Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Cabinet orders protection of ‘Great Bear Rainforest’

May 23, 2002

B.C. cabinet moved Wednesday to protect nearly half a million hectares of coastal rainforest — six times as much as was protected in Clayoquot Sound — that was the focus of a long campaign against rainforest logging.

The region is part of a historic mutually-agreed-upon no-logging zone on the central coast. Eco-groups have dubbed the area the Great Bear Rainforest.

The cabinet order prevents commercial forestry, mining and hydro-electric development in the 440,000 hectares and identifies another 17 “option areas” that require further research.

The order is in effect until 2003 when land-use planning and consultation with First Nations is expected to be completed.

Under the terms of the agreement worked out a year ago by forest companies including International Forest Products and mainstream groups Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and ForestEthics, the companies agreed to stop logging in ecologically sensitive areas until they are protected by law.

The deal would also replace clearcutting with eco-system-based logging.

Following the April 2001 agreement, mainstream eco-groups agreed to end their markets campaign against the forestry companies.

Greg Higgs, a spokesman for the Forest Action Network, an fringe environmental organization that did not accept the broader eco-peace, admitted that a news release it issued Monday may have mistakenly claimed that Interfor was working in the Takush watershed, which is near the agreement area but not included in Wednesday’s order because mining interests still oppose its protected status.

Interfor director of communications Steve Crombie said his company has already committed to not log the Takush area and has no plans to harvest trees there or anywhere near it.

“Our nearest logging operation is 50 miles from there,” said Crombie.

But FAN may have saved the forest company a lot of work by removing survey flags, Crombie said. “Some surveying was done in that area but we have abandoned plans to log there.”

Higgs said FAN members may have been operating from out-dated development plans.

“But we are going to keep de-flagging anyway,” he said of the mistake. The activists plan to hit other sites throughout the region, he said.

Under Wednesday’s order, the ministry of forests is empowered to suspend forest development permits and allows the province’s chief forester to reduce the annual harvest rate in the area, a move that will avoid penalizing companies like Interfor that have voluntarily stopped logging.

Gavin Edwards, a spokesman for Greenpeace, one of the signators of an April 2001 peace plan, called the decision “a step forward” in protecting the rainforest but said the eco-group still has concerns about the length of time the central coast process is taking.

He also said the mainstream environmental groups acknowledge that it will take time to introduce eco-system based logging in the region, part of the eco-accord. New forest practices will be an outcome of the planning process now under way, he said.

“At that time we would expect Interfor to modify its forest practices,” he said.

Coincidentally, Greenpeace is meeting today in Vancouver with a group of German publishers and paper buyers who were instrumental in putting pressure on forest companies here to change their practices on the central coast.

Edwards said the environmentalists intend to express their concerns over proposed changes to the Forest Practices Code as well as the slow pace of change on the central coast.