Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest a “gift” to the EarthThe award goes to representatives from Canada’s indigenous communities, environmental groups, forest companies and the British Columbia government, who worked for more than a decade to conserve ecologically sensitive areas of the rainforest.
The Great Bear Rainforest — spanning 74,000km2 of British Columbia’s Pacific coast — is home to rich wildlife that includes wolves, black-tailed deer, moose, grizzlies and rare white-coated Kermode bears. It also contains the largest tracts of primary temperate rainforest on Earth.
“By conserving the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia has demonstrated global leadership, while at the same time ensuring its local communities have a stake in the region’s future,” says James Leape, Director General of WWF International, who presented the award.
“The unprecedented agreements signed last year will preserve the area’s rich natural resources and serve as an inspiration to others embroiled in land-use conflicts.”
Under land-use agreements, finalized in 2006, 1.8 million hectares — or nearly one-third of the region — will be protected. Outside these protected areas, a new forest management system will be introduced to balance conservation with sustainable economic development opportunities, particularly for Canada’s First Nation communities.
Chris Elliott, Pacific Region vice-president for WWF-Canada, says the Great Bear Rainforest was one of four case studies examined to show how creative land-use planning can break through conflict and lead to solutions that respect the economic and social rights of local people while protecting the environment.
“British Columbia’s experience is an example of what can be achieved when diverse stakeholders involved in complex resource management issues step back to consider wider interests and test innovative approaches,” he adds. “The lessons learned here can be applied to other key areas for conservation across the planet.”
There have been more than 100 Gifts to the Earth since 1996, including two others in British Columbia — one for the expansion of the Muskwa-Kechika Special Management and Protected Areas in 1997, and another for certifying 87,000 hectares of temperate forests in the Clayoquot Sound region in 2001.
“We are proud that WWF is acknowledging the exceptional cooperation and teamwork needed to deliver land-use solutions that have received worldwide recognition,” says British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell.
“This Gift to the Earth recognizes the many people who worked so hard to achieve success, as well as all British Columbians who view the central and north coast regions as a gift to the Earth with immense value within our province and far beyond our borders.”