relationship Trust was created with an original sum of $100 million, donated by the Province of BC. Of the initial sum, $20.75 million was allocated for spending on projects over the first three years of the Trust’s operations. The balance was invested in order to provide ongoing benefit to BC First Nations.
  • Forest Enhancement Fund49 – Formed in February 2016 with an initial contribution from the BC government of $85 million. In February 2017, an additional $150 million grant was provided under the Forest Carbon Initiative. This catalyzed expanded efforts, especially to advance environmental stewardship through reforestation, improving damaged or low-value forests, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Relevance to the Lower Fraser

Endowment funds provide a long-term, consistent, and secure source of funding. They also allow programs to “stretch” out large, one-time investments that are common at the federal and provincial levels. Additionally, endowment funds can be structured so their returns can be utilized for a variety of projects, without the need for organizations to create new proposals. The complexity and variety of issues in the Lower Fraser (fisheries, habitat, pollution, connectivity) make endowment funds useful for funding projects that may have a larger scope of work.

Government grants


Federal and provincial taxes can be funneled into either general revenue pools or a dedicated fund for a specific purpose. Taxes on polluting industries can be invested into conservation programs to incentivize industries to pollute less. For example, carbon taxes in British Columbia fund the CleanBC program, which creates incentives for businesses and corporations to switch to cleaner energy sources.


Fees create revenue through those that use, benefit from, or adversely impact a particular resource or service. These can be resource royalties, water licence fees, annual water rentals, fishing/hunting license fees, and other penalties for non-compliance with existing regulations. 

Relevance to the Lower Fraser

The variety of industries that utilize the Lower Fraser for their operations (mining, shipping, transportation, logging) provide an opportunity for funding through compensation fees or pollution taxes. Recreational users such as anglers and hunters can also be a funding source through the sale of licences or permits. Many existing government grants available for conservation work draw from revenues collected from pollution taxes, compensation fees, or licence sales.

Fees for ecosystem services

Assigning a dollar value to ecosystem services can offer a method for sustainable funding that matches the economic value of protecting a specific ecosystem. Quantifying the value of ecosystem services creates an economic incentive for the protection of ecosystems that provide these services. For example, New York City implemented the Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) program, providing funding for private landowners, conservation groups, and municipalities to protect ecosystems that provide natural drinking water filtration.7 Also discussed in this report is the Yallahs-Hope Watershed Program, which provided education to farmers within the watershed to improve their land-use practices, reducing downstream sedimentation.36 These programs negate the need for significant investments in water filtration facilities and simultaneously protect large areas of important habitat. 

Relevance to the Lower Fraser

In the Lower Fraser, wetlands, floodplains, and estuaries provide nearby communities with a substantial amount of natural flood protection and carbon sequestration, yet billions of dollars continue to be invested in the creation of artificial breakwalls, diking, and other hydro-engineering projects. Determining the economic value of the Lower Fraser’s ecosystem services can provide a financial incentive for the protection of the habitats that provide them.

Governance themes


Transparent operations help build public trust in a program and help organizations stay committed to long-term goals. To complete this report, a significant amount of information was gathered from progress reports and end-of-program outcome reports, which not only help to keep the public informed on activities but are also often required by funding agencies. These reports also help other organizations learn from a program’s successes and challenges. 

Community-led decision-making

Community-led planning can also be described as a ‘bottom-up’ approach to governance, where decisions are made by a large group of the broader community rather than by a small board of directors. Community-led planning adds to bottom-up governance by ensuring that the opinions and needs of the local community take priority in the direction of an organization or program. A strong example detailed in this report was the case of Salween Peace Park, which aimed to decentralize decision-making among many local communities living in the park.43 This approach can give programs a better perspective of on the ground issues, and better engages with the communities that are living in the areas where the work will take place.

Indigenous engagement and leadership

Thoughtful engagement of Indigenous communities is a vital aspect of any conservation program. Many of the case studies presented were formed by partnerships between NGOs and First Nations, or, in other cases, wholly Indigenous-led endeavours. In the Lower Fraser, Indigenous communities, including the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, already play a leading role in restoration efforts, and it is imperative that the development of a conservation strategy for the Lower Fraser is guided by First Nations communities in the region.

Closing thoughts

In this report, we have detailed a variety of case studies that, while unique, offer examples of the funding tools and governance structures needed for a regional conservation strategy in the Lower Fraser River. The case studies demonstrate that there are consistent themes to successful conservation projects, regardless of their location and context, and by incorporating these themes into everyday practice, conservation projects can have a significant impact on a regional scale. We hope that by adapting these themes in the Lower Fraser, a comprehensive, long-term conservation strategy can take shape to guide the region’s ecological goals into the future.

The Lower Fraser river as seen from the air with city in the background.
Photo by Yuri Choufour.


