Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Great Bear changes the rules

February 10, 2006

Protection of rainforest could mean responsibility shift for park preservation

Several times a day for the past week I have found myself jumping up with joy to shout that the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) has been protected, then I sit back down and remember all of the practical implications. A lot has changed over the past 15 years when the social-environmental struggle was dubbed ‘the war in the woods’ by the media. The struggle of the people to protect the environment of this planet has changed, as have the rules. Let’s hope the results change too.

One point eight million hectares of land along B.C.’s Central and North Coast will be preserved to protect the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world. The GBR is home to the Kermode or Spirit bear — a rare, white variation of the black bear, as well as one of the world’s last large populations of grizzly bears.

This initiative was spearheaded by First Nations and environmentalists who have been in negotiations for the past 10 years with the forest industry and the BC government.

After large well-organized public protests at Clayoquot Sound, the government and multinational logging corporations refused to attend the negotiations for the GBR until environmental groups signed onto a list of very stringent rules. The non-profit groups agreed that they would not make demands for land protection anywhere else in the province or the other parties would walk away from the GBR table forever.

This meant no lobbying for public support, no public relations campaigns, no advertising, no boycotts, no rallies, and definitely no roadblocks.

As a result the groups with the largest public support, best organizational skills, and the biggest political clout did nothing about the many atrocities being perpetrated upon the environment in British Columbia. All the eggs were in one basket, the Great Bear Rainforest.

Limited logging will be allowed in the GBR under the new land-use plan. I have heard the words limited, selective, and special management used by foresters to describe their methods of logging.

I have seen what the B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range allows logging companies to do out in the wilderness. Variable retention logging is flaunted as being different from clear-cutting. I have witnessed ‘new age’ logging that goes on today in some the most sensitive forests, managed under strict government supervision.

The results include: steep slopes with all the trees cut down except a few left on the top of the ridge to blow down in the first winter, river banks exposed by log-yarding and road building that forces silt into salmon-bearing streams, patches of trees left as wildlife corridors that blow down and are then ‘salvaged’ a few years later, and devastation beyond the imagination left behind in the ‘unclear-cuts.’

Today, with the change from the Forest Practices Code to the Results-Based Code implemented by the provincial Liberal government, logging corporations are expected to monitor their own adherence to environmental policies.
Environmental organizations will contribute $60 million in the hope of changing the economic focus of communities located around the GBR, from resource extraction to eco-tourism. The province will add $30 million and ask Ottawa to match it.

This financial shift is very significant because it means that non-profit organizations will be paying half the cost while tax-payers take the back seat in the preservation of parks.

The question is who will set the rules? For example the rules of protection have been modified repeatedly in Strathcona park, established in 1911 as the first B.C. Provincial Park, when government allowed mines, logging, road building, private resorts, and dams to alter the environment inside the park.

At the end of last year, environmentalists spent $1.35 million to buy the trophy-hunting rights in an area now known as the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary. The most valuable guide outfitting territories in B.C. transformed into eco-tourism overnight. Foreign hunters are no longer welcome to shoot bears and wolves in a 20,000 square kilometre area of B.C.’s Central Coast, they are now encouraged to bring cameras instead.

Sounds great, but in the GBR all B.C. residents with a regular hunting license can still shoot bears, wolves, cougar, deer, moose, elk, grouse, ducks, and just about any creature they like within the proper hunting season. This is also the sad fact in most provincial parks in B.C.