Industrial logging is likely to remain the single largest threat to the Great Bear Rainforest until ecosystem-based management and its inherent low-risk and precautionary approaches are fully implemented in planning and on the ground.
Widespread clearcutting has already destroyed 80 per cent of British Columbia’s large rainforest valleys wiping out critical habitat for species such as wolves and grizzly bears. Deforestation often causes landslides, loss of biodiversity, impacts to water quality and increases the rate of climate change by increasing the world’s carbon emissions. To suggest that fully functioning ancient forest ecosystems that have evolved over thousands of years can recover within a few decades after the majority of the trees have been cleared is simply unbelievable.
Industrial forestry not only threatens the ecosystems and wildlife of the Great Bear Rainforest; it risks the sustainability of the region’s local communities. The province of British Columbia’s forest strategy is based on cutting high volumes of wood to produce low value-added products. B.C. forestry creates $119 of value per cubic metre of wood compared to the U.S., which averages $318. British Columbia employs the fewest number of people per cubic metre of wood when compared to any logging country in the world. Raw log exports from the province are on the increase; the total volume of raw logs exported from B.C. in 2002 – 3.7 million cubic metres (over 100,000 truckloads) – was more than 15 times the volume exported in 1997. The exported logs in 2002 were valued at over $500 million and could have translated into 3,700 jobs if they were processed in B.C.
This type of resource management has forced mills to close in places such as Youbou, British Columbia. Converting the region’s ancient forests into low value-added products, like 2 x 4s – or shipping them offshore as raw logs – may serve the short-term interests of multinational corporations, but it does very little to build lasting community sustainability.
Currently very few of the benefits of industrial logging are seen in local communities. In the Great Bear Rainforest less than a quarter of jobs created by logging employ people from the local communities. At the same time, logging companies continue to deplete the natural resources these same communities need to build a sustainable economy.
Interim agreements do exist with environmental groups, industry, communities and others to support protection of some of the most important areas of the Great Bear Rainforest, change logging practices and support a sustainable future for local communities. This is a significant step forward. However, until long-term protection is legislated and a more sustainable approach to resource management is happening on the ground, the future outlook for many of these communities and their environment is uncertain.