Cutting the Bears Out of the Great Bear Rainforest


Any day now British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is scheduled to announce whether or not his Liberal government will ratify land use plans for the north and central coasts of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact network of coastal temperate rainforest left on the planet.

But wildlife scientists warn that the Great Bear Rainforest agreement won’t protect the "Great Bears" of BC’s north coast. A new study commissioned by Raincoast Conservation Society, "Wayward Course" by Canadian bear biologists Dr. Brian Horejsi and Dr. Barrie Gilbert, shows that 80% of grizzly bear habitat will remain unprotected under the currently proposed land use plan for the north coast.

Horejsi and Gilbert analyzed the protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest agreement and found that they are woefully inadequate in terms of protecting grizzly habitat. For this reason they are recommending that if Premier Campbell decides to implement the agreement, he needs to significantly expand the protected areas on the north coast in both size and number through the protection of approximately 2025 square kilometers of additional core grizzly habitat. These areas would have to remain roadless, encompass primarily productive habitat consisting of salmon-rich rivers and old growth forests, and be off-limits to trophy hunting.

In their analysis of the proposed north coast protected areas, Horejsi and Gilbert found that:

* Approximately 80% of grizzly habitat in the northern Great Bear Rainforest would still remain threatened with industrial logging, mining and road building if the provincial government implements the current agreement as is.

* Only 4 out of 19 protected areas, that are inhabited by grizzlies in the region, are large enough in size or satisfactorily connected to other areas of suitable habitat to allow this wide-ranging species to persist. The previous New Democratic Party government already protected one of these areas, the Khutzemayteen, nearly 20 years ago.

* Half of the protected areas consist of habitat that is largely unsuitable to grizzlies; areas such as steep slopes, ice fields, and lands fragmented by clearcuts and logging roads.

* Many of the protected areas are completely isolated. Under the agreement, bears attempting to move between these areas will have to use pathways through an unprotected and increasingly industrialized landscape of clearcuts, roads and expanding human settlements.

* The agreement provides far less habitat protection for grizzlies than in the coastal temperate rainforests of neighboring Alaska, where 90% of grizzly habitat is protected under federal roadless rules that effectively maintain the areas core wilderness.

In a region recognized worldwide for its uniquely rare and largely intact mainland and island ecosystems, one would expect that a modern conservation strategy would strongly reflect the findings of the scientific community. The land use proposals for both the central and north coasts fall considerably short of the conservation strategies provided by the Coast Information Team (CIT), the committee of expert scientists that have advised the planning processes. The CIT identified 44% protection as the minimum requirement for maintaining biodiversity in this globally significant region. Even higher levels of protection (as much as 70%) would be necessary to ensure that threats to biodiversity values remain at a low risk in perpetuity.

Additional research conducted by Raincoast scientists on the degree to which the agreement protects wildlife indicates that the agreement fails to protect enough habitat for a plethora of species. Furthermore, as it stands now sport hunting of large carnivores will be allowed in all of the new proposed protected areas. Protection of aquatic habitat would be similarly compromised. In fact, Raincoast’s research shows that salmon, the most important food source of coastal grizzlies, remain at a serious risk of decline from the potential loss of spawning and rearing habitat from logging and other industrial activity; 75% of chum and chinook, 74% of coho, 72% of pink, and 67% of sockeye populations in the Great Bear Rainforest are not protected under the agreement.

So-called Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) is being relied upon to compensate for the low level of protection provided for under the agreement, but there is currently far too much uncertainty as to what EBM consists of and how it will be implemented by logging companies. Designating nearly 70% of the most significant expanse of coastal temperate rainforest on earth as a laboratory for an untested experimental forest management regime and calling it a "safety net" would appear to be an exercise in "faith-based" conservation. Clearcutting, the logging of small salmon-bearing streams and other destructive forestry practices will be permitted on nearly 86% of the most valuable and productive forest sites in the region. These findings, along with those of the CIT, conclude that the land use plans for the central and north coasts are inadequate to protect key wildlife species throughout the Great Bear Rainforest.

["Wayward Course" can be downloaded from the Raincoast website at http://www.raincoast.org]

CHRIS GENOVALI is executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Society and can be reached at: chris@raincoast.org



We published an article entitled "A Saudiless Arabia" by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the "Article"), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the "Website").

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005


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