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The Great Bear Rainforest Victory

A ‘greenprint’ ten years in the making

Feature story - April 5, 2011
The United Nations declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. While a celebratory moment, it also sheds a much needed spotlight on the significant deforestation that continues around the world.

Our campaigns in the Congo, Indonesia, and the Amazon are running full tilt to try and slow down the pace to zero deforestation -- not only for the sake of all the species which rely on these precious forests, but also for the sake of a warming planet which needs standing old-growth forests to retain as much carbon as possible.

So it's fitting that Greenpeace also marks a landmark announcement made exactly a decade ago to the problem of rampant deforestation on Canada’s west coast. At the time we started campaigning to save the Great Bear forests in the 90's, half of the forest had already been lost to industrial logging, and the other half had been allocated to logging companies. The largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world was set to be completely flattened.

It's a very similar situation to the one we find in Congo at the moment where 15 new licences have just been issued, putting an additional 25 million hectares up for industrial use. Up to 40% of the Congo rainforests could be sacrificed for logging.

Humpback Whale Pod in Great Bear Rainforest

A pod of Humpback whales swims through York Point in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada. When the campaign to save the rainforest began, half of the forest had already been cleared, and the half allocated to industrial interests.

Faced with the possibility of a completely destroyed Great Bear Rainforest, Greenpeace decided that the only option was an all-out campaign to preserve it. Blockades of logging roads and camps, protests at Canadian embassies around the world and a very effective international markets campaign created an international buzz -- and put the campaign on a road to victory.

The Great Bear Rainforest Framework Agreement announced on April 4th 2001 laid the groundwork for a solutions-based approach to complex environmental and socio-economic issues over conflicting land uses. Solutions to the complex problem of global deforestation are vitally needed, and the preservation of the Great Bear Rainforest might be one such solution. The Great Bear Rainforest offers a global model that could help resolve not only environmental conflicts, but also address issues of social justice, especially in terms of the rights of Indigenous people to their traditional territories, and their right to a sustainable livelihood.

The Great Bear Rainforest is on the way to a happy ending, but the last chapter remains unwritten. All parties are working towards two goals by 2014:

  • 70% protection of natural old growth forests across the region, and

  • significant improvements in the well-being of communities that rely on the rainforest. Success in the Great Bear Rainforest demands that both goals are achieved.

Our campaigns to protect the Great Bear Rainforest have gone on to inspire Greenpeace’s work in the Amazon, the Congo and Indonesia.

In the DRC we are working very closely with forest communities, and are now calling for a complete moratorium on new FSC certifications in the Congo basin rainforest. Our campaign to save the forest isn't going to be an easy one, but victories like the one in Canada really inspire us. And in marking the 10th anniversary of the Great Bear Rainforest Framework Agreement, there is hope that the model develops into a true “greenprint” for global forest conservation.