Great Bear Rainforest: Saved

Feature story - February 7, 2006
Take ten years of difficult, dangerous, and at times, heartbreaking work. Add thousands of activists from around the world -- some who sent emails, some who stood on the blockades, some who voted against destruction with their wallets. Some who were beaten, some who were sued, some who were arrested. Today it added up to victory. Common sense has prevailed and one of the world's treasures, the Great Bear Rainforest, is saved from destruction.

Great Bear Rainforest, Canada. Moss cover the rocks and fallen trees.

Rewind ten years to a beautiful forested area on the west coast ofCanada, in the province of British Columbia imaginatively called the'mid-coast timber supply area.' The old name for this magnificentforest highlighted its intended destiny, a destiny that would radicallychange once a group of environmental activists, along with FirstNations communities decided that sitting still and watching millions ofhectares of ancient rainforest being felled was not an option.

Theydecided that action was needed to protect the home of grizzly, blackand rare white "Spirit" bears, wild salmon, eagles and wolves as wellas one-thousand year old cedar trees and ancient spruce. Little didthey know then that the journey from those early days of what was called "the War in the Woods"would lead them to one of the greatest environmental victories inCanadian history.

"Today's decision is welcome news for theGreat Bear Rainforest which was being destroyed at an alarming rate tofeed a growing international appetite for wood, paper and toilet roll,"said Gavin Edwards, Global Forest Campaign Coordinator at GreenpeaceInternational. "The world's last ancient forests need a global networkof protected areas to survive - and the Great Bear Rainforest is a goodstart."

The finalagreement, announced today by the British Columbian Government has beennegotiated between environmental groups, First Nations, loggingcompanies and the government. It allows for the full protection of onethird of the Great Bear Rainforest from any logging, an area of overtwo million hectares (over five million acres). Significantly, it alsoensures that the logging industry implements a strict ecosystem-basedmanagement system by 2009 in the two thirds of the forest that isoutside strict protection.

 "Greenpeace will be watchingto see if the British Columbian Government follows through on thesecommitments and takes this opportunity to make the Great BearRainforest a global model of forest sustainability," said Amanda Carr,forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

This victory sets thescene for many more battles for forests around the world. Activists andcommunities have shown that the senseless destruction can be stoppedand that sustainably managed forests are the way forward. This March,the governments of the world will be meeting in Brazil at theConvention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to work on plans to stop theslide towards extinction of the world's plants and animals.

Whilstthe Great Bear Rainforest has been protected, an area of ancient forestaround one and a half times the total size of the Great BearRainforest, approximately ten million hectares, are destroyed eachyear. Ancient Forests such as the Amazon, and the Paradise Forests inAsia Pacific are desperately in need of conservation plans similar tothose announced in the Great Bear Rainforest today. Whether worldgovernments are up to the job of protecting them remains to be seen.

Todaywe celebrate a magnificent victory with the thousands of activists whostood their ground in British Columbia, every cyberactivist who eversent an e-card or an action alert on this issue, and the millions ofpeople worldwide who have let it be known through their votes and theirconsumer choices that the world's remaining ancient forests need to bepreserved. Tomorrow, we redouble our efforts to save the many otherforests in the world that are facing destruction.

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