Over the past few months I have been writing about the Great Bear Rainforest in terms of the campaign to finalize the Agreements - first announced in February 2006 to global acclaim by then-BC premier Gordon Campbell and the region’s First Nations. And in those posts I have used the metaphor of the 'long and winding road' to describe the marathon-like campaign for realizing the vision for healthy forests and healthy communities.
Thus on this last day of the year I am in a pensive mood because we didn’t reach our destination as I had hoped (yet another speed bump on the road!). I mean, it's been two decades! - and we are so, so close. And I know all the other parties involved are wanting this wrapped as well.
I am nevertheless very optimistic that we in fact will achieve success in early 2016. In fact, there is an elegant symbolism here because it will mark 10 years since the original historic announcement - and so perhaps it is just as well that we have not yet reached the destination.
In refllecting on the past year and further back, it is clear to me that multilateral negotiations rooted in indigenous rights and title of many First Nations and which involve complex land use planning and conservation on a such a large scale as that of the Great Bear Rainforest takes a very long time. And most of the past 7 years in particular was spent in intense negotiations and problem-solving in order to meet the challenge of putting in place a final logging management system that realizes the goals of the 2006 Agreements.
I have also written elsewhere this past year about TimberWest logging operations in the southern Great Bear Rainforest and our concerns over how they have defined old-growth trees and endangered ecosystems. Nothing better defines the issues at play in that region than a small number of forests on Sonora Island representing endangered ecosystems which have been threatened with being logged over the past few years. If it wasn’t for the efforts of the local community and environmental organizations like ours they would have been logged already.
TimberWest has indeed come some distance in understanding and committing to logging on the basis of Ecosystem-Based Management in the Great Bear Rainforest, which is good. However it appears those areas or 'cutblocks' will not be set aside in their entirety. And so at the end of 2015 from my perspective, we have a mixed bag from the company, for although they have agreed to set aside one area full of old-growth trees, the other 5 blocks will be logged to varying degrees - subject to the new logging regulations expected to be legalized in the coming weeks.
At the end of these processes I do see the destination on this very long and twisty road coming into clearer view, and so for me I think 2016 will springboard in a very positive way. Even if we don’t have a hugely fabulous story to tell in the southern Great Bear Rainforest because of the history of intense industry logging there, on the whole it will be a grand story for the coming time (although let’s not kid ourselves – there are a plethora of other concerning issues in the region such as the outrageous trophy hunting of bears and culling of wolves permitted by the BC government).
We hope the final announcement on implementing the Great Bear Rainforest conservation agreements to happen at the dawn of the Chinese New Year of the Fire Monkey 2016, which brings with it the traits of energy and determination – most appropriate for a final announcement! Stay tuned.
Eduardo Sousa is senior forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. He has been working these past seven years to help finalize the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, and is also active in helping preserve the remaining large intact forests of Clayoquot Sound - both in unceded traditional territories of over thirty First Nations on the west coast of Canada.