Wildlands Project Marches Through Canada
A large swath of British Columbia forest has been captured by environmentalists who have apparently won the decade long "War of the Woods."
Using intimidation tactics, the Tides Foundation, working with The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlands Project, successfully forced the forest-products industry to abandon plans to log the 4.4 million acre stretch that will now be turned into a park twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. The area stretches along 250 miles of coastland and islands from Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border.
The environmentalists plan to strictly control how the land can be used, if at all. Logging and all other economic activity will be allowed only if experts determine that the resource is sustainable. However, the groups do not plan to confine their control the new park's borders.
"Acreage outside the coastal park will be managed by committees that will set limits on logging, mining and the commercial efforts of native groups that have claims to the land." The next goal is to expand the protected area to 21 million acres.
Since Canada has reportedly embraced the Biodiversity Treaty, the new park may be the first of many such "compromises" with industry. The Wildlands Project has a stated goal of setting aside 50 percent of all landmasses for nature. Canada is well on its way with the U.S. not far behind.
B.C. sets aside park twice as large as Yellowstone
OTTAWA — Ending a decadelong environmental battle once dubbed the "War of the Woods," British Columbia announced Tuesday the creation of a park twice the size of Yellowstone along a vast coastal swath where grizzly bears and wolves prowl under 1,000-year-old cedar trees.
The park will cover 4.4 million acres, and strict new controls eventually will protect against exploitation on an additional 11.6 million acres. The entire territory — known as the Great Bear Rainforest — is the result of an unusual alliance of loggers, environmentalists, the provincial government and native groups. Full implementation of the project is not expected until 2009.
"This is aimed at trying to find a balance, where people can understand and really enjoy our wilderness and we protect our wildlife, while recognizing that people are part of the ecosystem," Premier Gordon Campbell said. "We all win. I think this model will be emulated in different parts of the world."
The agreement ends a bitter dispute over lush coastland and islands that stretch across more than 250 miles and include most of British Columbia's central and north coast, from the northern coast of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border. Warmed by the ocean and fed by rain, this area of evergreen forest is the ancestral home of nearly a dozen native tribes, and most of it is accessible only by boat or seaplane.
Salmon spawn in rivers and streams, providing food for eagles and bears that include grizzlies, black bears and a rare white bear called the Kermode. About 30,000 people are scattered in small towns or reserves in the area, more than half of them natives.
The land was owned by the provincial government and was scheduled for logging. Environmental groups fought for years to stop the clear-cutting practices that they say ravaged Vancouver Island and the southern portion of the British Columbia coast. In the late 1990s, they pressed big companies to boycott wood and paper made from the forest, a tactic that led to a truce and the start of negotiations.
"They were very successful in influencing the customers," Patrick Armstrong, a negotiator for the forest-products industry, said Monday. "I remember a group of German papermakers who came here and took everyone to the verbal woodshed, telling them to solve the problem." More than five years later, the talks that started out as "highly conflictual" have resulted in compromise on all sides, according to Merran Smith, a Vancouver representative of the environmentalist group ForestEthics.
"This is a transformation of what happens in the British Columbia forest," she said. "The revolution is looking at a standing forest not as a commodity, but as an economic model based on conservation." From 1999 through spring 2005, Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser was a major player in those negotiations because of an acquisition that vested the corporation with extensive harvest rights. Weyerhaeuser showed "strong leadership" in moving the process forward, said Brant Olson, of the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group involved in the talks.
Weyerhaeuser's involvement in negotiations ended last year when the company sold its coastal-forestry operations to Brascan Corp. The coastal-rainforest agreement could be used as a blueprint for settling logging in other native forests, such as the vast boreal reaches of northern Canada, an area where Weyerhaeuser retains extensive logging rights.
