Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


A Canopy of Hope

April 30, 2004

Consensus Recommends 33 Percent Protection in Great Bear Rainforest’s Central Coast As North Coast moves into Final Stage of Negotiations

One of the most ambitious and longest running forest campaigns in the province – the campaign to protect the Great Bear Rainforest – recently reached a new milestone. On December 9, 2003, the Central Coast Land and Resource Management Planning (CCLRMP) table came to an unprecedented consensus on land-use recommendations for B.C.‘s Central Coast (the southern portion of the Great Bear Rainforest). The table recommended that over 1 million hectares be off-limits to logging, which, when added to existing protected areas, would place about a third of the landbase under some form of protection. Under this scenario, about 22 percent of the land base would receive full protection from industrial development; the other 11 percent would be off-limits to logging but open to mineral exploration and development due to the provincial government’s commitment to its “two-zone” mining policy. Stakeholders also agreed to adopt Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) across the entire 4.5 million hectare region.

With environmental rollbacks and lack of enforcement posing increased risk to the environment in BC, the endorsement of Ecosystem-Based Management on the Central Coast, and the high percentage of protection through a consensus recommendation, offer a bright spot of hope in a bleak environmental landscape.

The Central Coast consensus comes after seven years of LRMP meetings and environmental campaigns that have lasted for more than a decade. Greenpeace, ForestEthics (also representing Rainforest Action Network) and Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter, joined the CCLRMP in 1999 after securing moratoria on logging in many key ecological areas and intact valleys on the coast through marketplace and public pressure.

In April 2001 an interim decision recommended protection for 20 pristine valleys, bringing the total protected area to 22 per cent of the Central Coast region. The 2001 announcement also included a commitment by all parties to the principles of Ecosystem-Based Management and the establishment of the independent Coast Information Team (CIT) to provide scientific advice and analysis to the land use planning tables. As well, the Province signed a protocol with eight coastal First Nations committing to Ecosystem-Based Management and government-to-government negotiations immediately following LRMP recommendations, which will determine final land-use decisions in traditional territories.

In November, 2003, the Coast Information Team delivered an Ecosystem-based Management Handbook, a Hydro-Riparian planning guide and an Ecosystem Spatial Analysis (ESA). The main outcome of the ESA was that 40-60% of the land-base needed to be set aside in order to protect at least 30% of the habitat of rare and threatened species. As the table’s protection recommendation is close but still falls short of that threshold in this portion of the Great Bear Rainforest, managing human activities outside of protection areas becomes even more critical.

The recommendation of the CCLRMP constitutes a major victory for EBM, with the potential to flip the paradigm of industrial forestry in the Great Bear Rainforest. However, it also puts increased pressure on environmental groups to ensure its effective implementation.

The Central Coast consensus was a critical milestone in the Great Bear Rainforest campaign, but many more decision points remain. Government-to-government negotiations on the Central Coast are currently scheduled to conclude in June 2004. The North Coast LRMP concludes March 30 while the Haida Gwaii land use planning process will continue to the end of 2004. Both processes will be followed by government-to-government negotiation as well. Final land-use decisions only come at the end of these negotiations.

No multi-stakeholder process is ever going to produce a ‘perfect’ environmental solution, and this one is no exception. From the shortfall in ecologically necessary protection to the likely mining allowance in some “protection” areas (not parks!) to the enormous amount of work that is still required to make sure EBM hits the ground in an ecologically-defensible manner, the imperfections are clear and the challenges enormous. Nonetheless, the significance of a consensus recommendation to preclude logging on fully one-third of the land base should not be underestimated. When the forest majors, the IWA, north island mayors, community interests and small-business loggers agree to move beyond the arbitrary 13 percent protection that has guided far too much land-use planning in Canada, and are willing to stand behind a recommendation to prevent logging on over 1.2 million hectares, decision-makers must take note.

ForestEthics, RAN, Greenpeace and Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter will be working over the coming months to solidify the EBM standard and encourage governments and industry to implement a comprehensive solution. BC now has an incredible opportunity to set a global precedent for biodiversity protection and forest management practices that meet scientific and market expectations for sustainability, and that provide long term opportunities for First Nations and forest-dependent communities.