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News :: Environment
GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST- A DECISIVE MOMENT
by INEZ CONIAM
16 Nov 2005
The following two articles, one from environmental groups, another from
the coastal First Nations, call on the BC Liberal government to honor
their commitment and legislate protection for the Great Bear Rainforest.
Send a message to government through the website:
The Great Bear Rainforest – a decisive moment
The environmental community is collectively facing a decisive moment in
the history of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Please read the following and fax the Premier at:
The scale of agreements in the Great Bear Rainforest go beyond
protecting one single valley or establishing of one sustainable business
venture - victories which alone are often celebrated by the
environmental movement as success. The campaign goals we all embarked
on were large and visionary covering 21 million acres, the traditional
territory of 17 First Nations, and a region of economic importance to
many, including 5 major multinational logging companies. To be
successful and sustainable in this complicated political, economic and
environmental landscape, conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest must
not only protect the ecosystem, but also leverage change in
multinational economic forces, respect indigenous cultures, and
strengthen local stewardship efforts and economies.
The Government of British Columbia is currently confronted with a choice
to support agreements based on the outcomes of government-to-government
negotiations that include:
- A quadrupling of existing protected areas that would see 1/3 of the
region off limits to logging. This protected areas network is the
largest coastal temperate rainforest protection package in Canadian
history and represents an area 5 times the size of Prince Edward Island.
- The percentage of protection (33% of the Great Bear Rainforest) being
considered is globally significant. If we compare this to existing
protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest at 7%, B.C. where only
12.5% is protected, Canada where only 6.3% is protected or globally
where 10.8% is protected, the gains are clear. For reference, other
regions that are renowned for their protected areas are Costa Rica at
25% and the Great Barrier Reef at 33%.
- Analysis shows that over 55% of estuaries and 54% of wetlands,
approximately 30% of all habitat for Northern Goshawk, grizzly bear,
Marbled Murrelet, black-tailed deer and tailed-frog, 34% of all
remaining old-growth forest, and 39% of mature forest are found in the
protected areas network. Fully, 40% of all documented salmon-bearing
stream reaches are entirely included within the proposed protected area
- To our collective credit the protected areas network under-represents
“rock and ice” and captures much more high value low elevation forests
than are represented currently in BC’s park system. Alpine tundra
represented in BC’s current park system sits at 29%, while in the Great
Bear Rainforest proposed protection would see only 15% in alpine tundra
(note: 20% of the Great Bear Rainforest overall is classified as alpine
- A commitment to take a small step and create a pathway and structure
to see implementation of Ecosystem-based Management by 2009. If
collectively, we are able to force government and industry to abide by
the adopted Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Handbook this would result
in a full 70% of the GBR’s ecosystems and species in some form of
protection at any one time.
- $60 million in private and philanthropic funds matched by $60 from the
province and feds to flow to First Nations based on the ecological
results of their land use plans. Up to an additional $80 million in
socially responsible investments for native and non-native communities
with ties to the current economy of the Great Bear Rainforest. These
funds include a conservation endowment fund (which generates income in
perpetuity) dedicated solely to science and stewardship activities
including restoration projects and conservation management, such as
Forest Watchman jobs and stream restoration. An economic development
fund and socially responsible investments will be dedicated to
ecologically sustainable business ventures such as tourism, alternative
energy production, non-timber forest products and shellfish aquaculture.
The goal is to enable communities in the region to transition to a new
economy, rather than rely on multinational corporations that choose to
enter the region (such as aquaculture and logging companies).
As we all work in our varying capacities, from community development to
scientific research to negotiations to public engagement to markets work
and blockades, it is clear that the results of our collective work have
created a fork in the road for this region.
Decisions are being made right now that will determine the future of the
Great Bear Rainforest and one party – the Government of British Columbia
– represents the final hold out. The majority of First Nations have
clearly defined their land use plans. The power to decide the fate of
the Great Bear Rainforest is now concentrated in one place.
