Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Eco groups urge government to complete protection promise for Great Bear Rainforest

February 7, 2012

Environmental groups supporting the Great Bear Rainforest agreement said Tuesday that the B.C. government is not meeting conservation targets set six years ago in a landmark agreement that would preserve 70 per cent of the central coast forest but allow commercial logging on the rest.

ForestEthics, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace said with two years to go before a new approach to logging, called eco-system-based management, is supposed to be fully implemented on the land, the province has fallen behind on its share of the work. Further, they said, only 50 per cent of the land is protected because the government mapwork is incomplete.

In 2009, the agreement was signed by the province and regional first nations, setting 2014 as the date when the land-use plan would be fully implemented. The target was to have systems in place to protect eco-systems and to provide economic well-being for coastal communities. Commercial logging is to continue but only on 30 per cent of the land base.

However, the three eco-groups said that target could be achieved by 2013 — before the next election — if the province completed work that needs to be done on identifying conservation areas and mapping out habitat for endangered species.

“We are asking Premier Christy Clark to finish the Great Bear Rainforest job before the next election, which would be 2013,” said Valeri Langer, director of forest campaigns for ForestEthics. “The industry is on board with this. Logging companies believe it can be done; we just need to get the province to step up to the plate.”

She said the Great Bear Rainforest agreement is a transition plan with specific milestones along the way. The province is not meeting those milestones, she said, raising concerns among environmentalists that it might be “bumped” in priority after the 2013 election.

Patrick Armstrong, who represents the forest companies with a stake in the region, agreed that companies could reach the protection target by 2013 if the government share of the work was done. However, he said the eco-groups are “jumping the gun,” by putting pressure on the government now.

“We don’t think there is any need to put pressure on the government or first nations,” he said. “We don’t believe the government is dragging its heels. In the context of all the restraints on budgets, the government is fully engaged.”

He also pointed out that social well-being — maintaining economic options for residents who are largely members of first nations — is equally important. Completing the planning is a complex and time-consuming task, he said.