The Government of British Columbia, Canada (BC), which recently instituted a moratorium on grizzly bear hunting, has now approved vital provisions of a framework agreement to protect critical valleys in the Great Bear Rainforest. Additional bilateral accords have been reached between nongovernmental environmental organizations and multinational timber corporations. According to Catherine Stewart, Greenpeace Canada's Forest Campaigner, "Consumers around the world have demanded an end to the destruction of these spectacular forests and their voices have been heard. This agreement is a significant first step towards ensuring a future for these ancient forests and all the species that call them home."
While over half of the world's temperate rainforest has been wiped out, British Columbia contains a quarter of all that remains. Logging corporations subject these remnants to constant assault, massively clear cutting the trees for profit.
The overall consensus recommendations for protecting parts of the Great Bear Rainforest were developed with input from numerous stakeholders in the region: environmentalists, workers, community representatives, small business owners and large logging companies. Importantly, the plan also was crafted with valuable input from the indigenous First Nations people, who should be considered the legitimate governors of this, their traditional territory (they reportedly have been in the region at least 12,000 years). Initially, logging bans and moratoria will be established in an area of the Great Bear Rainforest including the region known as the Central Coast, as part of a Land and Resources Management Planning Process. The first phase creates twenty permanently protected rainforest valleys where industrial development is prohibited. Another sixty-nine valleys are designated "Option Areas," where logging is deferred for two years while further management plans are considered.
The relevant rainforests on the west coast of British Columbia are home to millennium-old spruce trees and winding salmon streams, grizzly and black bears (including the remarkable Spirit Bear-an American black bear that has white fur), mountain goats and blacktail deer, owls, eagles, cormorants, ducks and marbled murrelets. Sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins and porpoises are also present in the coastal waters of the area.
In announcing the recent conservation agreement, BC Premier Ujjal Dosanjh asserted that, "The area referred to as the Great Bear Rainforest is an icon of the unique environmental and cultural values BC can share with the world." While the resource plan does not bring an end to over-exploitative logging in British Columbia, it does lay the groundwork for the long-term conservation of much of this magnificent natural gift to the world.
Caption: The reclusive Spirit Bear inhabits rainforest valleys in British Columbia, Canada, which are under assault by loggers. Continued attention to their plight is vital for their survival. (Ian McAllister)