Rainforest Solutions Project

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


German visitors here to check on ‘eco-based’ logging process

September 9, 2005

Progress slower than anticipated, but province still committed

German pulp and paper buyers concerned about progress toward establishing eco-based logging on the central coast arrive in Vancouver today seeking answers from business, environmental groups and government on an innovative land-use plan that will change the way coastal logging takes place.

The head of the German Pulp and Paper Association and the German Publishers Association, users of B.C. products, are eager to see new logging practices that balance ecological and human needs put into place, say representatives of environmental groups and forest companies that have been working on a collaborative plan for seven years.

The plan, which will protect 22 per cent of a vast stretch of coast extending from the north end of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border, is the result of a unique collaboration between environmental groups, business, local stakeholders, first nations and the provincial government.

In addition to the new protected areas, an additional 12 per cent is to be off-limits to logging and hydro development. Further, by 2009, logging in the region is expected to take place under strict guidelines termed ecosystem-based management.

“The German customers were involved in trying to promote a long-term solution, and this has been going on for some time,” said Jean-Pierre Martel, vice-president of sustainability at the Forest Products Association of Canada.

“They want to meet with the various stakeholders to see where we are in the process.”

FPAC co-ordinated the trip through its Belgian office.

At the same time the buyers are coming to Canada, eco-groups are launching an awareness campaign in Europe to keep the plan for the central coast before the European public. A full-page ad saying “Time is Running Out for Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest,” is to run today in the Times of London.

Lisa Matthaus, of the Sierra Club of B.C., one of the sponsors of the ad, said the B.C. government pledged it would have the plan in place by the end of summer. Environmentalists committed to raising $60 million to contribute to sustainable economic development in the region.

If the plan is not approved soon, much of the money already committed by philanthropic funds will be diverted to other projects, Matthaus said.

“The problem is that the philanthropic funds have been waiting for years and, given their charitable status, they can’t leave that money unspent,”
she said.

Liz Bicknell, of the provincial ministry of agriculture and lands, said Thursday that the government remains committed to implementing the land-use plan and has assigned five more staff members to speed the process up.

“Things are moving ahead,” she said. “It’s very, very complex and we need to ensure we’ve got it right and are getting it right.

“The premier committed that we would deal with this early in the new mandate and that’s what we intend to do.”

Bill Bourgois, project manager for six forest companies involved in the plan, said it has taken longer to bring about on-the-ground changes than anticipated but logging companies are voluntarily moving towards ecosystem-based management without the actual plan and guidelines in place.
However, there are still examples of clear-cut logging, he said, as roads and cutting plans are developed years in advance.

He said companies are not sure what the cost of the new forest management plan will be in dollars and in jobs.

“But it’s going to cost more, no question about it. And there will be a reduction in timber harvesting.”