Non-profits matched $46 million (USD) in federal and provincial funds to save British Colombia’s Great Bear Rainforest, the largest temperate rainforest left on earth, from widespread deforestation. By bringing together an unprecedented coalition of loggers, residents, government bodies and philanthropic foundations, it has protected 85% of the forest. Some First Nations territories, however continue to face the threat of logging.
Results & Impact
In the 1990s, only 5% of the 6.4 million hectare Great Bear Rainforest on Canada's west coast was protected from industrial logging. The 2016 agreement, which came after decades of strife, assures that 85% of the forested land will be preserved
Canadian government, British Colombia government, Greenpeace, NGOs and environment advocacy groups, 30 First Nations communities, the timber industry
Non-profits matched $46 million (USD) in federal and provincial funds to pay for conservation and stewardship jobs in First Nations communities, several of which were earning money from logging. Each First Nation was allocated a certain amount of money according to how much land they were willing to put into protection, and logging will be allowed under stringent conditions on the remaining 15% of the forested land
British Colombia, Canada
Cost & Value
The Canadian and British Colombia governments and non-profits raised $92 million to save the rainforest
In progress since 2016
Though the First Nations' involvement in the process was a breakthrough, Greenpeace say it still did not go far enough, and that some indigenous communities were left out. They now face the threat of logging
A public-private partnership between governments and non-profits has secured the largest conservation deal in North American history.
Non-profits matched $46 million (USD) in federal and provincial funds to save British Colombia’s Great Bear Rainforest, the largest temperate rainforest left on earth, from deforestation. The landmark agreement was built on unprecedented consensus among federal and provincial governments, First Nations indigenous groups, the timber industry and environment advocacy groups.
The agreement, which placed 85% of the forest out of bounds for logging has been hailed as a model for cross-sector conservation – but according to a senior Greenpeace campaigner, is not without problems.
In the 1990s, only five percent of the 6.4 million hectare Great Bear Rainforest was protected. The 18,000 to 20,000 people in 30 local indigenous First Nations communities – whose settlements in the forest date back at least 10,000 years – had almost no say over logging operations in their territories. Local and international protests garnered worldwide support and after nearly two decades of conflict, stakeholders began talks that led to landmark agreements in 2006 and 2009.
The 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements legally designated protected areas of almost two million hectares and increased First Nations involvement in decision-making over territories. The $96 million (USD) pledged in 2009 funds conservation management, research, stewardship jobs in First Nations communities, several of which were earning money from logging, and ecologically sustainable business ventures run by indigenous communities.
“From 2006 to 2016, we worked on a long-term plan to get to 70% protection of the whole Great Bear Rainforest region. What we actually achieved was 85% protection of the forests of the region,” said Eduardo Sousa, Senior Forests Campaigner for Greenpeace. “Every milestone agreement required years of negotiations, until we finally got to the big announcement in 2016.”
In 2016, First Nations, Canadian governments, the forestry industry and environmental organisations like Greenpeace agreed on the 85% protection mandate. Logging will be allowed on the remaining 15% of the forested land, but only under very stringent guidelines. Each First Nation was allocated a certain amount of money according to how much land they were willing to put into protection.
“It’s a darn good agreement, but there are problems. Two or three First Nations communities in the southeast of the forest are now coming back and indicating that they weren’t consulted. They’re finding that companies want to log in their territories, because it was part of the agreement,” said Sousa.
Sousa said this problem could have been avoided if negotiators were not bound by a process put in place 16 years before. They were mandated to draw up recommendations with the logging industry based on each area’s ecological value – without collaboration with the First Nations.
“There was almost like a firewall between us,” said Sousa. “I felt all along that we should have been working more closely with the individual Nations and consulting with them on what areas they wanted conserved. Over time, things shift, and we should have shifted along the way – but instead, I was told ‘This is the way we’ve always done it, and we don’t have the capacity for change’ when I tried to press to get First Nations more directly involved.”
“The provincial government will say that [First Nations] were [involved], but what I’m hearing directly from some of these folks is that they were not. It’s a problem that needs a solution for sure,” said Sousa.
Great Bear is home to 30 First Nations communities, wolves, deer, six million migratory birds and multiple breeds of bears – including the rare white Kermodes, known as “spirit bears.”
(Picture credit: Flickr/Jon McCormack)