The Great Bear Rainforest is the world’s largest remaining intact temperate rainforest, a fabled region of towering trees and rare mammals that stretches up the rugged Pacific coast from the top of Vancouver Island to southern Alaska. At 6.4 million hectares, it represents a quarter of the remaining coastal temperate rainforest worldwide. Its iconic wildlife includes a host of large carnivores, including grizzly bears, black bears and the elusive white spirit bear, coastal wolves, cougars and wolverines.
Today, only 30% of the Great Bear Rainforest’s magnificent river valleys and islands are protected from industrial activity. Without proper oversight and further protection, the integrity and unique biodiversity of the Great Bear Rainforest are still threatened. GBEAR works with a broad sector of interest groups to increase awareness of the Great Bear Rainforest’s iconic species and diverse ecosystems. We strive to ensure that wildlife management and land-use decisions maintain or enhance the unique ecological integrity of the region.
In the early 1990s, large-scale industrial logging in pristine coastal watersheds on B.C.’s central and north coast led to one of the most ambitious conservation campaigns ever witnessed in North America. Hard-fought conservation battles eventually led to a unique level of protection with the Great Bear Rainforest agreements of 2001 and 2009. One-third of the land area of the north and central coast region is now protected from logging in the form of conservancies, provincial parks, and Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas, while half of Haida Gwaii is fully protected.
Independent scientists estimate that at least 70% of old growth forest must remain intact to ensure the long-term preservation of the rainforest and its magnificent diversity of species. In contrast, 70% of the region’s landbase still remains open to logging and commercial development through mining, hydroelectric power generation, industrial wind farms and oil and gas pipeline construction. These forests are globally rare and ecologically valuable. The GBR still has many pristine river valleys that support salmon, wolves, bears and countless other species that remain unprotected and threatened by industrial scale logging. There is critical conservation work ahead to protect these priority areas.
Conservancies differ from other parks because they prioritize the protection of biological diversity and First Nations social, ceremonial and cultural values. Conservancies allow First Nations to pursue low-impact economic activities that do not undermine ecological values. Commercial logging, mining and hydroelectric power generation are prohibited in these areas (except local run-of-river projects to service nearby communities). Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas contribute to the conservation of species by limiting the range of land uses within these zones, while prohibiting commercial timber harvesting and commercial hydroelectric power projects. Other resource activities and land uses, like mining and tourism, are permitted, but subject to existing regulations and legislation.
GBEAR celebrates the conservation victories that we have helped realize over the last 25 years, however the Great Bear Rainforest still needs our help. With many pristine salmon-producing river valleys and islands proposed for large-scale road building and clearcutting in the coming years, we continue to advocate for additional rainforest protection.