Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Deal makes peace in the rainforest

February 10, 2006

Details on ecosystem-based management on B.C. coast are yet to be worked out.

(Vancouver, BC) – The B.C. government has reached a long-awaited agreement on logging restrictions for the central and north coast of the province, giving 25 native groups in the area a leading role in working out the details.

Government, industry, aboriginal and environmental representatives praised the agreement as historic. It covers a vast stretch of coastal forest, 6.4 million hectares in size, with about a third set aside as protected areas. Another 10 per cent of the north coast and three per cent of the central coast are declared “biodiversity areas” that ban commercial forestry and hydroelectric development, but permit mining and tourism.

The remaining two thirds of the coastal region is designated for ecosystem-based management, a new approach intended to protect the environment without wiping out the industrial jobs. The details of that are to be worked out in government-to-government talks with native communities in the area, a process expected to take until 2009.

Premier Gordon Campbell praised the agreement at a ceremony in Vancouver Tuesday, and referred to the prominent coverage it received in the New York Times and other major U.S. newspapers.

“As one of the chiefs said to me, we have to remember that people are part of the ecosystem, and community stability is critical for the long-term future of our land base and the ecosystems that we’ve all come to rely on,” Campbell said.

Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney, co-chair of the resource towns who negotiated the deal, said he was reluctant to deal with environmentalists and government after watching the Clayoquot Sound protests and subsequent settlement that wiped out industry jobs on Vancouver Island.

“Coastal communities and industry from Campbell River to Stewart B.C. have sacrificed immeasurable opportunities for economic benefits and jobs to achieve the results that are presented,” Furney said.

Environmental groups changed tactics from valley-by-valley roadblocks to a worldwide marketing campaign, labeling the area the Great Bear Rainforest and targeting protests against forest companies internationally. Merran Smith, B.C. coastal director of the San Francisco-based ForestEthics, called this week’s agreement “a dream come true.”

Dallas Smith, spokesman for the central coast aboriginal communities, vowed that final agreements will become a reality.

“We will be as constructive as we can because we have no choice,” he said. “We can’t go back to our communities and just keep saying, well, the government’s looking into it.”

NDP agriculture and lands critic Bruce Ralston said the ecosystem-based management approach is important.
“It is going to take real stewardship to make it work and the government’s stewardship record to date has been full of cuts and offloading,” Ralston said.