After over 18 years of stand-ins and negotiations, first nations, timber companies and environmental groups alike celebrated the signing of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, protecting this pristine habitat and ecosystem from destruction.
"The Great Bear Rainforest... it's a jewel in the crown of magnificent landscapes in British Columbia," British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said in a statement last Monday.
The agreement is divided into two parts. The majority of the rainforest (85 per cent or 3.1 million hectares) will ban grizzly bear hunting and logging in the forest. The remaining 15 per cent is available for commercial use but it is governed by strict standards, including protecting water sources and endangered species while considering First Nations culture and values.
The David Suzuki Foundation showed support and appreciation for this agreement. “With 26 government-to-government agreements with resident First Nations, and collaboration with environmental groups and industry, the agreement ratifies a progressive approach to conservation and economic development in the region's ancient forests and pristine watersheds.”
The name “The Great Bear Rainforest” is an ode to the Spirit Bear, a subspecies of black bears that has a genetic anomaly which gives them white fur. This subspecies is critically endangered with only 200 spirit bears known to live in the area. This region was referred to as the “central midcoast timber supply area” before the name change, representing the shift towards a dire need for conservation.
An agreement for this region shows how integral this unspoiled and diverse landscape to ecosystem function. Many salmon migrate from the sea to the rivers throughout this forest to spawn. This feat draws large predators for a feast, where bears gorge on the salmon. The remains of the salmon are left on the forest floor, where they provide nitrogen for growing plants.
The Great Bear Rainforest is also home to the only coastal wolves that hunt salmon. They’re called sea wolves since they can swim up to 10 kilometers off the coast hunting for salmon. They’re the only known population of wolves in the world that thrive off the ocean landscape for food.
Although the agreement is a great achievement for all parties involved, there is more to be done to conserve B.C. animals that are important for thriving ecosystems. As the David Suzuki Foundation noted, “Premier Clark has committed to ending the commercial grizzly hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest. We urge the premier to work with local First Nations to ensure that such protections are established in law.”