Rainforest Solutions Project

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


Winning woods war may be easier than enjoying the peace

February 8, 2006

News headlines are heralding the pact announced yesterday to protect a vast area of forestland along B.C.‘s central and north coast as “historic,” coming as it did after a decade-long “war in the woods.”

Certainly, it is good news that years of talks between the B.C. government, half a dozen forest firms and a whole series of environmental, native and other organizations have finally resulted in an agreement that all groups can apparently live with.

It has obviously been one tough battle to “save” a big chunk of what has been billed as Canada’s largest temperate rainforest — home to the rare kermode bear. And it follows a series of high-profile protests and intense global lobbying against our lumber industry by such eco groups as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network.

So, let’s hope that all sides have learned valuable lessons from this prolonged trench warfare — especially about the need for early compromise over the use of what, after all, are public lands.

Premier Gordon Campbell himself has heralded the agreement as an “unprecedented collaboration” on how to manage “the vast richness of B.C.‘s coast for the benefit of all British Columbians.”

And it will be interesting to see how the people on the coast — especially the local native people — benefit from the forest-management accord.
Will it, in fact, ensure a strong economic future for B.C. coastal communities, as Campbell claims?

Or will the agreement simply mean a modest increase in high-priced eco-tourism of the kind now enjoyed mainly by wealthy outsiders?

Certainly, fewer logging roads will be built. But will that simply mean continued limited access to a region that should be enjoyed by all British Columbians? Also, will Victoria employ sufficient wildlife officers to protect this vast wilderness from the ravages of poaching, fire and disease?

At the moment, Canada’s forest industry is reeling from massive job cuts and mill closings. And will this agreement just make it harder for those now desperate for the well-paying jobs the industry provides?

We don’t know the answer to all these questions.

What we do know is that winning the woods war is one thing. Capitalizing on the peace and making sure it benefits as many British Columbians as possible is quite another.

That requires hard work of the kind that doesn’t generate newspaper headlines or celebrity endorsements.