Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Enviros want BC premier to protect more of Great Bear sooner

February 7, 2012

Three environmental groups are calling on British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to accelerate protection of the Great Bear Rainforest on the province’s northwest coast.

“With the leadership of your government, the milestones required to protect the rainforest and improve well-being in communities can be implemented within one year,” wrote Valerie Langer from ForestEthics, Eduardo Sousa from Greenpeace and Jens Wieting from the Sierra Club of B.C. in the Feb. 7, 2012 letter.

“The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements were celebrated in 2006 and 2009 as conservation models the world can learn from,” the letter said. “If they remain only half finished, the Agreements sentence the Great Bear Rainforest to inevitable decline. Only if the agreed-to measures and initiatives are fully implemented sooner rather than later, will people of this province and the world look at them as a success, and not an empty promise.”

The agreements, announced in 2006, committed the government to closing 70 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest to logging by 2014 at the latest, said Wieting. The government met a goal of protecting 50 percent of the area by 2009, but progress has since been slow on things like protecting critical habitat for species like the Northern Goshawk, he said.

Rather than keep working on the short term measures, the government should just move ahead and implement the full agreement, said Wieting. It needs to be done before the next election, scheduled for May, 2013, since that will likely cause uncertainty and further delays, he said.

“It just requires some leadership,” he said. “It’s possible to do the work within one year, but they have to speed up the process now.”

The minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, Steve Thomson, was not immediately available.

So far, said Wieting, “We’re not seeing the leadership required to tip the balance to speed up the process.”

Update, 4:44 p.m.: “The process that led to the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest was a collaboration between First Nations, the province, forest companies and environmental groups,” said a statement emailed from a ministry spokesperson. “The province remains committed to a collaborative and inclusive approach. In March 2009, all parties agreed to a five-year implementation plan, so all parties, including Coastal First Nations and Nanwakolas Tribal Council would need to endorse an accelerated timeline.

“The province has government-to-government agreements with both First Nation groups that need to be honoured,” it said. “The province supports a quicker timeline, but not at the expense of having unresolved issues from moving too quickly.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria.