Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Truce Over Canadian Rainforest Seen Fraying

April 4, 2002

  • *- A year after environmentalists, timber producers, native Indians and the government called a truce in their fight over logging in the Great Bear Rainforest on Canada’s Pacific coast there are signs the agreement is under threat.

Green groups marked the first anniversary of the pact on Thursday by complaining the government of British Columbia was not following through on a pledge to help protect old-growth timber in the remote coastal mountain region known for some of North America’s most dramatic scenery.

“The progress has been minimal and slow, leading us to ask: Will peace in the woods survive this government?” Merrin Smith, director of ForestEthics, said in a news release that complained the province had not issued orders to protect coastal valleys in areas especially sensitive to logging and mining.

The provincial official overseeing the agreement denied its implementation was behind schedule and called the environmentalists’ comments “disingenuous.”

The agreement had been hailed as a truce in the long-running “War in the Woods” that included an international boycott campaign against British Columbia lumber products.

Environmentalists coined the name Great Bear Rainforest in the 1990s to describe the area of around 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) — about the size of Belgium — of sparsely populated wilderness between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the southern end of the Alaska Panhandle.

Under the agreement, about 13 percent of the area was to be designated as a “protected zone” against commercial logging and mining. Provisions were made for another 18 percent of the region to set be aside as off-limits.

The pact was reached while British Columbia was controlled by the left-leaning New Democratic Party. The right-of-center Liberal Party that swept the NDP from power last year said after the election it was still committed to the agreement’s principles.

“I think the process has moved along very well,” said Resources Minister Stan Hagen.

Hagen said even after last year’s agreement was announced, there was still disagreement over which areas would be protected. Approval of a plan by Indian leaders is needed before the government can act, and their decision is expected shortly, he said.

“Environmental groups are at the table and they know that,” Hagen said. The government announced on Wednesday a C$35 million ($22 million) trust fund to help workers and companies affected by the agreement.

Critics of the pact — especially in organized labor — had complained it would cost hundreds of jobs, and both the industry and environmental groups had said aid would be needed for displaced workers.