BELLA BELLA, B.C. – Prince William and Kate’s tour of British Columbia was knocked off course on Monday as the royal couple braved bad weather to add a unique area of rainforest coastline to a conservation effort started by the Queen.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Great Bear Rainforest on the province’s central coast on a day when their itinerary was blown apart by high winds, choppy water and pouring rain in an area of the province known for downpours. A float plane tour of the forest and boat tour of the Bella Bella Harbour were cancelled.
In marking the addition of the rainforest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, Prince William lauded efforts to protect the area as an example of what connects Commonwealth countries.
“This is a substantial dedication, which will highlight a more collaborative approach to sustainable forest conservation,” he said.
“The establishment of the canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement that the citizens of all Commonwealth countries believe that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies. When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres, or like today our forests, we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world.”
The initiative was launched in 2015 to create a network of forest conservation programs involving all 53 countries in the Commonwealth.
As part of the network, regions can share ideas and innovations about forest conservation and receive global attention for their efforts.
Early this year, the province and the Coastal First Nations including the Heiltsuk announced they would increase protection of the area, conserving 85 per cent of the forested areas from industrial logging.
The rain eased up after the dedication ceremony and William and Kate took a stroll along a boardwalk through part of the rainforest.
The Royal couple were presented with hand-carved wooden paddles.
“I strongly encourage you to dip this in the water before you leave,” said Ian Reid. “It will bring you back.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced that a $1-million trust will be created to celebrate the royal visit and promote the unique landscape. The fund will help raise awareness about the Great Bear Rainforest and support ongoing research.
Clark said the protected area of 6.4-million hectares is about the size of Ireland and it took about a decade to reach an agreement on its management.
“It was a long, hard negotiation but we all recognize we have a unique responsibility to preserve this jewel for the world,” she added.
Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilyn Slett said William and Kate’s focus on youth during their tour of B.C. ties in with the goal of protecting the rainforest.
“While the canopy designation recognizes the work we did around land-use planning, the interconnection between our lands and our waters cannot be understated,” she said. “The Heiltsuk do this work because our children’s … futures depend on it.”