At this moment in time, this is the agreement that will be moved forward
or rejected. Those who remain silent now, may be inadvertently choosing
to become one in a chorus of many objecting when the government fails to
The protected areas network alone is not the only part of this package
that addresses the future of the ecology of the Great Bear Rainforest.
While it is the largest coastal rainforest protection package in
Canadian history, what is on the table for consideration by the
Government of British Columbia is about much more.
If approved the stage will be set for further conservation gains through
Ecosystem-based Management and resources will be available for economic
diversification of regional economies. If agreements are passed
protected areas will be legislated and secure (unlike the status of
pristine valleys in Clayoquot Sound), and although the groundwork will
be laid, our collective work will need to continue to leverage industry
and government to take additional steps to secure the ecology of the
Great Bear Rainforest. A new EBM Working Group, with additional
technical and science expertise, will be put in place to support ongoing
decision making in the region. The EBM Working Group will report to a
First Nations’ and Provincial government body who will make management
decisions. This is a new model, far superior to traditional
under-funded monitoring and implementation teams
To be clear, however, Government has not even taken this first step and
all that remains certain in the Great Bear Rainforest is 7% in existing
All remains at risk and so all are being called upon to bring our
collective strength to bear in a final push, instead of simply waiting
for failure to unite us once again.
Lisa Matthaus – Sierra Club of Canada, BC-Chapter
Merran Smith – ForestEthics
Amanda Carr - Greenpeace
STAND TALL for the Great Bear Rainforest
Vancouver Sun -- Best Chance for Coastal Rainforest
by Art Sterritt and Guujaaw
October 27th, 2005
Some continue to claim the proposed land use agreements to protect
B.C.'s Central and North Coast -- also known as the Great Bear
Rainforest -- and the islands of Haida Gwaii don't go far enough. Others
think it goes too far.
As 12 first nations who live in these regions, our traditional
territory, and who have 8,000 years of on-the-ground management
experience, we believe those who make those claim fail to consider one
How do we integrate the needs of natural systems with the needs of the
people who depend upon them for their livelihoods and way of life?
We live and work on this coast, where the forest and waters are a vital
natural, cultural and economic resource for first nations, coastal
communities and B.C. as a whole.
To be successful, land use agreements must not only preserve the land
and protect its ecological integrity -- they must also respect
indigenous cultures and strengthen local economies.
To be successful, conservation must be sustainable, both ecologically
The coastal land use agreements, currently awaiting cabinet approval, do
In these agreements, the total size of protected areas would be
quadrupled to secure many of its most sensitive and intact valleys and
This will be more than seven million acres of area protected from
logging on the Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii.
When approved, it will be the largest temperate rainforest protection
package in Canadian history. The agreements also represent the first
effort to apply ecosystem-based management on all areas outside the
This amounts to re-engineering an entire regional economy, tuning it to
measurable indicators of ecological health and human well-being.
Through a declaration signed in June 2000, Coastal First Nations
committed to making decisions that ensure the well-being of our lands
and waters, and to preserve and renew their territories and cultures
through tradition, knowledge, and authority.
Since then, this position has not changed, only strengthened, as we seek
to find more opportunities for conservation approaches based on
independent science and local and traditional knowledge.
As well, we are looking for approaches for our coastal communities where
unemployment and poverty rates are well above national averages.
The intricate process that has led to this stage represents a commitment
to a new relationship between the provincial government and first
Beyond mere consultation, this government-to-government relationship
will allow for a more just approach to land use decisions today and in
We believe the application of these land use agreements present the
world with its best chance yet to integrate conservation, community
development and first nations self-determination. We are supported by
Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the Sierra Club of Canada B.C. Chapter, the
Rainforest Action Network, the Nature Conservancy and others.
We are proud to support these agreements and are working with the
British Columbia government to develop legal and legislative tools to
make them a reality.
Art Sterritt is executive director of the Coastal First Nations of the
Turning Point Initiative Society.
Guujaaw is the president of the Council of Haida Nation.
*** Send a message to the BC government to protect the Great Bear
Rainforest at: www.savethegreatbear.org
This work is in the public domain