Rainforest Solutions Project

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


BC government renews short-term protection in the Great Bear Rainforest

June 30, 2003

(Vancouver, BC) – On June 25, the British Columbia government extended interim protection of the rainforest valleys identified in the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. The executive Orders in Council will continue to safeguard these valleys from logging through June 30, 2004.

The executive orders cover 1 million hectares of ecologically critical rainforest valleys, identified by the government as 20 proposed “Protection Areas” and 17 “Option Areas.” These areas were agreed to by the Central Coast land-use planning table, which is scheduled to end by December 31, 2003. Following the completion of the land-use planning table, the province and coastal First Nations will enter government-to-government negotiations. They will use the planning table’s recommendations and the First Nations’ own plans to make final decisions on land-use, including conservation economic development. The extension of the executive orders will allow First Nations time to complete planning for their ancestral lands and maintains the region’s Annual Allowable Cut at a lower level, which means less logging.

However, the planning table on the Central Coast and a parallel planning process on the North Coast are facing mounting problems due to tight timelines. With six months to go, unresolved disputes remain between stakeholders over the status of almost all areas proposed for protection.

The Coast Information Team (CIT), a group of independent scientists and economists, is lacking crucial data from the government to complete the development of options for the Great Bear Rainforest. Due to these delays, it’s possible the CIT will not be able to deliver their ecological and socioeconomic analyses to the planning tables and First Nations in time to allow sufficient review and incorporation of the information.

Environmentalists also remain concerned that the language of the Orders in Council allows for road development if logging or mining interests seek access to adjacent areas. To ensure the fragile ecosystem of these intact valleys is truly protected, the BC government must deny applications for road development. Furthermore, while the Protection Areas have been designated as “no-staking reserves” for minerals, oil and gas claims may be staked in these valleys, and the Option Areas remain open to mineral and oil and gas claim staking. Such persistent problems and government delays create a growing climate of uncertainty for the solutions process underway and project an image of instability to a global community concerned about the Great Bear Rainforest.

ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter acknowledge the need for First Nations to direct planning on their lands and create sustainable economic opportunities that benefit the long-term health of their communities. The four groups remain committed to working with provincial and First Nations governments, the logging industry and other stakeholders, to forge real solutions and implement the landmark Great Bear Rainforest Agreement in its entirety.