1. Funding strategies

Community to Community Funding (C2C)

Under the C2C program up to $5,000 in matching funds are available to First Nations and local government officials to pursue common goals and opportunities for joint action46. The goal of the program is to increase understanding, relations and cooperation between First Nations and local government.

Reserve funds

Reserve funds refers to revenue that is filed apart from general revenue, with a defined specific goal for the future. These funds are particularly helpful in enabling the commitment of funds over a multi-year period and protects against uncertainty in other sources of revenue.

Trust funds

Similar to reserve funds, trust funds are created with defined purpose from the outset. It provides financial security over multiple years and is not vulnerable to shifting priorities. They are generally managed by a board of trustees in a way that meets the initial mandate of the fund, with the recipient receiving a yearly income of funds. An example is the Habitat Trust Fund which was set up in 1980 in support of the modernizing of the Wildlife Act47. Nominal surcharges on angling, hunting, guiding, and trapping are used for enhancement projects, and an allocation of the interest accrued through the provinces Crown Land Account is used to purchase land of particular ecological significance. 

Revolving funds

Revolving loan funds are self-replenishing accounts that provide loans using money accumulated through interest and payments on older loans. In a conservation context, parcels of working land can be purchased along with high priority ecological land. Revenue from the working loan could then pay back the loan, effectively subsidizing the protection of the ecologically important one. 

Recreational user fees

In cases where watershed governance organizations own or have tenures associated with lands, user fees can be leveraged as a source of revenue. 

Non-government grants

Charities, foundations, businesses, corporations, and individuals are all potential sources of grant funding in collaborative watershed governance. 

Social and environmental impact investment

Impact investments are socially and environmentally responsible investing strategies that have the goal of generating both financial return and benefit to society. Social impact investing can address cleantech financing, water infrastructure, and community and economic development.

In-kind contributions

In-kind contributions can come in the form of donations of labour, equipment, supplies, information or any other resources. 

Academic sources

Partnerships with universities and research institutes can open access to various research granting agencies. It should be noted however, that much of these funds may require a commitment to funding explicitly research. 

Discretionary grants in aid

One-time grants can be awarded to community and non-government organizations whose activities benefit a municipality. In the East Kootenay Regional District, funds raised through taxation and from BC Hydro in lieu of taxes can be applied for by community groups to help offset expenses ranging from operating costs to purchasing new equipment.33 

2. Governance Themes

Elected boards

Elected leadership boards provide organizations and programs with a means of connecting with the communities that they work. Involving the public in the leadership selection process helps to build a sense of ownership and buy-in. Term limits are also common to keep leadership teams focused and allow for boards to bring in new members with different perspectives or expertise.

Advisory committees

Many organizations received support from external advisory committees, often made up of community members, First Nations, academics, and industry representatives. These committees can offer a third-party expertise on issues, and maintain a level of separation between the agendas of the organization and those of the advisory committees. 

Cross-sectoral collaboration

Collaboration is a key theme in many of the case studies above, particularly between governmental and non-governmental organizations. Convening multiple sectors to achieve conservation goals lends increased capacity for work and brings a diversity in perspectives, expertise, and connection to the issue. Directly involving stakeholders in decision making and operations also builds ownership and commitment to a project. 

Measurable goals

By setting clear, measurable objectives, organizations can keep the public updated on incremental achievements and maintain support, especially in the case of long-term, large-scale projects. Funding organizations also often require organizations to report on the outcomes of their work. By conducting mid-project progress reports, teams can place how the project is performing compared to initial goals, and adjust operations accordingly.


  1. The Fraser: A Canadian Heritage River. Fraser Basin Council. Fraser Basin Council. 2021. 
  2.  Scott, D., Dixon, R., MacDuffee, M., Finn, R., and Walters, K. 2020. Towards a Vision for Salmon Habitat in the Lower Fraser River. Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
  3. Regional Conservation Strategy. The Intertwine. Retrieved May 1, 2023. 
  4. “About Us.” The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, October 27, 2022.
  5. Annual Report 2021. Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation.
  6. The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation Business Plan 2023. 2023. Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation.
  7. Appleton, Albert. 2022. Review of How New York City Used an Ecosystem Services Strategy Carried out through an Urban-Rural Partnership to Preserve the Pristine Quality of Its Drinking Water and Save Billions of Dollars and What Lessons It Teaches about Using Ecosystem Services.
  8. “How New York City Kept Its Drinking Water Pure–and Saved Billions of Dollars | on the Commons.” On the Commons. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  9. “Ecosystem Services in the New York City Watershed.” Ecosystem Marketplace.
  10.  “About Us.” Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. June 3, 2008.
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Illustration of a single orange salmon egg.
Art by Sarah Jim.