Negotiations are under way over the future of the boreal forest, and Weyerhaeuser would support a plan to set some of the forest aside for conservation purposes, according to Frank Mendizabal, a Weyerhaeuser spokesman. Olson, however, said Weyerhaeuser has moved slowly in the boreal. He said the company is "significantly behind the curve" of several other major timber companies in embracing conservation proposals and remains a target of conservationists.
In the B.C. rainforest, acreage outside the coastal park will be managed by committees that will set limits on logging, mining and the commercial efforts of native groups that have claims to land. Negotiators expect additional agreements will bring the total protected area to 21 million acres. The native groups, called First Nations in Canada, have agreed to forest-friendly development such as eco-tourism, with the help of a planned $105 million fund. The U.S.-based Nature Conservancy helped raise about half of that privately. British Columbia has promised about $26 million, and negotiators are hoping that the Canadian government will contribute the rest.
Speaking on behalf of the native groups involved in the project, Art Sterritt said the agreement would allow for controlled use of the land and let natives continue their traditional lifestyles. "It wasn't an easy job," he said. "Everyone had to make compromises here and there." Logging and all other economic activity will be allowed only if experts determine that the resource is sustainable, officials say. "We are looking for a much lighter footprint on the land," said Smith, of ForestEthics. "There will be less roading, less logging. The volume of wood coming out will be less. Streambeds and wetlands and wildlife habitat areas will not be touched."
The Nature Conservancy decided to launch the fundraising for the Canadian project because of its size and the unusual conciliation of the final negotiations, officials of the organization said. "This really represents conservation in the 21st century," said Steve McCormick, chief executive officer of the group. "It's not an all-or-nothing proposition all protected, or all used. To conserve globally important natural habitat worldwide on a scale that will be meaningful, we have to contemplate human use."
Kent Gilges, a manager for the Nature Conservancy, said donors were quickly convinced of the advantage of preserving such a large area. "This is basically two-thirds of the British Columbia coast," he said. "If you look from space, it actually stands out as an extraordinary green spot. Here you have an opportunity to save something big enough that, even with global warming, it could sustain its biodiversity long into the future."
Details about Weyerhaeuser were provided by Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton.
Some of Sterritt's comments were reported by The Associated Press.
Protecting The Great Bear Rainforest
A long-awaited announcement by the government of British Columbia creates a lasting model of conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest by formally protecting 5 million acres of from logging and establishing a process to develop ecosystem-based management across an additional 10 million acres. Negotiations are on-going for similar land use agreements across an additional 6 million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest.
A central component of the Great Bear Rainforest project is an innovative $120 million conservation financing package to fund conservation management projects and ecologically sustainable business ventures in First Nations territories.
The Nature Conservancy is leading the capital campaign in support of the conservation financing that is vital to the success of long-term conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest. To date, the Conservancy, Tides Canada and several U.S. and Canadian foundations have raised almost $60 million in private philanthropic funds. The government of British Columbia has committed $30 million to the financing package, but partners in the project are working to secure the remaining $30 million from the federal government.
“Is it possible to balance economic interests, environmental protection and the hopes and dreams of communities? Today, British Columbia proved that it is,” said Merran Smith, Director of the British Columbia Coast Program for ForestEthics. “This rainforest agreement provides a real world example of how people and wilderness can prosper together. And this is just the beginning.”
About the Great Bear Rainforest
From the northern end of Vancouver Island, across Queen Charlotte Strait, and up the central coast of British Columbia to the Alaskan border, the Great Bear Rainforest stretches more than 250 miles. Encompassing 21 million acres, the Great Bear Rainforest and the islands of the Haida Gwaii are part of the largest coastal temperate rain forest left on Earth.
Today, nearly 60 percent of the world's coastal temperate rainforests have been logged or developed. The Great Bear Rainforest represents one-quarter of what remains.
A coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations — Greenpeace Canada, Forest Ethics, Sierra Club of Canada-British Columbia Chapter and the Rainforest Action Network — has engaged with a diverse range of stakeholders to work toward consensus for long-term conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest.
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