An agreement was reached last week to protect the vast majority of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world.
The deal is between First Nations governments, the provincial government of British Columbia, and the forestry industry that fulfills commitments first made a decade ago as part of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.
With the agreement, some 3.1 million hectares (7.7 million acres) of the Great Bear Rainforest, over 85 percent of the temperate rainforest in the remote coastal region will be permanently off-limits to industrial logging. The remaining 15 percent (550,000 hectares or 1.2 million acres) of the forest will be subject to “the most stringent legal standards for commercial logging operations in North America.
The agreement requires a 40 percent reduction in logging compared with 2006 levels — or 2.5 million cubic metres (88.2 million cubic feet) per year — for the next 10 years. After that, logging will be done on a “conservation trajectory.” Logging companies will have to make annual progress reports to the public to ensure they meet the required conservation targets.
The agreement also solidifies First Nations governments’ shared decision-making powers with the B.C. government within their traditional territories and establishes measures to improve the wellbeing of First Nations communities.
This is a victory for the global climate, as well, as B.C.’s coastal old-growth rainforests are known to store large amounts of carbon, meaning that increased protections will result in an immediate reduction in carbon emissions from deforestation.
Just over half of the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest, which encompasses about 6.4 million hectares (15 million acres) of coastal B.C., is covered by forest ecosystems (around 3.6 million hectares, or 8.9 million acres). It is the traditional territory of 26 First Nations.
The Great Bear Rainforest provides habitat for a number of iconic species, including towering, ancient trees as well as grizzly bears, orcas, salmon, wolves, and the unique, white-furred black bear known as the Spirit bear that the rainforest is named for.
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