Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Cracks appear in year-long forest-war truce in British Columbia

April 4, 2002

(Victoria, BC) – Cracks are starting to appear in the year-long government truce that brought logging and environmental peace to British Columbia’s majestic north coast rainforests.

Environmental groups threatened Thursday to re-ignite a war-in-the-woods protest campaign if the provincial Liberal government doesn’t move quickly to ensure an area they call the Great Bear Rainforest is protected from logging.

Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, said provincial orders that protect 20 areas in the vast coastal rainforest from logging will be issued next month. He accused the environmental groups of resorting to rhetoric from past forest protests to fuel unrest.

“There hasn’t been one tree cut down in any of the protected areas that were designated as protected areas last April, not one tree,” Hagen said. “Ninety-two per cent of the central coast will never be logged.”

He announced a $35-million trust fund Wednesday to help communities, companies and people affected by the protection decision.

But the Raincoast Conservation Society and two other environmental groups – the David Suzuki Foundation and Forest Watch – released a report that accuses the Liberal government of unnecessarily delaying the protection agreement. Clearcut logging still represents 72 per cent of logging on the coast and 80 per cent of salmon streams are being logged to their banks, the report said. Environmentalists say that breaks a commitment the government made to move towards more environmentally sensitive logging practices throughout the region, not just within the so-called Great Bear Rainforest.

“The (forest) companies have had complete relief from pressure for a full year, and what has the rainforest got: zero,” said Ian McAllister, Raincoast Conservation Society spokesman. “If they don’t start moving quickly, it’s back to the war in the woods,” he said. “I don’t think they quite understand what it means to lose hundreds of millions in contracts because companies are destroying ancient rainforests.” Home Depot, IKEA and other international companies refuse to sell products that use wood from old-growth forests.

Last April, coastal First Nations and the previous New Democratic Party government signed an agreement that protected about 600,000 hectares of the coastal rainforest from logging. It established environmentally responsible logging and land-use planning practices in the area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle and includes the Queen Charlotte Islands. The agreement, which received worldwide headlines, was intended to improve economic opportunities for area First Nations and ensure sustainability of the rainforest, which includes numerous untouched old-growth timber valleys. The area is also home to a rare white black bear called the spirit or Kermode bear.

Hagen said the government continues to negotiate with aboriginals and local stakeholders on its way to implementing the protection agreement. He said the environmental report was politically motivated. “I would say that it’s disingenuous to be kind to them, and if I was not to be kind to them, I would say that they’re trying to move the agenda back to the last century, back to the wars in the woods,” said Hagen. “We’ve made tremendous progress on the central coast, the north coast and Queen Charlottes – Haida Gwaii.”