First Nations, environmental groups and coastal forest industry representatives joined the Province today to celebrate achieving ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest.
The Great Bear Rainforest was established through land-use decisions announced in 2006. This globally unique area covers 6.4 million hectares on British Columbia’s north and central coast, and is home to 26 separate First Nations. Ecosystem-based management in the area is defined as “concurrent achievement of high levels of ecological integrity and high levels of human well-being.”
Under the new Great Bear Rainforest land-use order, ecological integrity is achieved through increasing the amount of protected old-growth forest to 70% from 50%. As well, eight new special forest management areas covering almost 295,000 hectares will be off-limits to logging. Six may receive additional protection based on ongoing discussions with First Nations. With the new measures, 85% of the forest will be protected and 15% will be available for logging, supporting local jobs.
The land-use order also addresses First Nations’ cultural heritage resources, freshwater ecosystems and wildlife habitat. The amount of habitat protected for the marbled murrelet, northern goshawk, grizzly bear, mountain goat and tailed frog will increase as new reserves required by the order are developed.
The Province has signed reconciliation protocols with the Coastal First Nations and Nanwakolas Council. Through these government-to-government relationships, separate human well-being agreements have been reached to address issues of special concern to each group of First Nations. Most notably, both have an increased stake in the forest sector. The commercial grizzly bear hunt will cease in Coastal First Nations’ traditional territories.
The Province has committed to amending atmospheric benefit-sharing agreements with Nanwakolas and Coastal First Nations. This will increase the forest carbon credits they can use to support implementation of ecosystem-based management and community development projects of importance to them.
Because of the uniqueness of the Great Bear Rainforest and the innovative elements in the new and amended agreements, the B.C. government intends to introduce supporting legislation in spring 2016.