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Landmark deal protects huge swath of central B.C. coast from logging

Spirit Bear of the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo courtesy The Canadian Press.

VANCOUVER — An agreement has been reached to protect 85 per cent British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest from logging, ending a decades-long battle to safeguard the central coast rainforest.

The deal signed between First Nations, environmental groups and the British Columbia government covers 3.1-million hectares in the park that is the size of Nova Scotia.

Jens Weiting of the Sierra Club said logging in the remaining part of the forest will be tightly controlled.

"There is certainty for forestry, 15 per cent of the region's rainforest will remain open for forestry under very stringent logging rules, the most stringent that you can find in North America."

The rainforest, 700 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, was official named the Great Bear Rainforest by then-premier Gordon Campbell in 2006. Environmentalists had given the area the name years before that in an effort to protect the central coast from logging.

The area is also home to the kermode or sprit bear and is also the area where nine area First Nations declared bans on bear hunting in their traditional territories. The ban was never recognized by the province.

Over 20 First Nations were part of the agreement announced Monday.

Weiting said the pact will help settle decades of conflict in the area.

"An agreement about conservation, an agreement about decision making between the B.C. government and First Nations and an agreement that allows forestry companies to have some certainty where logging can happen without major conflicts."

He said all those involved in the agreement realized the region is globally important because there are so few temperate rain forests left on the planet.

"It's a globally outstanding region, also, in terms of its size. It is 6.4-million hectares. It is larger than many European nations. It is larger than the Netherlands or Belgium or Switzerland and it is really a global responsibility to find solutions to protect the ecological integrity and support communities in this region."


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