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Tofino, BC --Attending a conference or business meeting doesn't usually include listening to whales. Unless, of course, the meeting takes place at Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts & Spa - in their cedar longhouse or uber-elegant tent, in the middle of a Upside Down Rainforest.

Located in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve - the best intact example of a temperate rainforest remaining in the world, Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts & Spa has introduced an innovative program to involve and educate guests about the environment. The $3 million, five-year program is funded solely by resort revenues and focuses on the key areas of research, conservation and rehabilitation. The initiatives are all a part of the Resorts' ongoing commitment to the Biosphere Reserve, and provide participants with a once-in-a lifetime, hands-on opportunity that allows them to leave their mark - and improve the world.

The Environmental Legacy Program (ELP) provides seven stewardships for groups to sponsor and participate in; Bear Mapping (DNA mapping and habitat research for black bears); Whale Acoustics (marine traffic impacts on Orca - also known as Killer - whales); Bedwell River Basin Restoration (salmon spawning habitat restoration); Raptor Rehabilitation (birds of prey - eagles, falcons and owls project for their rehabilitation and release); ROV Research (remote unmanned submersible deep water marine life research); Winter Feeding Ground Enhancement (Roosevelt elk and black deer); and Forest Management.

Individual projects or Eco-Stewardships, are also available for sponsorships. These research and rehabilitation projects can be taken on as an entire project or in part, and are tailored to suit a variety of budgets and time commitments. Some endeavors, for example, are short term and can be completed as part of a three-day corporate retreat or meeting, while others require a longer period of time.

The Genovese Family Trust, who were attracted to the remote and pristine area in 1997, owns Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts. Their commitment to live in an entirely sensitive and environmentally sustainable manner has led them to provide a variety of education-based naturalist and recreational programs in order to contribute to the enhancement and understanding of the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve Area.

All aspects of resort operations are low-impact and are updated as technology allows. Comprehensive recycling governs food and beverage service, organic gardens reduce commercial dependency, gravity-fed turbines generate fuel-less electricity and hot water, toilets compost waste materials into organic matter, local men and women are employed, and all marine and land adventures are non-intrusive and conservancy-driven.

The Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO-designated reserve - one of 408 reserved in 94 countries and originally, the area's economy was based on the natural resources of fishing and forestry. However, massive changes prompted a major change. First, the Canadian federal government initiated widespread west-coast salmon fishing closures to allow stocks to replenish.

And, in 1993, environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of Clayoquot brought international attention to the clear-cutting of old growth forests prompting a world-wide boycott of lumber from Clayoquot Sound.

It became impossible for forest companies to continue to operate, and the result was a new commercial venture for the region - one that would be self-sustaining and where no entity would be adversely affected - eco-tourism.

Most of the expansive wilderness owned and operated by Clayoquot Wilderness & Spas is old-growth forest. Large parcels are well-established second and third growth, while another portion is on the mend. It is the wounded corner of the Biosphere - the neighbouring Crown Lands and Provincial Park, and non-profit environmental groups, wildlife rehabilitation programs and wildlife researchers that will benefit from the Environmental Legacy Program.

Phase One of the Environmental Legacy Program, was six years in the making and the result of working hand-in-hand with the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations people, as well as local, regional, provincial and federal agencies to develop sustainable, environmentally responsible programs that would benefit everyone.

"This program represents a new way of doing business, a new way of thinking about the world and our place in it," says General Manager John Caton. "The environment is our individual and collective responsibility and the successful execution of this program introduces a new business model that represents the future and is one where everyone wins!"

ELP was designed to serve as a model for others with three components in mind:

  • The business can prosper.
  • Guests/customers can positively impact the environment while experiencing goods or services.
  • A third-party non-profit group or the environment benefits through in-kind services or much-needed funding.

"The formula works," says Caton. "Our business plan proves it, the feedback we receive proves it, our business on the books proves it and the market interest proves it. We think the Environmental Legacy Program is an idea whose time has come - and the legacy continues!"

Media Contact: Deirdre Campbell, Tartan Public Relations, 250-592-3838 or 250-882-9199 , [email protected]

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