Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Canada’s Coastline Tagged for Preserve

February 9, 2006

(Vancouver, BC) – Canada unveiled Tuesday a 6.4 million-hectare park, a protected area teeming with grizzly bears, wolves and wild salmon in the ancestral home of many native tribes.

Closing another chapter of the wars between environmentalists and loggers, the Great Bear Rainforest is the result of an unusual accord between governments, aboriginal First Nations, the logging industry and environmentalists.

It will stretch 402 kilometers along British Columbia’s rugged Pacific coastline in the ancestral home of many native groups whose cultures date back thousands of years.

The area also sustains the rare white spirit bear, a species found only in British Columbia. First Nations — as native Indians are called in Canada — believe their creator, the Raven, created the white bear as a reminder of the last ice age.

“The agreement on these areas represents an unprecedented collaboration between First Nations, industry, local governments and many other stake holders in how we manage the vast richness of B.C.‘s coast for the benefit of all British Columbians,” said British Columbian Premier Gordon Campbell, accompanied by native dancers and drummers for the announcement and formal First Nations blessing.

“The result is a strong marriage that balances the needs of the environment with the need for sustainable jobs and a strong economic future for coastal communities,” he said.

Campbell said 1.8 million hectares would be protected outright and managed as parkland, with another 4.6 hectares run under a plan to ensure sustainable forestry with minimal impact on the environment. Full implementation of the protection project is not expected until 2009.

British Columbia’s spectacular and lush evergreen forests have been the scene of decades of confrontation between environmentalists and loggers. Boycott campaigns in the 1990s led to large international companies turning away from British Columbia paper and wood products, forcing the government to find a solution.

“British Columbians are showing that it is possible to protect the environment and provide the economic foundation for healthy communities,” said Lisa Math, coast campaign co-coordinator for the Sierra Club of Canada’s British Columbia Chapter. “This innovative rainforest agreement provides a real world example of how people and wilderness can prosper together.”

The region is home to hundreds of species including grizzlies, black bears, the so-called spirit bear, wolves, cougars, mountain goats, moose and deer.

A central component of the Great Bear Rainforest project will be a financing package costing 120 million Canadian dollars ($104 million).

Michael Uehara, president of the King Pacific Lodge, said the Great Bear Rainforest would also go a long way to promote ecotourism.

“So many tourism experiences in the past have been kind of loved to death; that kind of plunder will not exist in this area because of the safeguards that are put in place,” said Uehara, whose lodge is in the heart of the protected area.

His upscale fly fishing lodge works with nearby First Nations communities in their fishing and adventure activities, adding more authenticity for the visitor and providing employment in the villages.

“It’s a win-win for all of us,” he said.