Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Vast area of new parks ends coastal controversy

February 8, 2006

Premier Gordon Campbell announced Tuesday 1.2 million hectares of new parks will be established along a 400-kilometre stretch of British Columbia’s wild coastal forests, ending 10 years of confrontation over a region dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest by environmentalists.

Part of a larger experiment in land-use planning reached among environmentalists, first nations loggers and coastal communities, the premier said the parks “will forever preserve some of the largest intact temperate rainforest anywhere in the world.”

“We have reached these agreements together,” Campbell told invited guests at an announcement held at Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel. “It is an example the world can follow.”

Environmental activists, first nations and industry leaders congratulated and hugged each over the coast plan — an accomplishment that took 10 years of conflict and negotiation to achieve.

The new parks, in addition to 600,000 hectares already in parkland, will create a network of protected areas encompassing 1.8 million hectares — an area three times the size of Prince Edward Island — in 100 pristine river valleys.

The plan is an expanded version of a land-use decision originally worked out in 2001 but subject to government-to-government negotiations between the province, and 25 first nations who have lived in the regions for thousands of years. It covers a 6.4-million hectare region of rainforest, inlets and coastal islands from the Alaska border in the north to Bute Inlet in the south.

At its heart is the 103,000-hectare Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, a wildlife zone on Princess Royal Island. In total, 200,000 hectares has been dedicated to protect the kermode bear, known as the Spirit Bear for its white fur. The bear is found only on the B.C. coast.

“There are 100 new protected areas that will be established,” Campbell said.

The parks were the key element in a revolutionary but untested land-use strategy that will change the way the coast is developed and brings in new players. A collaboration among community groups, first nations, environmentalists, industry and government, the agreement pledges to put ecological concerns first and provide first nations with a say in what takes place in their traditional territories.

The province maintains it still has ultimate authority — the Cabinet is the final decision-maker, Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell said. But first nations leader Dallas Smith said the agreement states that decisions will be reached through government-to-government talks.

Costs of compensation for lost harvesting rights, lost provincial timber revenues and the final amount of timber that will be cut on the coast are some of the issues that remained unresolved Tuesday. “It’s the best that could be achieved under the circumstances and represents a new beginning,” said Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney. A long-time advocate of forestry jobs, Furney said jobs have been sacrificed to reach the agreement.

But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm all the partners were feeling Tuesday.

The Germans, a hugely important customer to B.C., said if the industry did not solve its problems, the publishers would buy their paper elsewhere.

“They told us what they had seen was in conflict with what we were saying,” said Dumont.

While the meeting with the Germans was still underway, a memo was delivered to Berman: Home Depot had just proclaimed it would no longer buy wood products from endangered forests. She gleefully read it out.

The timing couldn’t have been better. The industry began earnest discussions with the environmental organizations shortly after.

Within a year, they had the framework for an agreement that would protect unlogged watersheds, introduce ecosystem-based logging, and focus on building a sustainable economy for local communities.

The deal was announced with fanfare by the NDP government months before the 2001 election.

The Liberals agreed to implement it, but it took almost five years. The initial agreement was expanded to include first nations’ interests, and regional land and resource-use planning tables.

Dumont said the key issue now is whether the plan will be economically sustainable. “We still need to figure out a practical way that you can harvest those forests, make a buck and contribute on the economic side.”


Premier Gordon Campbell is expected to announce a consensus deal today with coastal first nations that will:

  • Protect up to one-third of six million hectares of central and northern coastline from development.
  • Introduce an experiment in land-use planning that set as goals environmental, economic and community sustainability.
  • Include first nations more directly in decision-making, such as requiring forest companies to reach accommodation with native communities in order to log.
  • Introduce ecosystem-based management, a practice that requires loggers to leave a functioning ecosystem after they leave a region. It is expected to drastically reduce harvesting levels.