Canada on Tuesday announced the creation of a 16-million acre park teeming with grizzly bears, wolves and wild salmon in the ancestral home of many native tribes.
Closing another chapter of the wars between environmentalists and loggers, the Great Bear Rainforest is the result of an unusual accord between governments, aboriginal First Nations, the logging industry and environmentalists.
“This innovative rainforest agreement provides a real world example of how people and wilderness can prosper together,” said Lisa Matthaus of the Sierra Club of Canada.
It will stretch 250 miles along British Columbia's rugged Pacific coastline in the ancestral home of native groups whose cultures date back thousands of years. The area also sustains the rare white spirit bear, a species found only in British Columbia.
Some logging allowed
The deal bans logging in some areas and requires more environmentally friendly logging in other portions.
While 5 million acres will be protected outright and managed as parkland, the rest will be run under a so-called ecosystem management plan to ensure sustainable forestry.
The protected area is twice the size of Yellowstone Park.
British Columbia's spectacular and lush evergreen forests have been the scene of decades of confrontation between environmentalists and loggers. Successful boycott campaigns in the 1990s led to large international companies turning away from British Columbia paper and wood products, forcing the government to find a negotiated solution.
Environmentalists coined the name Great Bear Rainforest in the 1990s. The boycott was suspended in 2001 when several green groups and forestry firms reached a tentative agreement to limit logging.
To date, Greenpeace Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada and ForestEthics, the Nature Conservancy, Tides Canada Foundation and several private U.S. and Canadian foundations have raised $52 million to help establish the financing package.
The B.C. provincial government has committed $26 million and project partners are working to secure the remaining funds from Canada's federal government.
Speaking on behalf of the 25 aboriginal groups involved in the project, Art Sterritt of the North Coast First Nations 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.”