The Canadian provincial government of British Columbia and the governments of over twenty Indigenous First Nations, announced today an extraordinary agreement to safeguard one of the largest coastal temperate rainforests left in the world. The agreement is supported by Greenpeace, ForestEthics and Sierra Club British Columbia and forestry companies and will provide essential protection to the Great Bear Rainforest of Canada, home to the rare spirit bear, found nowhere else on the planet.
The agreement also presents a global solutions model for large-scale forest conservation, Indigenous rights and fighting climate change. Eighty-five percent (3.1 million hectares) of the forested land base of the Great Bear Rainforest, approximately the size of Belgium, will now be permanently off-limits to industrial logging. The remaining 550,000 hectares of forested lands will be subject to the some of the world’s most stringent commercial logging legal standards.
“Today is a powerful step forward where Indigenous rights, wildlife, the environment and the economy all intersect,” says Richard Brooks, Forest Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace Canada. “This agreement both solidifies Indigenous Peoples’ control of their traditional territories and secures the ecological integrity of an ancient and vastly rich network of forests and islands.”
In the late 1990’s the conflict known as the “War in the Woods” included blockades and international public pressure campaigns resulting in the cancellation of millions of dollars of contracts with forestry companies operating in the Great Bear Rainforest. Negotiations started in 2000, and conclude today with the final implementation of a new form of forestry and land-use planning called Ecosystem-Based Management that is at the root of the Agreement. The goal of this unique conservation approach is to maintain healthy forests and high levels of community wellbeing.
Informed by science and Indigenous People’s rights, the final Great Bear Rainforest Agreement achieves protection for vast areas of wildlife habitat for wolves, white (spirit) bears and grizzly bears, and salmon spawning grounds. In an era of a rapidly changing climate, the amount of carbon left in the ground through avoided logging is also a significant component of the Agreement.