Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Could there finally be peace in the Great Bear Rainforest?

February 6, 2006

It looks like years of intense negotiations have finally produced a plan to preserve at least part of the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia.

An announcement Tuesday will seal the deal, which affects some 15.8 million acres. That’s one-third of the size of Washington state. The exact proportion to be strictly protected remains a well-kept secret, according to the Vancouver Sun, which had the story on Saturday. But in past versions, about one-third of the temperate coastal rainforest was off-limits to logging and mining.

Mark Hume’s piece in today’s Toronto Globe and Mail calls the agreement long-anticipated, but notes that “it will push the economy on the central coast away from rough-hewn resource industries like logging and mining and toward softer, more sustainable activities, such as bear-watching and ‘sustainable forestry,’ a kind of light-touch logging that often only removes 2 percent of the timber in a given area.”

The area shelters many bears — black, grizzly and white. The white “spirit bears” are actually black bears with a recessive gene. About one out of 10 black bears in the region turn out white, according to a number of Web sites, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Don’t expect everyone to be happy. Just last year the deal was being criticized by the David Suzuki Foundation, for example.

But the big timber companies are on board, as are the First Nations (those are Indians to those of us south of the border.)

Here’s how Western Forest Products CEO Reynold Hert explained his support to the Sun:

“The biggest thing, and part of the reason for working on this is certainty. It lets us really understand what the ground rules are that we can actually operate under in the area and be supported by the people with other interests in the area.”