Celebration! Great Bear Rainforest protections a done deal!

Area roughly the size of Belgium off-limits to logging

Feature story - April 1, 2009
Greenpeace is celebrating an enormous victory: The government of British Columbia has announced the implementation of the most comprehensive rainforest conservation plan in North American history for the Great Bear Rainforest.

Great Bear rainforest

This celebration is a direct result of a decade-long campaign - one of the longest in Greenpeace history. The conservation plan protects the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. Around the world, it is being hailed as a model for conservation, a "greenprint" for other nations to learn from.

Maps of the area

Click to enlarge - Great Bear Rainforest in 2009. Click on the maps to enlargeClick to enlarge - Great Bear Rainforest in 2005.

A rainforest protected

In 2006, British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell promised the world he would protect the Great Bear Rainforest for future generations and to improve the well-being of local communities living in the rainforest.

Those promises have now been realized.

Since 2006, Greenpeace and its partners Sierra Club BC and ForestEthics have been working with logging companies, the B.C. government and First Nations to make the agreement a reality by March 31, 2009, a deadline set by Premier Campbell to make good on his 2006 promise.

Now that the promise is a reality:

  • Nearly 5.2 million acres are now legally protected from logging;
  • New 'lighter touch' logging regulations, based on Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), is now a legal requirement. This system maintains 50 per cent of the natural level of old growth forest of the region or an additional 1.7 million acres of forest set aside from logging.

What this all means is that an area of the forest almost the size of Belgium is now completely off limits to logging.

Thanks to Greenpeace supporters

Greenpeace supporters around the world have been instrumental in this victory.

After over a decade of difficult, dangerous, and at times heartbreaking work, the dedication of thousands of activists from around the world resulted in real protections for the Great Bear Rainforest.

We sent e-mails, we stood on the blockades, we voted against destruction with our wallets. We were beaten, sued, and arrested. And today we begin implementing the largest forest protection settlement ever negotiated between environmental groups, local governments, First Nations, and the forest industry.

Support for First Nations

First Nation communities now have $95 million (US) available to them to help kickstart a new conservation economy as an alternative to logging. The Great Bear Rainforest is the traditional territory of 25 First Nations that have lived in the region for millennia. This announcement will support the creation of new sustainable economic opportunities for First Nations.

The long journey

The historic announcement is built on a decade-long struggle to secure the future of Canada's Great Bear Rainforest.

British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest has been a site of global controversy, environmental protest, and widespread international media interest since 1995.

Greenpeace and its partners demanded an end to destructive logging in the Great Bear Rainforest. Our efforts culminated in critical pressure on forest product customers. Over 80 companies, including Ikea, Home Depot, Staples, and IBM, committed to stop selling wood and paper products made from ancient forests. This marketplace pressure drove logging companies to sit down and negotiate with environmentalists. Meanwhile, key valleys in the rainforest were protected from logging while discussions took place.

The main goals of our campaign were to protect the most important areas of the Great Bear Rainforest, change logging practices, and support a sustainable future for local communities.

Sophisticated campaign

To make these goals a reality, Greenpeace, along with ForestEthics and Sierra Club BC, employed a sophisticated campaign that involved protests, market engagement, government lobbying, civic action, participation in government-sponsored land-use forums, and negotiations with the coastal logging industry.

More to do

Everyone involved in achieving this major milestone agrees that there is more work to do before achieving the overall goals of ecosystem integrity and human well-being.

Greenpeace, other environmental groups, the B.C. government, the forest industry, and First Nations have endorsed a five-year plan that will achieve the long-term goals of low ecological risk and high quality of life in communities by 2014.

Global model

This is arguably one of the most comprehensive and complex land management regimes ever worked on and, as such, there has been no existing road map to follow. But through the many twists and turns this process has taken we can now see a destination - one where the Great Bear Rainforest will continue to provide a home and sustenance to all manner of life.

The Great Bear Rainforest agreements are truly unique: they work to ensure the ongoing health of not just the forest, but also the climate and the economy. Now more than ever, a global model such as this one provides a beacon of hope that meaningful collaboration and resolution can be found through conflict.