Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Environmentalists re-enter fight over B.C. forests: Ecogroups turn attention to rest of the Province

April 3, 2003

After two years of relative peace, environmentalists are back in the B.C. woods, saying it’s no longer the coastal rainforest but the rest of the province’s forest lands they have in their sights.

Flush with the success achieved in the “Great Bear Rainforest” campaign, the international eco-group ForestEthics has given the B.C. government six months to begin moving toward less logging province-wide, or they will restart their global marketing campaign.

The rest of the province needs more protection, ForestEthics activists said Wednesday at a news conference where they released a report called British Columbia’s Endangered Forests.

“We have had two years of breathing room in British Columbia. During that time we have conducted extensive research on what is happening in British Columbia’s forests,” said Tzeporah Berman, a former Clayoquot Sound activist who is now program director for ForestEthics. “Current logging practices are devastating endangered forests in British Columbia and they are threatening key wildlife species.”

She said the government must identify and protect endangered forests.

“If they don’t, we plan to return to the marketplace with renewed vigour.”

In the Great Bear Rainforest campaign, which ended April 4, 2001 with an accord to protect large swathes of the central coast, up to $60 million in forest products contracts were lost, according to ForestEthics.

This new campaign would single out the entire province for global criticism. Already, ForestEthics is approaching customers of B.C. forest products and intends to deliver copies of its report to them.

“It’s going to be up to the B.C. government and companies to decide whether they are going to act or whether the marketplace is going to act for them,” said Merran Smith, also of ForestEthics.

Ecogroups like Forest-Ethics have been extremely successful in marketing campaigns against B.C. forest products, turning international customers against wood from B.C.‘s central coast after coining the phrase Great Bear Rainforest to describe the previously obscure region of B.C.‘s coast.

In the ForestEthics report released Wednesday, most of the province’s forest lands are identified as endangered.

They are demanding the province identify, map and protect endangered forests and take concrete steps to protect endangered species such as the northern spotted owl and the mountain caribou.

The first step would be for the province to stop its own logging program in spotted owl habitat, said Smith. Forest companies Canfor and Interfor have already voluntarily pulled out of spotted owl habitat after it was revealed only 25 mating pairs have been found in B.C.

The province continues to log under the newly created B.C. Timber Sales agency.

Environmentalists also want the annual timber harvest dropped and eco-system-based logging introduced in remaining areas.

There would still be room for “some” lumber production, Berman said, but the eco-groups are pushing for small, wood-based industries that produce more jobs from less wood.

Berman said ForestEthics has not calculated the cost of changes it proposes other than it expects the timber harvest to drop.

The environmentalists also introduced new regions with catchy names that they want to see protected. The Lillooet Forest District northeast of Whistler becomes the Rainshadow Wilderness. And the Monashee and Purcell Mountains are called the Inland Rainforest, a belt of wetland the report claims is unique in the world.

“At least they don’t have the same icon-recognition of the Great Bear Rainforest,” sighed Steve Crombie, of coastal forest company Interfor.

Interfor was one of ForestEthics’ targets in the coastal battle. It was depicted as destroying habitat of great grizzly bears and rare white kermode bears.

Crombie said the Great Bear campaign cost the company money but not permanently cancelled contracts.

“Certainly there were disruptions,” he said.

He said forest companies are caught in a no-win situation. The eco-groups have different definitions among themselves of what an old-growth forest is.

“There are no agreed-upon benchmarks which makes it difficult for us to know where to go.”

Asked if forest companies could survive under the restrictions now being demanded province-wide, Crombie said:

“They should go into the business themselves and see if they can make it work.”

Lee Coonfer, of Canfor, said his company has been in quiet talks with eco-groups over logging in the Interior. He expressed surprise that ForestEthics, which has been part of the talks, has now decided to publicly put the industry on notice of a renewed campaign.

Coonfer also said it is difficult for forest companies to respond when definitions of what is acceptable on the land — such as the term eco-based forestry — remain unclear.

Ministry of Forests Mike de Jong was not available for comment Wednesday on the new list of demands.