First Nations, the Province of British Columbia, logging companies, and environmental organizations have achieved a remarkable successthe final conservation and human well-being agreement for the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) has been officially announced today. By working together, a diverse set of interests have produced the most comprehensive conservation and commercial forest management plan of this scale in North America, and perhaps on Earth.

The new agreement will ensure the preservation of 85 per cent of the old-growth forests in the GBR region of British Columbia’s north and central coast. Tides Canada congratulates all parties on their perseverance and participation in what has been almost two decades of intense negotiation and collaboration.

The GBR is home to diverse First Nations communities and represents much of the world’s remaining intact coastal temperate rainforests. It supports biodiverse ecosystems and species: thousand-year-old trees, all five species of Pacific salmon, thriving bear populations including rare white “spirit bears,” a unique subspecies of wolves, and millions of migratory birds.

The outcomes announced today are unparalleled in conservation efforts around the world. Here are a select few:

  • First Nations have exercised their authority and revitalized their political and economic relationships with the Province (for forestry, carbon revenues, and land management).
  • 85% of the forested land base will be under a new legal designation called Natural Forest, making it off limits to logging over time.
  • Forestry will be done in a more cooperative fashion that breaks down the silos between companies, First Nations, and the provincial government.
  • There will be greater ongoing transparency for the general public about how forestry occurs—including annual reporting and innovative monitoring approaches.

When Tides Canada first became involved in the Great Bear Rainforest in 2001, the region was threatened by aggressive plans to log the entire ecosystem and imperil indigenous cultures and local economies. For conservation efforts to be successful, a solution had to take into consideration the political, environmental, and economic landscape of the region. And it had to be forged through consensus among the region’s constituencies – First Nations, environmental organizations, local, regional and provincial governments, community organizations, resource industries, and other business interests.

Tides Canada’s initial focus on the Great Bear Rainforest centred on supporting a coalition of environmental organizations working for the long-term conservation of the area by drawing the world’s attention to the globally important biodiversity of the region. Our work quickly expanded to include support for First Nations in the area, coordinating the work of a dynamic international funder collaborative, funding scientific and economic analyses, providing support for participants in government-convened land use planning, and granting to diverse parties in the area.

Tides Canada led the design of an unprecedented $120 million Great Bear Rainforest conservation financing agreement and the establishment of new institutions to oversee public and private investments in the region, jointly announced by the federal government, provincial government, First Nations, and private funders in early 2007. And Tides Canada spearheaded the Canadian component of an international fundraising effort to support integrated conservation, social, and economic outcomes in the Great Bear Rainforest. Although significant land use agreements for the GBR were announced in 2006 and 2009, today’s announcement establishes a sweeping management framework for the region that will advance human well-being and even greater protection for Great Bear Rainforest ecosystems.

The agreements have now been finalized, but work in the region is not complete. The implementation of the agreements is critical and will mark the pages of the next chapter of this story. Tides Canada has ongoing commitment to building capacity for conservation in the GBR and beyond, as outcomes will only be achieved and sustained if the people and communities that depend on the ecological health have the capacity to steward and manage their environment. Learn more about this work here.

Tides Canada congratulates all of the dedicated and passionate organizations, governments, and communities that have helped to achieve this remarkable, globally-significant conservation success today.