85% Means 85% – Get the Facts Straight on the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement

February 5, 2016
Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreement strengthens the position of Native People and legally prevents logging on 85% of the massive temperate rainforest.

On February 1, 2016, Coastal First Nations, Nanwakolas Council (First Nations) and the Province of British Columbia announced the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. ForestEthics and our partners Greenpeace and Sierra Club BC strongly support the plan. For a decade we worked alongside First Nations, the Province and five logging companies to develop a conservation package that would put people and the environment first. And while the scope of conservation is very significant, it is also rather complicated.

For more than a century protecting wildlands has meant setting up parks. But that history includes a darker side, one where Native Peoples are excluded from their homes or territorial lands. The term “conservation refugees” was coined to describe people removed from parks because of the faulty belief that healthy ecology means no human communities. bTo native people who have inhabited rainforests and other wild areas for millenia, this belief is as dangerous as destruction or industrialization of the forest. Across the globe natural forest is directly correlated with Indigenous people — where First Nations live on their ancestral lands, forests and other wildlands remain.

For the past 10 years we worked closely with First Nations to develop legal conservation approaches and designations that respect Indigenous rights and the needs of their communities. Different designations, each with its own governing principles were developed, but all share one common trait — these areas cannot be logged. So it is through this variety of designations that the full 85% of the forested land-base in the Great Bear is legally off limits to logging. And let’s not forget that the remaining 15% will only be logged subject to the the most stringent commercial logging rules in North America.

Some people have said only 38% is legally off limits to logging — those people are simply wrong. The legal requirement for 85% (3.1 million hectares) can be found in The Legal Order on the Provincial website (Part 1; Section 6; page 10). This sections states:

Great Bear Rainforest Order Part 1:

1. Objectives for Managed Forest and Natural Forest

(1) Identify and maintain in the order area:

(a) an area of Managed Forest of 550,032 hectares that is or will be available for timber harvest; and

(b) a Natural Forest area that continues to grow older over time subject to natural disturbance and non-forest tenure activity, and has an area of 3,108,876 hectares

Here is a cheat sheet on the conservation and advancements for First Nations that are included in the Great Bear Agreement:

First Nations

  • Strengthened their governance and economic relationships with the province (for forestry and carbon revenues and other community well being measures)
  • Identified areas they want protected and not protected and jointly developed and approved the out the new logging rules with the province

Protected Areas

  • 8 new protected areas including (295,000ha). Brings total to 38% of the landmass (41% of Great Bear Rainforest forested landbase)

New Legal Designations:

  • Managed Forest – new legal designation = 15% of the total forest (550,000 ha) where LOGGING ALLOWED
  • Natural Forest – new legal designation = 85% of the total forest (3.1 million ha) is OFF LIMITS TO LOGGING (this includes the protected areas and the conservation targets for every ecosystem type in the Great Bear Rainforest which are now legally required to be maintained under the new Land Use Order)

Improved Forest Management

  • Conservation Targets – legal requirement to maintain conservation targets of minimum 70% of each ecosystem type (except for 30,000 ha)
  • Restorations Zones – 9 new Restorations Zones (90,000 ha) in the very south (which has been heavily logged) to recuperate old forest to 30% where currently there is less than 10% old growth forest
  • Landscape Reserves – requirement to map where conservation targets will be achieved
  • Annual Allowable Cut – big reduction (~40% reduction since pre Ecosystem Based Management. of that 19% just achieved Feb 1st)
  • GBR Act – The AAC will be entrenched in a new GBR Act that will be legislated in the spring session.
  • Close Loopholes – loopholes from prior Land Use Orders have been closed and Land Use Objectives and the associated policy has been improved (bear dens, cultural objectives, Reserve Design requirements, endangered and threatened ecosystem requirements and definition of old forest etc.)
  • Accountability – Forestry is going to be done in a new, more cooperative and accountable fashion
  • Transparency – There will be greater transparency for the general public about how forestry occurs including an annual report out on how conservation targets were met.

Trophy Hunt

  • The Trophy bear hunt is still allowed (despite the Premier saying otherwise during a press conference). We strongly support abolishing this barbaric practice.