Rainforest Solutions Project

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


B.C. government meets commitment to protect so-called Great Bear Rainforest

March 31, 2009

Victoria, BC – The B.C. government says it has met its commitment to manage the Great Bear Rainforest on the province’s central and north coast.

The region contains the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest and has been a focus of First Nations and environmentalists for about two decades.

Three years ago, the government helped bring an end to anti-logging protests by promising to establish an ecosystem-based management system for the area by March 31, 2009.

The agreement includes logging regulations that protect the region’s biodiversity, provide sustainable forestry jobs and create a strong economy for coastal communities, Agriculture and Lands Minister Ron Cantelon said Tuesday.

“Today we take the final step in ensuring appropriate protection measures are taken over the land known as the Great Bear Rainforest,” he said.

The agreement was a collaborative effort between government, First Nations, industry and environmental and community leaders.

Cantelon said agreements have now been signed with over 20 First Nations and the combined land-use planning area includes 6.4 million hectares, an area more than twice the size of Belgium.

ForestEthics, Greenpeace and Sierra Club of B.C., the three leading environmental groups that worked with the government and other stakeholders, said the management model will protect one-third of B.C.‘s globally unique region.

“It’s a conservation model that other parts of the world can look to, a model that shows how protection of ecological values and human well-being can be advanced without undermining each other,” Stephanie Goodwin, Greenpeace spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The groups said the new system of “lighter touch” logging will maintain 50 per cent of the natural level of old-growth forest in the region, amounting to an additional 700,000 hectares of forest set aside from logging.

All sides involved in achieving the agreement agree that switching from a resource-based economy to one that’s based on conservation will require more time.

They’ve endorsed a five-year plan that will see the long-term goals of low ecological risk and higher quality of life in the affected communities achieved by 2014, with annual reports to assess progress.

The agreement struck three years ago put an end to protests and blockades as part of a “war in the woods” that had endured for almost two decades.

Environmental activism also involved marketing campaigns that targeted retail stores like Home Depot, encouraging the chain not to buy forest products coming from B.C.‘s old-growth forests.