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Environmentalists say B.C. falling behind on pledge to protect Great Bear Rainforest

Environmentalists say government hasn’t followed through on protecting Great Bear Rainforest
WATCH: Environmentalists say government hasn't followed through on protecting Great Bear Rainforest

B.C. environmental groups say the province is failing in its commitment to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

Back in 2016, the province’s former BC Liberal government signed the Great Bear Rainforest agreement with First Nations, forest companies and environmental groups.

The region stretches from the Discovery Islands northward to the Alaska panhandle, is 6.4 million hectares large and more than half of it covered by ancient forests. It’s also home to B.C.’s iconic white “spirit bears.”

READ MORE: Most of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest protected

Under the agreement, the area, representing about 85 per cent of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest — previously known as the “mid-coast timber supply” — would be rendered off-limits to logging.

Christy Clark announces Great Bear Rainforest deal
Christy Clark announces Great Bear Rainforest deal

“In the ’90s there was a big concern that most of the area could be logged by industry, and there were many protests and boycott calls leading to talks,” said Jens Wieting with the Sierra Club of BC.

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Since then, about half of the forest area that must be off-limits to logging under the Agreements has been set aside in protected areas.

But Wieting says the province has failed to chart out a path to protect the remaining areas covered by the deal in reserves — and those in the most threatened parts of the region should have been completed two years ago.

READ MORE: Getting to know more about the Great Bear Rainforest

“But the other half, about 1.5 million hectares — that’s about half the size of Vancouver Island — still needs reserve plans,” he said.

“It’s a huge concern that we are not on track. If we continue on this pace we will not be able to ensure the ecological health of the rainforest.”

The story of Canada’s Spirit Bear and its indigenous connection
The story of Canada’s Spirit Bear and its indigenous connection

Eduardo Sousa with Greenpeace Canada said in the meantime, forestry companies have continued to harvest logs, some of them in rare and endangered ecoystems.

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“And what we are picking up is that they are logging in areas that they really should be setting aside because they are rare and endangered old growth systems. and there is no monitoring in place,” he said.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said he was not available for an interview on the subject.

READ MORE: New film draws attention to Great Bear Rainforest

In an emailed statement, he said the province was aware of the groups’ concerns, and that “we are listening.”

Donaldson said the ministry had met with several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace on Monday.

“The original agreement committed the province to a process to adjust during the life of the agreement,” he said.

“Our government will honour that process.”