Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Ecogroups see conflicts over land use

April 29, 2005

Forest companies and the B.C. Liberal government are risking a return to the days of conflict in the province’s coastal rainforest by ignoring a consensus agreement reached more than four years ago, a leading environmentalist warned Thursday.

Merran Smith of the advocacy group ForestEthics issued the warning after a coalition of groups released a report card that gives the government and logging companies a failing grade in meeting commitments to finalize a land-use agreement on the central coast.

The region, a swath of coast sandwiched between northern Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert, has been dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest by eco-groups.

“It puts at risk stability and certainty on the coast,” Smith said. “This could de-stabilize the truce [reached between eco-groups and the forest industry in 2001]. This could potentially take us back to conflict.”

The main forest companies identified are Interfor and Western Forest Products.

A historic agreement was reached four years ago to protect portions of the rainforest between eco-groups, first nations and the NDP government of the day.

The Liberals later endorsed the agreement but the groups say they have failed to act on it. The government has not followed through to create protected areas and Interfor and Western are largely continuing with their old ways of logging, Smith said.

Bill Bourgeois, Coast Forest Conservation Initiative project manager, a consortium of five forest companies including the two named by Smith, said the companies remain committed to change but are phasing in the new logging methods. They expect them to be in place by March, 2009. The changes are now being incorporated in logging plans but are not readily visible on the ground, he said. By next year, companies expect differences will be visible.

The eco-groups, which include Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network and ForestEthics, gave the government a C for first nations relations, and the use of science, a C- for managing change, a D for protection and an F for ecological management.

Smith said the eco-groups have lined up more than $30 million in investment funding for the coastal region from socially-responsible investors and philanthropic organizations. If results are not forthcoming “that money is going to walk somewhere else,” she said.