Great Bear Rainforest Agreement

An ongoing assessment of British Columbia’s efforts in protecting the Great Bear Rainforest

September 1, 2005
Proposed land use plans for Great Bear Rainforest scientifically inadequate

The British Columbia government is currently deciding whether or not to legally implement a new conservation blueprint for the Great Bear Rainforest. After years of consultation with the forestry industry, First Nations, and some environmental groups, the Central Coast and North Coast Land and Resource Management Plan (CCLRMP and NCLRMP) tables developed a series of land use recommendations, including a proposal for the creation of new protected areas. The latest proposal would protect 28 % of the region – approximately 9 % of this is existing protection, 19 % would be new protection. Another 3.4% is currently proposed as ‘biodiversity areas’, which are intended to prohibit logging, but remain open to mining, road building and other intensive activities.

GraphIn a region that is recognized worldwide for its uniquely rare and largely iGraphing the contrast between the proposal and what the scientists recommendntact mainland and island ecosystems, one would expect that a modern conservation strategy would strongly reflect the findings of the scientific community. However, the land use proposals fall considerably short of the conservation strategies provided by the Coast Information Team (CIT), the committee of expert scientists that have advised the land use planning processes. The CIT identified 44 % protection as the minimum (high risk) requirement for maintaining biodiversity in this globally significant region. Even higher levels of protection (as much as 70 %) would be necessary to ensure that biodiversity values remain at a low risk in perpetuity.

These conclusions have been confirmed by research conducted by Raincoast scientists on the degree to which the deal protects wildlife. The results of our analysis indicate that the agreement fails to protect enough of the habitat used by a plethora of species, such as sitka deer, marbled murrelets, northern goshawks, wolves and even the Great Bears themselves – coastal grizzlies. Furthermore, as it stands now sport hunting of large carnivores will be allowed in all of the new proposed protected areas. Protection of aquatic habitat is similarly compromised under this political agreement. In fact, our research shows that salmon remain at a serious risk of decline from the potential loss of spawning and rearing habitat from industrial development; 75% of chum and chinook, 74% of coho, 72% of pink, and 67% of sockeye populations are not protected under the plan.

The land use proposals are relying on Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) to compensate for the low level of protection provided for under the agreement, but there is currently far too much uncertainty as to what EBM consists of and how it can be implemented by logging companies. For example clearcutting, the logging of small salmon-bearing streams and other destructive forestry practices will be permitted on nearly 86 % of the most valuable and most productive forest sites in the region. These findings, along with those of the CIT, conclude that the proposed protected areas strategy is inadequate to protect key wildlife species on the BC coast.

Notes to the graph:

* Most recent proposal to government (April 2005). Does not include an additional 4.7 % of the landbase that is proposed to be off limits to logging but is open to mining and road-building.

** Recommeded by Independent Science Panel (

Trophy hunting of large carnivores is legally allowed in all existing and proposed new protected areas with with some minor exceptions (e.g., Khutzeymateen watershed)

June 25, 2004
BC Liberals announce inadequate land use blueprint

The BC government announced a new conservation blueprint for the BC coast. After years of consultation with leaders of industry, First Nations, environmental groups and prominent scientists, the Central Coast Land and Resource Management Plan (CCLRMP) table declared a consensus on protected areas for British Columbia’s central coast, recommending that 21% of the area be protected.

In a region that is recognized worldwide for its uniquely rare and largely intact mainland and island ecosystems, one would expect a modern conservation strategy to strongly reflect the findings of the scientific community. However, the CCLRMP strategy falls considerably short of the analysis provided by the Coast Information Team (CIT), the committee of expert scientists that was consulted by the CCLRMP on this issue. The CIT identified 44-50% protection as the minimum requirement for maintaining biodiversity on the coast.

Scientific reviews of the CCLRMP by Raincoast and the David Suzuki Foundation show:

  • trophy hunting of grizzlies and wolves will be allowed throughout all new protected areas
  • 60% of critical grizzly bear habitat is unprotected
  • 83% of the best nesting areas for the threatened Northern Goshawk are unprotected
  • 74% of nesting habitat for the endangered Marbled Murrelet is unprotected
  • 73% of mountain goat winter range is unprotected
  • 70% of critical deer winter range is unprotected
  • 73% of salmon stocks are unprotected
  • the CCLRMP relies on Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) to compensate for its low levels of protection, but there is much uncertainty as to what EBM entails and how logging companies can implement it

“The Central Coast LRMP fails to adequately protect wild salmon stocks, large carnivores and a range of other species,” says Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast. “By protecting only 21% of the land base, no one in their right mind can claim that the Great Bear Rainforest is saved. While the new protected areas represent progress, the current land use plans leave fish and wildlife in the Great Bear Rainforest at serious risk if no further protection is afforded to the region.”
January 14, 2003
Clearcut Logging Continues in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest

Read the report at

Destructive clearcut logging continues in the Great Bear Rainforest despite historic agreements reached almost two years ago to implement more environmentally responsible logging and to protect critical areas of Canada’s rainforests, says a new report by three leading environmental organizations.

This comprehensive report shows that in 72 per cent of the logging completed or planned between April 4, 2001 – when the British Columbia government and First Nations signed a landmark agreement and Jan. 15, 2002 nearly all of the trees were removed from each logging site.

The report also found that logging continues to the banks of small fish-bearing streams, which are important habitat for Pacific salmon.

