Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Great Bear deal in tatters: Environmentalists

April 4, 2002

Frustrated environmentalists and natives are slamming the B.C. government for failing to live up to a landmark deal to regulate logging and protect an area dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest.

And at least one group is threatening to resurrect an anti-B.C.-lumber campaign in foreign markets.

“We’ve come to a point where we need to completely reassess the campaign and we should think about maybe it’s time to go back to the marketplace,” said Ian McAllister of the Raincoast Conservation Society.

McAllister was speaking on the first anniversary of a deal between the province and aboriginal leaders on the central coast. Environmentalists call the area, rich in old-growth trees, the Great Bear Rainforest.

The agreement called for more ecological forestry, a reduction in the annual allowable cut, economic partnerships with native bands, transition funding for laid-off loggers and the protection of sensitive ecological areas.

In return, environmentalists promised to stop bad-mouthing B.C. forest practices in overseas lumber markets.

“. . . not one single component to the entire agreement . . . has so far been implemented,” said McAllister.

“What has been going on is large-scale industrial logging completely damaging fish-bearing streams. There is a growing frustration that we’ve been had.” Art Sterritt of the Gitga’at also condemned the lack of progress.

“The government is working on a mitigation plan with industry and plans to protect some valleys that are important to environmental groups, but as usual First Nations come up empty,” said Sterritt.

Greenpeace released a report card yesterday giving F grades to the government on its failure to designate protected areas through orders-in-council and its failure to make the promised deals with aboriginal groups.

Spokeswoman Catherine Stewart said Greenpeace is not threatening to target international markets but wants the government to move immediately to hold up its end of the bargain.

“We feel that in order for the planning to be done effectively, that all the pieces have to be in place,” said Stewart. “They have to implement the First Nations government-to-government protocol . . . and they have to enact the orders-in-council on the moratoria area.”

Resource Minister Stan Hagen yesterday pledged $35 million to a trust fund to ease the impact of land-use decisions on forest workers in the contentious area. He said the planning table on land-use in the area has been meeting since November, and that some native representatives wanted to re-examine some of the proposed protected areas.

“I hope to bring orders-in-council in May,” said Hagen.

Hagen called last year’s agreement “a bit of a suspect announcement” done just before the NDP called the election.

“We’ve worked very hard with First Nations to bring them into the economic mainstream of the province,” said Hagen, who called the environmentalists’ criticisms “disingenuous.”

“I hope they’re not thinking of going back to the wars in woods which we saw in the last century.

“We’ve moved into the new century. We’re looking at the balance between the environment and the community.”