- An agreement announced today will make 85 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world, off-limits to industrial logging.
- The remaining 15 percent will be subject to “stringent" legal standards.
- The agreement also solidifies First Nations governments’ shared decision-making powers with the B.C. government within their traditional territories.
An agreement announced today will protect the vast majority of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world.
A deal has been struck between First Nations governments, the provincial government of British Columbia, and the forestry industry that fulfills commitments first made a decade ago as part of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.
In the mid-1990s, amidst growing industrial logging operations in rainforests around the world, First Nations communities in B.C. were becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the forests in their traditional territories, to which they often had no legal title.
Those First Nations groups were joined by environmentalists in a fierce battle against the forestry industry and the B.C. government until 2000, when all parties came together to call a ceasefire and allow an independent scientific analysis of the rainforest.
That process culminated in the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, a vision for ecosystem-based management of the rare temperate rainforest ecosystems found in B.C.
With the agreement announced today, some 3.1 million hectares (7.7 million acres) of the Great Bear Rainforest — over 85 percent of the temperate rainforest in the remote coastal region — will be permanently off-limits to industrial logging.
The remaining 15 percent (550,000 hectares or 1.2 million acres) of the forest will be subject to “the most stringent legal standards for commercial logging operations in North America,” according to a statement by environmental groups ForestEthics, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club, all of which were part of the original campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest and helped negotiate the agreement announced today.
The agreement requires a 40 percent reduction in logging compared with 2006 levels — or 2.5 million cubic metres (88.2 million cubic feet) per year — for the next 10 years. After that, logging will be done on a “conservation trajectory.” Logging companies will have to make annual progress reports to the public to ensure they meet the required conservation targets.
The agreement also solidifies First Nations governments’ shared decision-making powers with the B.C. government within their traditional territories and establishes measures to improve the wellbeing of First Nations communities.
Environmentalists are calling the agreement a victory for the global climate, as well, as B.C.’s coastal old-growth rainforests are known to store large amounts of carbon, meaning that increased protections will result in an immediate reduction in carbon emissions from deforestation.
“The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements is one of the most visionary forest conservation plans on Earth,” says Valerie Langer, ForestEthics Solutions Director. “It is a principled approach that sets a new legal and science-based standard for sustaining healthy forests and maintains intact, old-growth that will keep millions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere.”
Just over half of the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest, which encompasses about 6.4 million hectares (15 million acres) of coastal B.C., is covered by forest ecosystems (around 3.6 million hectares, or 8.9 million acres). It is the traditional territory of 26 First Nations.
The Great Bear Rainforest provides habitat for a number of iconic species, including towering, ancient trees as well as grizzly bears, orcas, salmon, wolves, and the unique, white-furred black bear known as the Spirit bear that the rainforest is named for.
Environmentalists celebrated today’s announcement as the culmination of 20 years of campaigning for the Great Bear Rainforest — and a model of collaborative conservation led by forest communities that the rest of the world can follow.
“The realization of the Agreements proves their value as a model for collaboration, conservation, communities and climate action,” Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner for Sierra Club BC, said in a statement.
“The completion of this marathon would not have been possible without the incredible leadership of the rainforest’s First Nations leaders,” Richard Brooks, Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign Coordinator, added.
“From conflict to collaboration, we now celebrate the protection of areas of cultural and ecological importance while ensuring economic opportunities for the communities exist long into the future.”