Banners on logging machines. Greenpeace activists occupy logging machines protest against clearcutting of Great Bear rainforest by Western Forest Products.

At long last, today we celebrate the culmination of over twenty years of campaigning to safeguard the Great Bear Rainforest.

We started with conflict in the mid-1990s: exposing to the world through blockades, protests, and banners the seemingly unrelenting destruction of one’s of the world’s largest remaining coast temperate rainforests. Along with other environmental organizations and Indigenous leaders, we revealed the impacts of this destruction on First Nations communities who have lived there for thousands of years, and on wildlife like the rare white spirit bear. For five years we used this spotlight to bring financial pressure to bear on logging companies and the provincial government that enabled them, to change their approach.

After millions in threatened contract cancellations from customers around the world and international media attention, the major  logging and pulp and paper companies - Western Forest Products, Interfor, Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, BC Timber Sales, and Catalyst Paper -  agreed to sit down with us and work towards creative solutions. We set up the Rainforest Solutions Project along with Sierra Club of BC and ForestEthics to drive our work together.

Working closely with the two major First Nations umbrella organizations - Nanwakolas Council and Coastal First Nations–Great Bear Initiative - we agreed with the companies on solutions and measures on how best to protect the forest, advance community well-being, while also ensuring economic opportunities.  We jointly presented these solutions to First Nations as decision-makers over their territories and the provincial government. These solutions formed the basis of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement of 2006. What remained however was implementation!

We considered walking away from the table many times but chose to persevere particularly as we hit impressive milestones to implement this Agreement over recent years.  Although no one predicted it would take this long, after 20 years these solutions that we believe protect the integrity of the Great Bear Rainforest and that also support additional community well-being for over twenty First Nations are now fully in place. After extensive discussions between the provincial government and 21 First Nations, these solutions have been put into law and regulations that will stand the test of time. The Agreement is implemented and completed.

What exactly has been achieved?

Map of the Great Bear Rainforest

  • 85% of the forests within the Great Bear Rainforest (much of it old-growth), totaling an incredible 3.1 million hectares, will now be off limits to industrial logging. This is equal to an area the size of Vancouver Island! When we started our campaign in the early 1990s less than 5% of the rainforest was protected.
  • The remaining 15% (or 550,000 hectares) of the forested areas of the Great Bear Rainforest that can be logged are now subject to the most stringent logging regulations in North America and limited to a fixed area.
  • 8 new protected areas have been established. Also, 9 new ‘Restoration Reserves’ are being created for the southern areas of the Great Bear, which have been so badly damaged by industrial logging that they will be permanently set aside to allow ecosystems to bounce back.
  • The rate of cut in the Great Bear Rainforest has gone WAY down – around a 40% reduction since Greenpeace’s campaign began.
  • Better protection for bear dens and endangered micro-ecosystems are now in place.
  • Greater transparency on how forestry will be occurring in the region through annual reporting and innovative monitoring approaches will now be the norm.
  • The limits to industrial logging will be legislated in a new law to be called the Great Bear Rainforest Act. This will provide ecological as well as economic certainty long into the future.  

What is also exciting about final implementation of these solutions is that we will achieve the science-based goal to protect 70 percent of natural levels of old-growth (and more, in some cases) for most of the ecosystems in the rainforest.

Equally important is that community well-being measures designed to help First Nation’s leaders to uplift their communities have been put in place:

  • First Nations shared decision-making with the British Columbia government is further solidified over land use in their traditional territories. There are now legal requirements to maintain areas of cultural, ecological and economic significance to the region’s First Nations.
  • Economic opportunities for the communities, including revenue sharing, are also part of the agreement. This means increasing timber access and facilitating joint venture agreements with companies and the BC government.
  • Other expected opportunities will come in the form of completing credible carbon credit analyses in the south of the Great Bear Rainforest.

And so what we now have in the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most comprehensive conservation and forest management plans of this scale on Earth. We essentially have an area larger than Nova Scotia under a new legal and scientific standard for maintaining forest and wildlife health, as well as the health of the communities that depend on them, into the future.

Next steps include discussions with interested First Nations communities in developing a monitoring system to help ensure the provincial government is enforcing, and forestry companies are abiding by, the new rules.

Today is a day to celebrate and be grateful for what has been accomplished in the Great Bear Rainforest. Our gratitude especially goes to the twenty plus First Nations who have shown leadership in planning for greater conservation for their traditional territories, taking a leap of faith that stewardship, ecology and good economic development can work hand in hand.

And a big thank you to the Greenpeace supporters and activists who have done so much over the past twenty years – from being on blockades and scaling freighters loaded with old growth logs, to stuffing envelopes and raising funds in order to allow our campaign to succeed. This is your celebration as well.

The Great Bear Rainforest

In the 1990s less than 5% of BC's Great Bear Rainforest was protected from clearcutting.But today, after 20 years of campaigning, 85% of this forested land is off-limits to industrial logging. Please celebrate this huge accomplishment with us!Watch the celebration video and SHARE!

Posté par Greenpeace Canada sur lundi 1 février 2016

Please join us in sharing this incredible, ground breaking achievement with your friends and family.

To hear and view from those who fought for the Great Bear Rainforest, click here.