Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Forest companies and environmentalists reach agreement

February 22, 2008

(British Columbia) – Forest companies and environmentalists say they have reached a new agreement on logging on the north-central B.C. Coast that will temporarily defer logging in one million hectares of the region and see eco-friendly logging practices introduced in the rest ahead of schedule.

Further, the five forest companies and three environmental organizations in the so-called Joint Solutions Project, say they are considering certification under the strict standards of the Forest Stewardship Council.

The former combatants over the future of the 6.4-million hectare region, dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest, said they were announcing their latest collaboration to demonstrate that they can work together and show leadership in developing the new way of treating the landscape.

The logging delay on one million hectares is in addition to 2.1 million hectares set aside for parks and protected areas, leaving 3.3 million hectares, not all of which is forested, for logging.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world and the fight over its future, which began with blockades, has focussed world-wide attention on the efforts to preserve and balance the often conflicting needs of its ecology, its communities and its economy.

In return for companies speeding up the introduction of best logging practices ahead of a government-mandated March 2009 deadline, the eco-groups have agreed to assist in marketing products from the region.

Forest Stewardship Council certification could provide the companies with a solid platform for marketing products from the region, said consultant Patrick Armstrong, while the concept of ecosystem-based management, which is being pioneered on the coast, is a tough concept to sell in the marketplace.

It is defined as a management system that stresses leaving an intact eco-system while permitting logging and supporting economies in local communities.

Western Forest Products forester Stan Coleman, who chairs the industry group, said the companies want to show that they are taking a leadership position in developing the system. He acknowledged Friday that it’s a tough concept to create and put into practice. Logging is being set aside in the million hectares so the ecological values there now will not be lost while broader region-wide plans are developed, he said.

Greenpeace forest campaigner Amanda Carr said there are risks from the environmental side as well. The companies and eco-groups are only two of the stakeholders in the region. Much depends on government-to-government negotiations between the province and those first nations that are part of the broader ecological, economic and social aspects of ecosystem-based management.

“None of this has been tried before in the Great Bear Rainforest,” Carr said. “It is challenging and it is risky and of course, until we have proven we can do it, there will be folks who think we can’t.”

Besides Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and ForestEthics have agreed to work with the forest companies.

The major licensees in the region – Western Forest Products, Interfor and government-run B.C. Timber Sales are participating on the company side. Canfor Corp. and Catalyst Paper, who sell paper products from the region, are also involved. Only one major licensee, TimberWest Forest, is outside the agreement.