“The eyes of the world were on British Columbia on April 4, 2001 and people believed this agreement meant that these unique and important rainforests would be conserved for future generations,” said David Suzuki who spoke at the historic signing ceremony. “Unfortunately, today we must announce that it is largely business as usual in these forests in terms of how and how much of them are cut down.”

Findings from the Clearcutting Canada’s Rainforests report include:

  • In the vast majority of logging sites over 80 per cent of the trees were removed;
  • Only four per cent of fish-bearing streams in logging sites had protective stream-side buffers;
  • In the majority of sites not enough trees were left behind to sustain species or habitat that depend on old-growth forests.

Researchers analysed 227 logging plans for individual logging sites on BC’s central and north coast and Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). They also conducted aerial surveys of the forests and ground visits to logging sites.

April 4th, 2002
Still waiting for action on the GBR agreement

Today, Raincoast released a new film, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, to mark the one-year anniversary of the historic agreement that promised to protect 20 intact valleys and put another 68 in deferral. It highlights the total lack of follow through by the BC government on any of the key initiatives of the agreement.

“If you thought the Great Bear Rainforest was protected, think again,” says Chris Genovali of Raincoast. “Now that all the fanfare from a year ago has dissipated, the BC government refuses to legislate the 20 designated protected areas outlined in the April 2001 agreement and has failed to afford protection to any of the other 68 areas in temporary deferral.”

The provincial government of British Columbia has failed in the following areas:

  1. The 20 designated protected areas have yet to be legislated.
  2. None of the temporary deferral areas have been protected.
  3. Industrial scale clear-cutting remains the standard method of forest removal.
  4. First Nations protocols have not been honoured.
  5. Raw log exports have increased.
  6. Mitigation funds for communities and displaced workers have not been released.

April 4, 2001
Historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreement Signed

Today, the government of British Columbia announced support for a new, landmark approach to conservation and forest management for the Great Bear Rainforest.

As of now, 20 intact rainforest valleys encompassing more than 600,000 hectares will be protected from industrial logging and development. (Legislated protection is still pending). A further 69 valleys, or 526,000 hectares, were put in deferral. Over the next two years, through scientific and economic analysis combined with ecosystem-based planning, a multi-party roundtable will decide upon further protected areas and ecologically-responsible logging zones. Also, as part of this agreement, the BC government has agreed – as have eight coastal First Nations – to consult together in order to ensure that the principles of ecosystem-based management will inform future land use plans in traditional territories, as well.

“Raincoast has worked on protecting these river valleys for over a decade and we are ecstatic to finally see them saved from the chainsaws,” said Ian McAllister, Campaign Coordinator for Raincoast. “Today, the people of Canada should take heart in knowing that BC has taken a big step forward in protecting some of the critical regions of the Great Bear Rainforest.”

A Good First Step
Although the GBR agreement is an exciting first step, a very small percentage of the protected area in the agreement includes valley-bottom old growth forest. These regions provide prime habitat for bears and most other wildlife on the coast. Also, as is often the case with provincial parks in British Columbia, a vast amount of the protected area is alpine rock, ice and steep mountain slopes. Although a few watershed complexes were protected, the new strategy lacks the continuous network of protection necessary to meet the needs of far- ranging carnivores like grizzly bears and coastal wolves.

Protected areas included in the announcement (north to south):

  • Ahta/Ahnuhati Complex (Ahta River, the Ahnuhati, upper Kakweiken and the Kwalate rivers)
  • The Upper Kliniklini (interior headwaters connecting to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park)
  • Lockhart-Gordon complex (Allard, Johnson and Draney watersheds)
  • Koeye River (18 000 hectare intact valley with enormous biological, cultural and historical significance)
  • Spirit Bear Complex (river valleys of the Canoona, Bloomfield, Arnoup and Khutze)
  • Talheo Hotsprings/K’iskwatsta (16 hotsprings along 400 meters of shoreline)
  • Foch Lake and Lagoon/Giltoyees River

Highlights of the GBR Agreement

  • An independent scientific panel will be appointed to develop new forestry and ecological models
  • Forest companies agree to modify logging practices and incorporate ecosystem-based management models
  • Environmental groups agree to end market campaigns against BC forest products
  • 603,000 hectares are set aside as new protected areas, including 1,000 square kilometers of habitat for the Kermode bear
  • 537,000 hectares are set aside as option areas in deferral for 12-24 months while an ecosystem-based plan is developed for the region
  • First Nations now have more control over land-use planning in traditional territories
  • The provincial government will contributeup to $40 million to help workers deal with long-term reduction of timber-producing land

First Nations sign historic protocol with BC government
The eight First Nations that have signed on are: the Gitga’at, Haida, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, and Metlakata, as well as the Old Masset Village and Skidegate Band Councils.

The main objectives for the First Nations were to:

  • Ensure that there is an ecologically sustainable land and marine use plan for traditional territories
  • Provide greater stability over the land and marine resources
  • Ensure dynamic and sustainable forestry and fisheries on the coast
  • Provide First Nations with economic and social development opportunities
  • Ensure there are mitigation strategies for parties impacted by change
  • Provide for economic diversity for communities

Research team to develop ecosystem-based management plans


  • Healthy ecosystems are the engines that sustain economies, cultures and the quality of human life
  • Resource managers are stewards of future ecosystem health and resource development opportunities
  • Since decisions made in the present can pose unacceptable risks for the future, a forward-thinking approach is a fundamental obligation
  • All decisions should respect individuals, communities and cultures
  • A diversity of economic opportunities is key to healthy communities and sustainable economies

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