Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


One year after Great Bear Agreement, the fate of BC’s ancient rainforests is still uncertain

April 1, 2002

(Vancouver, BC) – One year after the precedent-setting Great Bear Rainforest Agreement was announced to protect 603,000 hectares of British Columbia’s ancient forests, Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government is not living up to many of its commitments. Today a coalition of environmental groups said the government’s lack of progress in implementing critical components of the accord could threaten this hard-won truce between environmentalists and logging companies.

Today, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club of British Columbia and Rainforest Action Network – the four environmental groups centrally involved in forging long-term solutions for the region – released their first annual Great Bear Rainforest Report Card. The provincial government received failing grades for the lack of progress on two major elements of the accord – protection of 20 rainforest valleys and implementation of the First Nations protocol, and a D for minimal attention to environmentally sustainable planning. The Liberals received average grades for slow progress in managing economic change and establishing a team of independent scientists and economists who will analyze options for the region.

“This government is failing to follow through with an agreement that they have internationally heralded,” stated Merran Smith, Director, B.C. Coastal Program, ForestEthics. “The progress has been minimal and slow, leading us to ask – will ‘peace in the woods’ survive this government?”

On April 4, 2001, after intense negotiations, environmental groups, First Nations, logging companies, workers, communities and the provincial government agreed to a new approach to conservation and sustainable management in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). If implemented in its entirety, this agreement could set British Columbia on the path to becoming a global leader in environmental stewardship, and could create new economic opportunities for a coastal economy crippled by the boom-and-bust cycle of industrial forestry.

“The Liberals are moving at a glacial pace. To date, they have failed to protect our ancient coastal rainforests, failed to respect First Nations rights and failed to begin diversifying the coastal economy,” said Catherine Stewart, forest campaigner for Greenpeace. “The global marketplace has changed and the trend is irreversible. Customers want products derived from ecologically responsible logging, and B.C. forest companies claim they are prepared to begin meeting that challenge. Now, the question is: When will this government act to support real change?”

Customers in the United States, Europe and Japan, who purchase more than $2 billion worth of B.C. forest products, support the conservation of endangered forests, including the Great Bear Rainforest. They include major wood products retailers such as Home Depot, Ikea and Lowe’s.

Leading UK decorative timber products manufacturer, Richard Burbidge Ltd., is one of many customers supporting the Great Bear Rainforest agreement and believes is it is important that the provincial government acts swiftly. “We are keen to increase our use of B.C. timbers, but this issue remains a sticking point with many of our retail customers and UK consumers,” stated Chief Executive Richard Burbidge. “The forest needs protection, as well as providing a valuable resource, and the agreement last year seemed to promise real progress. The longer the delay, the more market share B.C. suppliers will lose in the UK and the harder it will be for them to re-capture that business from Nordic and other suppliers.”

“Another war in the woods would spell disaster for B.C. investment and jobs,” said Bill Wareham, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of British Columbia. “The Liberals need to act now and meet their commitments.”