Changing Forestry in B.C

By Lazare, Sarah | Multinational Monitor, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Changing Forestry in B.C


Lazare, Sarah, Multinational Monitor


CULMINATING A DECADE-LONG campaign to protect British Columbia's ancient woods from unsustainable logging, environmentalists, logging company representatives and indigenous leaders arrived at an historic February agreement that promises to preserve 5 million acres of the Canadian province's temperate rainforest.

"This signals a change in the way that forestry is done in British Columbia, and it presents an opportunity for a global model in sustainability," says Stephanie Goodwin, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

The agreement makes one third of the 15.5 million acre Great Bear Rainforest off-limits to loggers and imposes lighter-touch logging standards on the remaining two thirds. It also stipulates that the First Nations indigenous communities that populate the area will have greater deci sion-making power over their traditional territory and that the provincial government will work with them to pursue environmentally sustainable economic development.

Environmentalist and government sources will funnel funds into the development of an Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) model for forestry, as well as conservation-based economic development, such as eco-tourism. Environmental groups have raised a total of $60 million for this effort, and the provincial government and Canadian federal government have each pledged $30 million.

The Great Bear Rainforest, named after its rare white-coated Kermode Bear, is the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

Stretching along British Columbia's north and central coast, the area's heavy rainfall prevents forest fires, allowing trees to grow for hundreds of years. The rainforest is the home of 25 Canadian First Nations indigenous communities. Most of it is not accessible by car.

Over 10 years ago, environmental groups called international attention to the devastating and widespread practice of old growth logging in the region. Campaigners chained themselves to logging equipment, staged local demonstrations and spearheaded international boycotts against companies that sold wood and paper products made from local trees.

Hurting from the pressure, logging companies agreed to negotiate with environmentalists. Both sides consented to a ceasefire; while discussions took place, companies stopped logging and environmentalists suspended their publicity campaigns.

Out of these talks came an agreement to create an impartial scientific body to research an EBM model of forestry. Both sides raised considerable funds for this endeavor, and the provincial government also lent a helping hand.

"Social expectations were our biggest motivation for compromising," says Lyn Brown, at Catalyst Paper Corporation.

In the meantime, the provincial government and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) encouraged First Nations tribes to come together and devise their own EBM models. The Turning Point coalition of First Nations was created, and it embarked on a separate and parallel effort to combine traditional knowledge with conservation science.

With these pieces in place, the provincial government called for a two-track negotiating program. One track was composed of "public stakeholders" and included the coalition of environmental groups and logging companies. The other track was composed of First Nations communities. Both tracks were to independently create land-use agendas and then come together to negotiate a solution, with the provincial government representing public stakeholders and First Nations representing themselves. Out of this process came the February agreement. …

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