Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Bears finally saved from chainsaws

February 8, 2006

An area of B.C.‘s central and north coast about three times the size of Prince Edward Island will be protected from logging under an agreement announced yesterday.

The deal, trumpeted at a ceremony attended by environmentalists, First Nations officials and industry representatives effectively ends the decade-old “war in the woods.”

Premier Gordon Campbell announced that 1.2 million hectares of protected areas will be added to an existing 600,000 hectares, including the so-called Great Bear Rain Forest that is home to the Kermode bear, a black bear with white fur.

The total area includes 200,000 hectares of the bear’s habitat.

“The Great Bear Rain Forest is Canada’s Amazon, and today’s announcement is British Columbia’s gift to the planet,” said Merran Smith, director of ForestEthics, a group devoted to protecting endangered forests. “Literally hundreds of rainforest valleys will be saved from the chainsaw.”

The agreement also gives First Nations options for input into managing resources in the region.

The new agreement will allow mining and tourism on three per cent of the central coast and 10 per cent of the north coast.

For a decade, the region has pitted conservationists against logging and mining interests. But that fight was consigned to the past yesterday. “It’s been a long road getting to today,” said Smith. “Ten years ago, we were at the blockades, the boycotts and in the boardrooms, and the war in the woods was heating up.”

Campbell said the term “historic” is sometimes used loosely, but the announcement warranted the label. “Today we announce the culmination of an unprecedented collaboration . . . between First Nations, communities, conservationists, industry and government in support of a provincial land-use decision,” said Campbell.

Many of those groups were present during a ceremony. “Everybody that was involved had the ability to say ‘no’ at different points in time,” said Reynold Hert, president and CEO of Western Forest Products, one of four forestry companies involved in negotiations.

“In the end, we have come to this very important day where everyone is saying ‘yes’ and we have reached this agreement.”

Art Sterritt, a spokesman for coastal First Nations, said: “Everybody had to make a little compromise, but at the end of the day we have plans our communities are comfortable with.”

Legislation will be introduced shortly to establish the new protected areas and enforce sustainable logging.