November 24, 2005 | The Martlet and Canadian University Press
Ten years of negotiations and a landmark consensus threatened by government delays
There is peace in the Great Bear Rainforest, but it is a tentative peace.
Over the past four years, stakeholders—local communities, logging companies, labour, tourism and conservationists, among others—have sat down and banged out a land-use plan for the Central Coast, also known as the Great Bear Rainforest.
Located along B.C.’s coast between Bute Inlet and the Alaskan border, the Great Bear Rainforest is the last, largest stand of intact temperate old growth rainforest in the world, as well as the largest contiguous area of unprotected rainforest.
It has been nearly two years since those groups completed the first of two consensus agreements on land-use in the Great Bear Rainforest. Those agreements were followed by direct negotiations between provincial and First Nations governments in order to finalize the plan.
Although far from perfect, the plan is significant: it marks the first time the different sides have agreed on pretty much anything.
They’ve come up with a plan, but now it is all at risk, thanks to the provincial government, who missed a self-imposed December 2004 deadline for approving the agreement. Two additional deadlines—Spring 2005 and “end of summer”—have since passed, and stakeholders are worried there is more than the agreement at risk: much of the funding was promised based on approval. If it takes any longer, that funding might just disappear.
Roughly 8.5 million hectares of ancient cedar, salmon, wolf and bear habitat in the temperate rainforest are at stake, along with a billion dollars in wood and wood products sales and $200 million in financing for conservation-based economic initiatives.
Even more than that, 10 years of work at changing how environmentalists, industry and First Nations interact could be undone.
“For years, all parties set aside confrontation in favour of negotiation,” said Amanda Carr, a Greenpeace campaigner. “But the value of the negotiation route is in question given the [provincial government]’s continued failure to meet commitments and timelines.”