Great Bear Rainforest – At the finish line

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The British Columbia government is seeking public comments on proposed amendments to land use objectives for the Great Bear Rainforest

The draft order offers a unique solution for this globally significant area. It was developed by the province, the Coastal First Nations and the Nanwakolas Council using technical recommendations from a coalition of major environmental organizations and BC coastal forest companies.

The process that led to these recommendations is as unique as the region – an area of 64,000 square kilometres, about the size of Ireland, with 28 First Nations calling the region home.

It began with rising concerns over logging of old growth forests. Market campaigns against BC forest products were creating uncertainty for companies, communities and customers.

The turning point came 15 years ago when leading environmental groups ForestEthics Solutions, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club BC Chapter and forest companies BC Timber Sales, Catalyst Paper Corporation, Howe Sound Pulp & Paper Corporation, Interfor Corporation and Western Forest Products Inc sat down to develop solutions together under the Joint Solutions Project.

It turns out we had the same interests: to achieve low ecological risk and to ensure a viable forest economy to support coastal communities. There has been a lot of change already, and the proposed amendments to the land-use objectives order will take us over the finish line.

2000-2009

  • A new government-to-government shared decision-making model involving British Columbia and local First Nations. 
  • A third of the Great Bear Rainforest is fully protected – with 350% more parks, conservancies and protected areas.
  • More old growth is protected – from 7% before the process started to 50% of the naturally occurring old growth over time.
  • Harvest areas are smaller – today more than 70% of the cutblocks are 10 hectares or less compared with 46% 20 years ago.

2015:

  • Increase the amount of naturally occurring old growth protected across the area to 70% over time.
  • Fully 85% of the forests in the Great Bear Rainforest will be off limits and designated as “Natural Forest”.
  • The forest industry will have a designated “Managed Forest” area - 15% of the forested area of the Great Bear Rainforest (550,000 hectares).
  • There will be less logging – 2.5 million cubic metres per year or 0.1% of the Managed Forest.

While the ecological targets and data are unique to the Great Bear Rainforest, the process of collaboration, commitment and, yes, even compromise is not.

The amended land-use objectives will lead to greater economic certainty for coastal communities, support the 5,000 forestry jobs we have today, and lead to international marketplace recognition for our products and our practices.

The process to get to this point demonstrates our willingness as British Columbians to work together to meet the needs of diverse interests. Make sure your voice is heard – you have until August 10, 2015.

Karen Brandt’s career in the forest sector spans more than 20 years within the government of British Columbia, Forestry Innovation Investment and the non-profit Sustainable Forestry Initiative. She is currently the director, public affairs & corporate communications, at Interfor, one of the world’s largest lumber producers with headquarters in Vancouver. She has been involved in the Great Bear Rainforest negotiations for the last three years.


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