Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Campbell shines up his enviro credentials

March 31, 2009

(Vancouver, BC) – With the way the Liberals are getting vilified over private power projects on B.C. rivers, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gordon Campbell must be the biggest nature-defiling barbarian this side of the Exxon Valdez captain.

That’s why the Libs would love to polish up their green credentials right before the election, especially since the carbon tax has turned into a political dud.

Looks like they’ve found a timely talking point: Would you believe “one of the most significant environmental announcements ever made in the history of B.C.?”

That’s how the government is billing today’s unveiling of “ecosystem-based management” for the Great Bear Rainforest — the vast coastal region that used to be called the Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area before environmentalists came up with a sexier name.

Today’s announcement, sources say, will include strict new rules on logging and other resource extraction in the region as well as money for municipalities and First Nations.

The announcement will receive lots of hype: First Nations and municipal leaders will be on hand along with representatives from Greenpeace and other environmental groups. The sights and sounds of First Nations drumming and dancing will fill the stately rotunda of the legislature.

After getting hammered by environmentalists over run-of-the-river power projects, this is a photo-op the government will milk for all its worth: Greenpeace standing with the Liberals, not fighting them.

And it literally comes not a moment too soon.

Campbell first announced protection measures for the Mid-Coast Timber Sup . . . — uh, sorry, the Great Bear Rainforest — back in 2006. (Presumably one of the most significant environmental announcements ever made in the history of the B.C. before today.)

At the time, Campbell promised to implement ecosystem-based management throughout the region by March 31, 2009.

In other words, he’s making good on his promise right under the wire. The government has been involved in negotiations over the past weeks with Greenpeace and other groups to bring them onside as “validators” and show up for today’s hoopla.

As the clock ticked down to the deadline, the enviros had begun to think the government was looking for a way to jam out of the promise.

It looks, instead, like the Libs just wanted to save the good news for as close as possible to the election.

Watch for the announcement to include details on a new “lighter touch” form of forestry aimed at conserving large tracts of old-growth timber.

Expect a lot of hype, as well, about the climate-change benefits of the plan: Trees suck up carbon dioxide, the main gas that scientists believe causes global warming. Sources I spoke to yesterday were already warming up soundbites such as “the biggest carbon sink in the world” to describe the region.

All of which will be frustrating for the NDP and more radical environmental groups determined to paint the Libs as enemies of the planet in the looming election.

The fight over hydro won’t go away, but the Liberals hope this announcement will send a message to wavering voters that Campbell is not the eco-disaster that some suggest.