Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Ottawa to give $30-million to ‘Canada’s Amazon’ - B.C.‘s Great Bear Rainforest

January 22, 2007

(Vancouver, BC) – The federal Conservatives have committed $30 million toward preserving the integrity of B.C.‘s Great Bear Rainforest, known to some environmentalists as Canada’s Amazon.

The area, which includes one-quarter of the world’s remaining coastal temperate rainforest, stretches 750 kilometres along B.C.‘s central and northern coast, covering 6.5 million hectares.

Environment Minister John Baird made the commitment Sunday in Vancouver, rounding out a pledge by the B.C. government, which had ear-marked $30-million for the region last February. At the time, the province agreed to put that money forward once Ottawa had matched it.

Several private donors and philanthropic groups from around the world had also agreed to match both governments’ funds – $60-million – rounding out the so-called Conservation Investment and Incentives Initiative.

In total, the investment stands at $120 million.

The region is called the Great Bear or Spirit Bear rainforest because it is home to many kermodei bear, a distinct member of the black bear family that resembles a polar bear.

It’s also home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals, including 1,000 year old cedar trees, 90-metre tall Sitka spruce, and 20 per cent of the world’s wild salmon.

Although Baird didn’t have a cheque in hand at Sunday’s announcement, he expects Parliament to approve the funds within three months.

He also shrugged off scepticism about the timing of the announcement, the third one by the government in the past week.

“I think so much work has been done (by the Conservatives), particularly with cleaning up government, now Canadians and our government and all Parliamentarians see the environment as an emerging priority,” he said.

British Columbia’s funding was to go directly to economic development for the Coastal First Nations. This includes more opportunities in sustainable fisheries, forestry and tourism.

Art Sterritt, executive director for the Coastal First Nations, said it was about time that people in the area were given more opportunities to use their land.

“Having the funds means we can work as equal partners,” he said. “Not as paupers, not as beggars but as equal partners to build a sustainable economy.”

Environmental groups, including Sierra Club and Greenpeace, hailed Sunday’s announcement.

“Most people think you can only make money by cutting down forests, but today you’re hearing that we are generating money by protecting forests,” said Merran Smith, with ForestEthics.

Last February, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell committed to protecting close to one-third of the region from all logging and the rest would require sustainable logging practices.

Some logging and mining is still allowed in the region, but on a limited basis.