Whereas previously most of the Great Bear Rainforest was earmarked for logging, the Agreements of 2006 and 2009 ensured that a third of the region would be off-limits to logging and other industrial activities. This was achieved through a newly created network of protected areas, including areas that preserved high biodiversity and important First Nations cultural heritage sites.
All areas outside those protected in Great Bear Rainforest are now subject to Ecosystem-Based Management, a set of improved logging regulations that take into account certain ecological and cultural values. This responsible approach to land management ensures that the ecology of the rainforest is maintained alongside economic development, and that both work to enhance community well-being.
Critical to the new Agreements is the understanding that those who live in the region need to be able to live off the land and sea in a ecologically sound way. Improving community well-being that is within the natural ecosystem limits is the second major goal of the Agreements. Activities to uphold this goal include protection of sacred sites, eco-tourism, the manufacture of certain forest products like essential cedar oil, and lighter-touch logging. The $120 CAD million Coast Opportunity Fund was set up under the Agreements to finance First Nations-initiated projects aimed at eco-business development and conservation management.
Colonialism has meant that for most of the last two centuries, First Nations peoples have not been able to govern their native territories. The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements set up structures, institutions and processes between the BC government and First Nations communities that facilitated greater indigenous control over their traditionally held, unceded territories. This means that people’s lives improve through shared resource management and revenues generated by acceptable economic activities on the land.
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements would not have happened without the united efforts of all parties involved, including environmental organizations, industry, First Nations leaders and the BC government. In fact, going from conflict to consensus and collaboration has been the big success story of the Great Bear Rainforest campaign, and one that continues to evolve.