Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Loggers and green lobby strike deal to save vast rainforest

February 8, 2006

British Columbia agreement is seen as a model for preserving the Amazon and other wildernesses

A Vast swath of forest, filled with grizzly bears, eagles and 1,000-year-old cedar trees, is to be protected after an unlikely deal between loggers, environmentalists and native tribes.

The agreement, struck after compromises on all sides ended an often bitter ten-year battle over the wilderness, will protect 4.4 million acres from logging, with strict controls preventing destructive logging in another 10 million acres. The deal, announced yesterday by the provincial government in British Columbia, secures the future of the territory known as the Great Bear Rainforest, an area so lush and unspoiled that it can be seen from space as a green smudge. It is the largest expanse of coastal temperate rainforest in the world.

Because the deal involved the future co-operation of groups normally at war — logging companies and environmentalists — analysts hope that it may serve as a model for the preservation of the Amazon and other threatened rainforests.

The agreement covers more than 250 miles of coast and islands along British Columbia’s central and northern coast, up to the Alaskan border.

Because the area receives up to 15ft of rain a year, it has never suffered a severe fire, resulting in some of the tallest and oldest trees on Earth and an abundance of spectacular wildlife.

It contains about 20 per cent of the world’s wild salmon, and a dazzling array of other animals, including black and grizzly bears, a rare white bear called the kermode, mountain goats, wolves, peregrine falcons, swans, seals and bats.

Rather than a refusal to compromise, which marked much of the past decade’s failed negotiations, an alliance of the area’s native tribes, known as First Nations in Canada, and environmentalists agreed to let logging companies exploit 10 million acres, but with strict limits.

Until the deal was struck, the entire 15 million acres, owned by the British Columbia government, was earmarked for logging.

Over recent years environmentalists from across the world travelled to the area to protest, chaining themselves to logging equipment. They also persuaded many companies to boycott wood and paper made from the forest, which eventually brought the logging companies to the negotiating table.

Under the deal, loggers will not be allowed to touch land near critical waterways or near breeding grounds. They will also have to avoid highly destructive clear-cutting, and be more selective about the trees they fell.

The tribes, part of the 25,000 people scattered across the wilderness in tiny communities, also agreed to forest-friendly development including eco-tourist lodges.

In return, environmentalists and the native tribes get total protection for another 4.4 million acres. The tribes’ interests will also take priority in many areas.

“This really represents conservation in the 21st century,” Steve McCormick, of Nature Conservancy, a group involved in the deal, told The Washington Post.

“It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition — all protected, or all used. To conserve globally important natural habitat worldwide on a scale that will be meaningful, we have to contemplate human use.”