A case stude of the Great Bear Rainforest: best practice to implement the convention on biological diversity in ancient forests

Publication - 1 February, 2001
This case study describes the process of how an area of almost 1.6 million hectares of temperate ancient forest in the West Coast of Canada has been saved from clearcutting and destruction.

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Executive summary: In the l990s, the coastal rainforest on the West Coast of Canada became one of the most renowned hotspots for environmental struggles on the planet. With half this rare forest already logged, large-scale clearcutting was scheduled for virtually every remaining valley containing pristine ancient forest, and the future of one of the world´s most endangered ecosystems hung in the balance. Environmental groups vowed to protect these remaining areas, and Greenpeace launched an intense global campaign targeting the trade and investment of the logging companies that were linked to the destruction of the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest. On April 4, 2001 an historic agreement was reached between environmental groups and logging companies, supported by many First Nations, as well as workers and coastal communities. On that day, the government of Canada´s western-most province, British Columbia, announced the adoption of a new approach to conservation and environmentally responsible logging in the Great Bear Rainforest. The jubilant Premier of the province, Ujjal Dosanjh was on hand to endorse the framework agreement and went on to say that "today in British Columbia we have witnessed a truly historic day in the campaign to save the world´s remaining ancient forests."If the model created through implementing the Great Bear agreement is fully implemented and then applied elsewhere, the Premier´s statements could well prove prophetic. Over 20 large pristine rainforest valleys totalling 650,000 hectares will be protected from logging and development, and a further 68 ancient rainforest valleys will have logging deferred for between 12-24 months, to allow time for appropriate research and planning to be conducted. Logging companies, First Nations, environmental groups and workers have agreed to cooperate in developing these land-use plans that protect the health of the forest, and of the economic future of local communities. Independent scientists will advise the conservation planning process to ensure that science is rigorously applied, is ecologically responsible and incorporates the knowledge of First Nations people. The BC government has also acknowledged that First Nations in the area are entitled to a stronger role in decision-making over what occurs on their traditional territories, which will inevitably result in a stronger land-use planning process.As the amount of protected areas increase, experts will be brought in to advance economic development in the region to offset the reduction in logging, and a fund has been created to assist in mitigating impacts on local workers. The fund is currently at Can $30-million but although this amount seems impressive, many more funds will be required to complete the conservation planning process and ensure that the rights of local communities are respected.

Num. pages: 12