On Monday, a landmark agreement was announced by British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark, ending decade-long negotiations over protecting the province’s Great Bear Rainforest.
The deal, which was made between coastal forest companies, First Nations groups, environmental groups, and the province, promises to protect 85 percent of the rainforest from commercial logging. The remaining 15 percent is still open to logging, but only under very stringent conditions.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rainforest on B.C.’s Pacific Coast, which spans approximately 6.4-million hectares between Southeast Alaska and the top of Vancouver Island. The name “Great Bear Rainforest” was originally coined by environmental groups in the ’90s in attempt to rebrand what was then known as B.C.’s Central Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area. The name has since been officially recognized by the province.
As one of the world’s largest remaining tracts of unspoiled rainforest, the region is home to wolves, grizzlies, mountain goats, Northern goshawks, orca whales, and the Kermode bear, also known as the “spirit bear” for its white-coloured coat. These are just a few of the creatures that reside among the forest’s 1,000-year-old western red cedars and 100-metre Sitka spruce, but it provides a picture of how ecologically diverse the region is.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is a global treasure, and all British Columbians have a stake in protecting it,” Clark said in a statement. “Under this landmark agreement, more old-growth and second-growth forest will be protected, while still ensuring opportunities for economic development and jobs for local First Nations.”
The rainforest overlaps with the territories of 26 First Nations, and the agreement recognizes that by providing them with shared decision-making, greater economic share of timber rights, and an additional $15-million from the province.
A tentative pact to protect this region was first signed by former-Premier Gordon Campbell a decade ago, but logging continued, and thus, so did the conflict between the parties involved. It took another decade of negotiations to solidify the agreement, which will be enshrined in legislation this spring.
Environmentalists are hopeful that this agreement could have an even greater impact in the future, protecting more than just the Great Bear Rainforest.
“It sets a huge precedent and a very encouraging one for threatened ancient forests around the world,” Catherine Stewart, who led the negotiations for Greenpeace in the first six years, told The Globe and Mail.
Richard Brooks, the forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, told CBC News the result is a model for similar land use disputes, not just in B.C. and Canada, but around the world.
“It should give hope to other areas that are currently in conflict, that those conflicts can move towards collaboration and eventually to conservation and economic prosperity and well-being for communities.”