Bright Award for Environmental Sustainability

This year’s Bright Award for Environmental Sustainability was given to Art Sterritt, who has played a critical role in establishing and protecting the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. The $100,000 international prize, now in its second year, is given annually by Stanford Law School. Judges for the prize noted that the protected ecosystem that Sterritt helped to establish accounts for a quarter of the world’s remaining coastal temperate rainforests.

“Art has done remarkable work in helping to preserve the Great Bear Rainforest, and it’s one of the great environmental achievements in North America in recent history,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School, at the October award ceremony co-hosted by the law school and the Woods Institute for the Environment. 

Bright Award for Environmental Sustainability 6
Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

As founding executive director of Coastal First Nations (CFN), an alliance of indigenous nations in British Columbia, Sterritt has negotiated many agreements between Canadian federal and provincial governments and coastal native peoples, the crowning achievement being the establishment of the 21-million-acre Great Bear Rainforest along a protected 250-mile stretch of coastline north of Vancouver. While protecting the Canadian ecosystem from deforestation and other exploitation, CFN has established services that support its member nations’ efforts to create sustainable businesses within the territory.

“Art symbolizes everything that the Bright Award honors,” says Buzz Thompson, Jr., JD/MBA ’76 (BA ’72), Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law and Perry L. McCarty Director, Woods Institute for the Environment. “His work demonstrates that conservation not only is consistent with human well-being but is critical to the sustainable development of local communities. The Great Bear Rainforest and the communities that live within it are both stronger and more resilient because of Art’s efforts.”

A professional artist, sculptor, and goldsmith, Sterritt told the standing-room-only crowd assembled for the ceremony that his goal was to ensure that the riches of the land be available for future generations. “Our social safety net is our forest, our water and our air,” he said.

The Bright Award was created through a gift from the late Raymond E. Bright, Jr., JD ’59, on behalf of himself and his late wife, Marcelle. Each year, the award will go to an individual from a different region of the world. In 2013, the Bright Award was given to Tasso Azevedo, a Brazilian consultant and social-environmental entrepreneur.