US & Canada

Landmark deal to protect Canada Great Bear Rainforest

Kermode bear in the Great Bear Rainforest Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Great Bear Rainforest is inhabited by the spirit bear, a rare sub-species of the black bear with white fur

Indigenous tribes, timber firms and environmental groups in western Canada have welcomed a deal to protect one of the world's largest remaining tracts of temperate rainforest.

The Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia is home to many animals and ancient trees.

Logging will be banned across a huge area of the forest.

Environmental campaigners say the deal is a model for resolving similar land-use disputes around the world.

The forest is inhabited by the spirit bear, a rare sub-species of the black bear with white fur, and is also home to 26 aboriginal groups, known as First Nations.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The forest and its surrounding coastal area is renowned for its biodiversity
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The forest has been described as the jewel in the crown of magnificent landscapes in British Columbia
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The forest is also home to the grizzly bear

"The Great Bear Rainforest, there's no question, it's a jewel in the crown of magnificent landscapes in British Columbia," Premier Christy Clark said on Monday.

She said the "landmark agreement" would protect old and second-growth forest, while simultaneously providing economic opportunities for aboriginal people and local communities.

The province is expected to sign the new measures - which have been drafted after 10 years of often tense negotiations between the various concerned parties - into law in the spring.

The agreement bans logging in 85% of the rainforest and brings an end to hunting of the grizzly bear within First Nations territories. It also abolishes hunting in the region for the spirit bear, also known as the kermode bear.

The remaining 15% of the ancient forest will be subject to stringent standards applied elsewhere in North America for commercial logging.

The deal has been ratified by 26 aboriginal tribes that live alongside British Columbia's coast, several environmental groups and five forestry companies.


The Great Bear Rainforest

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares from Quadra Island to Alaska
  • Its enormous habitat covers 32,000 sq km (12,000 sq miles) on the Pacific coast of Canada, helping purify both air and water, and is an unspoiled home to grizzly bears, wolves and cougars
  • It is the scene of one of nature's most impressive migrations - the perilous journey of the Pacific salmon from the sea through the forest rivers to spawn in its creek
  • The salmon run draws carnivores such as bears and wolves to the river bank, where they gorge on the migrating fish
  • The bears who feast on the spawning salmon do not eat on the river - they drag the carcasses far into the forest. The remains of the salmon contain vast quantities of nitrogen that plants need to grow
  • Eighty percent of the nitrogen in the forest's trees comes from the salmon. In other words, these ocean dwellers are crucial for the forest's long-term survival

How salmon keep the forest thriving


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