Great Bear Rainforest protected from heavy logging
For years, the majestic forests of towering Sitka spruce and 1,000-year-old cedars of western British Columbia were a nasty battleground between logging companies rushing to harvest the big trees and eco-activists planting their bodies in the way of the chainsaws. No more.
A landmark agreement among loggers, government and conservationists today permanently protects 5 million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest from logging and provides an effective timber harvest ban via "lighter-touch logging" on an additional 1.8 million acres of old-growth forest -- all told, an area half the size of Switzerland.
Greenpeace, along with Sierra Club B.C. and ForestEthics, helped broker an unusually complex land management program (Download Great Bear Rainforest backgrounder) that is expected to provide a model for other forest conflicts around the world. The agreement finds a way to preserve the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet while still providing timber industry access to some of the old-growth stands, and nurturing ecologically sustainable businesses for native First Nation groups whose livelihoods depend on the forest.
The rainforest is named for the unique subspecies of black bear that, in the dense forests and pristine valleys that stretch 250 miles along the Pacific coast, occasionally produces a cub with an unusual white coat.
"We and our partners started our with a very bold idea: that you could marry environmental protection with economic and community well-being," said Stephanie Goodwin, senior forest campaigner for Greenpeace.
From blockading logging roads in the 1990s, conservationists moved to pressuring home improvement companies like Home Depot to swear off the fine-grained wood products fashioned from the rainforest's old-growth trees. "There came a point when the logging industry and we said, there must be a better way of doing this," Goodwin said. "In 2001, we decided to sit down and see what a solution might be."
Now the details are worked out, and the protections are enshrined in law, regulation, and $120 million worth of funding for conservation management and sustainable business ventures. "As we recognize the ecological integrity of this region, it is important that we also see today as a good day for the industry. This milestone helps provide assurance to customers worldwide that high-quality forest products will continue to be supplied from the B.C. Coast," said Richard Garneau, CEO of Catalyst Paper Corp.
Environmental groups hope to win even more protections later to increase the amount of old-growth forest protected from 50%, in the current pact, to 70%.
-- Kim Murphy
Photo and map: British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Credit: Greenpeace Canada