Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Final push needed on coastal logging deal

March 18, 2005

In the 1980s and ’90s, environmental conflict was front and centre in British Columbia.

Agreement among the various sides was seen as impossible. Former Premier Geln Clark dubbed environmentalists “enemies of B.C.” When the energy of Clayoquot shifted to B.C.‘s central coast, a union sued members of Greenpeace for protests.

Environmental groups wanted protection for the last remaining intact ancient forest valleys on the coast. Loggers and forest communities wanted assurance their jobs wouldn’t disappear. Forest companies wanted to maintain the same level of resource extraction.

Meanwhile, the international marketplace was starting to reject forest products from this globally rare and contentious region. The pressure was building.

Following months of discussions, forest companies agreed to logging moratoria in the majority of intact valleys, several environmental groups agreed to participate in land-use planning and the two sides sat down with labour organizations, communities, recreation, small business and other stakeholders to hash things out at planning processes for the North and Central Coasts. The goal was to craft a solutions package on which everyone could agree.

Believe it or not, an agreement emerged. After four years of work by historically polarized stakeholders, the province has been presented with a comprehensive, three-part solutions package that lays the groundwork for vibrant local economies while sustaining much of the natural legacy of the area.

The first part of the package is the designation of protected areas and areas off-limits to industrial logging. The stakeholder tables recommended these total approximately one-third of the land base. This contributes to ecosystem protection providing habitat for species such as grizzly bears, spirit bears and wolves. Protection also creates economic benefits that directly derive from healthy, functioning ecosystems. Tourism, sustainable fisheries and non-timber forest products are just some of the economic opportunities provided by maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The second part of the package is a new, more sustainable approach to logging. When fully implemented, this change in forest practices will help bolster economic stability and provide local employment while reducing the impact on forest ecosystems. Sustainable logging practices foster economic stability by ensuring timber is available over the long term.

The third and final part of the package is investment in economic transformation. Part of this investment would be used to address conservation management needs and create new job opportunities in the region, where unemployment has been high.

Another part — socially responsible investment — will be used to invest in sustainable businesses in the region. Already, there are philanthropic and private donors willing to fund these exciting initiatives, provided there are matching contributions from the federal and provincial governments.

But we are at a crossroads. The participants in the planning process have presented the B.C. government with a comprehensive solutions package. It isn’t perfect, no one is totally satisfied — but all participants are willing to live with it. Victoria has discussed the package with First Nations, which have their own land-use plans, in a separate set of negotiations. Now we are waiting for the outcome of those discussions and for the B.C. government to announce whether or not it plans to endorse a solutions package all parties can support.

The government said in 2001 that it was prepared to support major changes on the coast. It said the same thing in 2004. It’s time to change.