Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Great Bear Agreement won’t shift pressure

February 16, 2006

Concerns that the recent Great Bear Agreement protecting a massive swath of B.C. coastal forest will have a negative impact on nearby regions like the Bulkley Valley may be unfounded.

In what is being praised as a landmark achievement by government, industry, aboriginal and environmental representatives, an agreement to protect 6.4 million hectares of coastal B.C. forest was announced by the B.C. government last week.

The Great Bear Agreement represents the culmination of over 10 years of negotiations that have seen armed standoffs turn to choruses of Kumbaya.

“It has been a tough process with many stakeholders and many tensions along the way,” said Western Forest Products (WFP) president Reynold Hert.

The settlement set aside approximately one-third of the area as protected, including the habitat of the unique kermode bear, also known as the spirit bear. Another 10 per cent of the north coast and three per cent of the central coast are protected as “biodiversity areas” – in which logging is banned but mining and tourism is permitted. The remainder of the region is designated for “ecosystem-based management,” a new approach intended to protect both the environment and industrial jobs.

Nevertheless, there will be less logging. “We will see a significant reduction in volume,” said Greenpeace activist Amanda Carr.

But she doesn’t think that should be worrisome to adjacent inland communities such as the Bulkley Valley. “I don’t see what happened [in the Great Bear Rainforest] will necessarily put pressure on other areas,” she said. “In fact, it may promote sustainable land use practices in other areas too. It’s already being used as a global showcase.”

Phil Brienesse, the Green Party’s Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidate in the recent federal election suggested there are more pressing concerns for the Interior. “I wouldn’t expect [the agreement] would make an enormous difference,” he said. “The important thing for us right now is the [mountain] pine beetle.

Furthermore, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen implied in a press release that the long-term benefits to logging interests will have them eager to repeat this kind of arrangement in all of their operating areas. “These innovative land use decisions will give forest companies the certainty they need to participate in responsible new logging practices that will bring badly needed, lasting jobs to coastal B.C.”