Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Logging moratorium to end soon in contentious rainforest

April 8, 2003

Forest companies plan to wait for more environmental reports

A logging moratorium that cleared the way for peace in the “Great Bear Rainforest” conflict ends in June, raising fears among environmentalists that trees could begin falling again before planning is finished.

Merran Smith, campaigner for ForestEthics, one of four international eco-groups that signed a landmark peace agreement with logging companies in 2001, said scientific reports won’t be completed before the logging moratorium ends June 30.

But forest companies say that despite the legal uncertainty, they have agreed not to log in the contentious areas. Technically, the moratorium may expire, but companies do not intend to log, said Steve Crombie, director of public affairs at International Forest Products.

“Nothing will happen until the process is complete,” he said. “The only activity that is happening is in the areas already agreed upon.”

Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, said he is committed to the land-use process now under way, which he said is making real progress to reaching an agreement taking industry, community jobs, the environment and First Nations into account.

“You are talking about people’s ability to make a living in that area and yet at the same time you want to protect environmental integrity. It’s a good debate and the fact we are backing it up with science makes it more credible.”

“The land-use process is working and I am, frankly, quite disappointed that these groups have chosen to go outside the process with this sort of statement. They are represented at the table.”

Hagen said he has several options regarding the logging moratorium. He can renew it for all of the so-called option areas, let them lapse or renew some of them. He said he will decide after consulting with stakeholders.

As the land-use process works its way to a conclusion, the environmental lobby has been increasing the pressure on government and forest companies. Friday was the second anniversary of the agreement that ended the rainforest conflict.

On April 4, 2001, the outgoing NDP government agreed to a plan forged between forest companies and eco-groups to preserve large swathes of the rainforest in exchange for an end to marketing campaigns that were discouraging customers from buying B.C. wood.

As part of the dea, later ratified by the Liberal government, much of the remaining intact forest was set aside while scientists developed data to permit eco-system-based logging in sensitive areas.

Now, two years later, there is no clear definition of what eco-system-based logging is, but Hagen said First Nations loggers are to do some on-the-ground projects before the end of June.

“And once we agree on what eco-system-based management is, it can be used anywhere in the province.“Crombie said the long timeline is frustrating for all involved in the rainforest solution, but industry commitment to the peace is not flagging.

The four eco-groups — ForestEthics, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network — issued a “report card” Monday giving the government mostly failing grades in its commitment to uphold the 2001 agreement. Victoria was given passing grades, however, for managing changes on the coast effectively and for the scientific data being gathered, even if it is behind schedule.

“For two years we have been pretty silent as we have all tried to make progress,” Smith said. “But it’s been two years since the first phase of the agreement. The coastal rainforest issue isn’t resolved and over.” The ForestEthics report card is one more sign that the environmental movement is preparing for more disruptions in B.C. forests.

Last week, ForestEthics said it is setting its sights on the interior logging industry and is prepared to launch a marketing campaign unless the government moves to protect endangered species like the mountain caribou. Eco-groups are also linking up with northern First Nations, who want more control over the lands in their traditional territories.

Smith said Monday’s report card is to be distributed to customers of B.C. forest products but the marketing campaign is still dormant.

“It’s going out to inform customers, not to ask them to stop buying,” she said.