Huge strides have been made over the past two decades in forest conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest, however 70% still remains open to logging and commercial development.
In the early 1990s, large-scale industrial logging in pristine coastal watersheds on B.C.'s central and north coast led to one of the most ambitious conservation campaigns ever witnessed in North America. Pacific Wild founders coined the name Great Bear Rainforest for the region and played a critical role in bringing international attention to the plight of this endangered coastline. Hard-fought conservation battles eventually led to a unique level of protection with the Great Bear Rainforest agreements of 2001 and 2009. One-third of the land area of the north and central coast region is now protected from logging in the form of conservancies, provincial parks, and Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas, while half of Haida Gwaii is fully protected.
Rainforest Still Under Threat
Independent scientists estimate that at least 70% of old growth forest must remain intact to ensure the long-term preservation of the rainforest and its magnificent diversity of species. In contrast, 70% of the region’s landbase still remains open to logging and commercial development through mining, hydroelectric power generation, industrial wind farms and oil and gas pipeline construction. These forests are globally rare and ecologically valuable. The GBR still has many pristine river valleys that support salmon, wolves, bears and countless other species that remain unprotected and threatened by industrial scale logging. There is critical conservation work ahead to protect these priority areas.
Conservancies differ from other parks because they prioritize the protection of biological diversity and First Nations social, ceremonial and cultural values. Conservancies allow First Nations to pursue low-impact economic activities that do not undermine ecological values. Commercial logging, mining and hydroelectric power generation are prohibited in these areas (except local run-of-river projects to service nearby communities). Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas contribute to the conservation of species by limiting the range of land uses within these zones, while prohibiting commercial timber harvesting and commercial hydroelectric power projects. Other resource activities and land uses, like mining and tourism, are permitted, but subject to existing regulations and legislation.
By the numbers:
115 conservancies totalling 1,360,000 hectares, legislated between 2006 and 2008.
21 Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas totalling 300,000 hectares, legislated in January 2009.
18 previously established Class ‘A’ provincial parks totalling 443,000 hectares. In total, more than 2.1 million hectares are protected throughout the central and north coast region, and more than half a million hectares are protected on Haida Gwaii.
Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), or ‘lighter-touch’ logging, is a new system of forest management that is supposed to be in place throughout the Great Bear Rainforest region, outside of Protected Areas, as a result of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. In theory, EBM forestry is designed to protect cultural and ecological values, by determining what must be left in the forest before deciding where and how much to log. The on-the-ground reality, however, is that forest companies continue to delay implementation of EBM, and status quo clearcut logging and large-scale road building in the last rainforest river valleys continue at an unprecedented level. That's why Pacific Wild is campaigning for increased protection of the Great Bear’s remaining ancient forest as the only solution to long-term biodiversity protection.
The Future of the Rainforest
Pacific Wild celebrates the conservation victories that we have helped realize over the last 25 years, however the Great Bear Rainforest still needs our help. With many pristine salmon-producing river valleys and islands proposed for large-scale road building and clearcutting in the coming years, we continue to advocate for additional rainforest protection. In the Fall of 2015, Pacific Wild will begin a film project documenting unsustainable logging practices in the Great Bear in real time, relying on drones to capture the level of clear cutting on a larger scale. Please sign up for Pacific Wild's newsletters to receive updates on this project!