Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Liberals sign on to NDP forest plan

November 16, 2001

‘Great Bear’ decision follows review; Industry’s marketing consequences hailed

The B.C. Liberal government has endorsed an NDP conservation plan signed last spring to protect a vast swath of the B.C. central coast rainforest and to extend the same planning process to the north coast and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Liberal ratification of the rainforest land-use plan ensures eco-system-based planning will be the model for resource development on B.C.‘s wild coastal regions, representatives of First Nations, environmental groups and forest companies said Thursday.

The region has been dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest by eco-groups, who conducted a successful international markets campaign to discourage customers from buying coastal wood products unless eco-based logging is introduced.

After the June election the Liberals announced they were going to review the land-use decision and on Thursday, Sustainable Resource Management Minister Stan Hagen said the coastal plan is to go ahead with some changes.

“They have confirmed their support for the general protocal that was signed on April 4,” said Art Sterritt, Gitga’at negotiator and co-chair of the coastal Turning Point native land-use initiative. The protocol with eight native bands in the region north of Vancouver Island gives them a greater say in land-use issues. Greenpeace campaigner Tamara Stark said Greenpeace intends to inform customers of B.C. wood products that the crucial land-use process is back on track.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the Liberal government’s decision,” she said. Linda Coady, who represents the five coastal forest companies that worked with eco-groups to establish the conservation-based plan, said the “table is now set,” for a precedent-setting approach to resource management.

“What’s at stake here is the whole coastal forest industry’s reputation in the international marketplace,” she said.

A new element to the plan is the establishment of a coastal information team, an independent scientific body that will provide information on ecological, economic and traditional First Nations considerations.

The new team is being jointly funded by eco-groups, industry and the government, a breakthrough that Cody said “definitely puts B.C. in a leadership position” in forest conservation-and-development issues.

Also new, the Liberals appointed Campbell River Mayor Jim Lornie to chair the planning table, ensuring resource communities of a voice.

Despite Thursday’s optimism, the Liberal plan still has some holes in it. For now, however, there is enough good faith among the parties to give the government a chance to fill them.

First Nations members say they are waiting to see something more concrete in terms of resource-sharing.

Eco-groups says they want to have the proposed protected areas protected in law and forest companies say they are unclear how a $25 million mitigation fund will work.

Timber harvests will be reduced by 650,000 cubic metres on the central coast alone.

“We are going on faith here,” said Sterritt of First Nations concerns.

“We are all taking a big leap of faith,” said Stark.

At the same time the Liberals announced acceptance of the coastal plan, however, they rejected land-use plans drafted in the Lillooet and southern Rockies, prompting one environmentalist to charge the government of adopting a double-standard on land-use issues.

Bill Wareham, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the Liberals agreed to the coastal plan only because they risked re-igniting the international markets campaign against B.C. wood if they rejected it.

“In those places where we didn’t have market pressure, they have taken those plans apart,” he said, referring specifically to the Lillooet plan.

Wareham said the difference is that on the coast, forest companies wanted an agreement.

With the Lillooet plan, forest companies did not accept the conservation measures proposed, he said.