For the last two decades, British Columbia’s coastal rainforest – with its old-growth cedars and Sitka spruce – has been the epicenter of so-called ‘timber wars’ between environmentalists and loggers. Over the years, the area became a symbol of the seemingly irreconcilable differences between protecting a pristine environment and sustaining a viable economy.
Today, however, there is a new story of hope in British Columbia. After years of discord, the Great Bear Rainforest represents one of the world’s boldest visions for blending conservation with compatible human use.
In late 2003, an unprecedented coalition of private and public interests developed a visionary proposal for the region and mobilized to raise millions of dollars in public and private funding to fulfill that vision. The Nature Conservancy, at the invitation of a diverse group of partners, led the successful campaign to raise $60 million (CDN) in private funding.
The $60 million (CDN) in privately raised funds was matched by another $60 million (CDN) from Canadian provincial and federal governments, to yield $120 million (CDN) in total funding – called the Coast Opportunity Funds. Contributed to support historic land use agreements, the funds will finance both conservation management and ecologically sustainable business ventures designed to transform the economies of British Columbia’s coastal temperate rainforests.
As a result of the land use agreements, over 5 million acres, including new and existing parks, are now legislatively protected from commercial logging or other extractive uses. These protected areas will form the ecological core of the Great Bear Rainforest.
In addition, 19 million acres have been placed under strict land-use management guidelines called ecosystem based management. Over the next few years, First Nations, government, NGOs and industry will collaborate to apply this approach toward sustainable economic development in the area. The Nature Conservancy is providing on-the-ground scientific support and conservation planning expertise to support this unprecedented endeavor.