Take 10 years of difficult, dangerous and, at times, heartbreaking work. Add thousands of activists from around the world - some who sent e-mails, 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.
Rewind 10 years to a beautiful forested area on the west coast of Canada, in the province of British Columbia imaginatively called the "mid-coast timber supply area." The old name for this magnificent forest highlighted its intended destiny, a destiny that would radically change once a group of environmental activists, along with First Nations communities decided that sitting still and watching millions of hectares of ancient rainforest being felled was not an option.
They decided that action was needed to protect the home of grizzly, black and rare white "Spirit" bears, wild salmon, eagles and wolves as well as 1,000 year old cedar trees and ancient spruce. Little did they 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 in Canadian history.
"Today's decision is welcome news for the Great Bear Rainforest which was being destroyed at an alarming rate to feed a growing international appetite for wood, paper and toilet roll," said Gavin Edwards, Global Forest Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace International. "The world's last ancient forests need a global network of protected areas to survive - and the Great Bear Rainforest is a good start."
The final agreement, announced on February 7, by the British Columbian government has been negotiated between environmental groups, First Nations, logging companies and the government. It allows for the full protection of one-third of the Great Bear Rainforest from any logging, an area of over two million hectares (over five million acres). Significantly, it also ensures that the logging industry implements a strict ecosystem-based management system by 2009 in the two-thirds of the forest that is outside strict protection.
"Greenpeace will be watching to see if the British Columbian Government follows through on these commitments and takes this opportunity to make the Great Bear Rainforest a global model of forest sustainability," said Amanda Carr, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.
This victory sets the scene for many more battles for forests around the world. Activists and communities have shown that the senseless destruction can be stopped and that sustainably managed forests are the way forward. This March, the governments of the world will be meeting in Brazil at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to work on plans to stop the slide toward extinction of the world's plants and animals.
Whilst the Great Bear Rainforest has been protected, an area of ancient forest around one and a half times the total size of the Great Bear Rainforest, approximately 10 million hectares, are destroyed each year. Ancient forests such as the Amazon, and the Paradise Forests in Asia Pacific are desperately in need of conservation plans similar to those announced in the Great Bear Rainforest today. Whether world governments are up to the job of protecting them remains to be seen.
Today we celebrate a magnificent victory with the thousands of activists who stood their ground in British Columbia, every cyberactivist who ever sent an e-card or an action alert on this issue, and the millions of people worldwide who have let it be known through their votes and their consumer choices that the world's remaining ancient forests need to be preserved. Tomorrow, we redouble our efforts to save the many other forests in the world that are facing destruction.