The Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares (15.8 million acres) along the British Columbia’s (B.C.’s) Pacific Coast – an area almost the size of Ireland. With one quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest, it offers breathtaking scenery and unparalleled recreational opportunities that draw visitors from around the globe. Its productive forest and marine resources support local communities and economies.
Over the past two decades, B.C.’s land use planning process and the unprecedented collaboration among First Nations, the B.C. government, environmental groups and forest companies is resulting in the protection of forest ecosystems, provide economic opportunities for First Nations, and offer certainty for the forest industry through sustainable harvesting of both old and second growth Managed Forests. On January 28, 2016, the B.C. government legally established the new Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Order and in May 2016 enacted the Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act as the final implementation measures, replacing the previous land use orders in 2007 and 2009.
British Columbia has entered into government-to-government protocols with area First Nations to ensure management decisions are informed by their perspectives.
As a world leader in sustainable forest management, B.C. concurrently manages ecological integrity and human well-being in the globally unique Great Bear Rainforest through ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based management is an adaptive, systematic approach to managing human activities that seeks to ensure the co-existence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities.
An integral component of ecosystem-based management implementation in the Great Bear Rainforest is to ensure there is sufficient habitat for five species of special interest – mountain goats, grizzly bears, marbled murrelets, tailed frogs, and northern goshawk.
The Great Bear Rainforest land use order will conserve 70 per cent of the natural range of old growth forests, with some minor exceptions, across the entire 6.4 million hectare (15.8 million acre) region over time.
One third of the Great Bear Rainforest, two million hectares (five million acres), is fully protected in parks and conservation areas and about nine per cent of the total area (equates to 15 per cent of the forested area) is available for timber harvesting in the managed forest.
- Managed Forest comprises 550,000 hectares (1.36 million acres) where harvesting of old growth and second-growth forest is focused, guided by ecosystem-based management.
- Parks, protected areas comprise 471,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) that are fully protected.
- Conservancies make up 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) in a new conservancy designation that recognizes the importance of specific areas for First Nations.
- Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism areas comprise 309,000 hectares (764,000 acres) are in areas where the primary use is biodiversity conservation and protection of key ecological and cultural values. Commercial forestry and hydroelectric generation linked to the power grid are not allowed.
- Special Forest Management areas totally 273,000 hectares (675,000 acres) are in areas where hydroelectric generation, mining and tourism development is allowed as long as it maintains ecological integrity. Commercial forestry is not allowed. It is expected that some of these will become Biodiversity, Mining & Tourism areas or Conservancies over time.
Forests make up more than half of the Great Bear Rainforest – a total of 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres). The land use orders identify 550,000 hectares (1.36 million acres) of managed forest that will support a sustainable harvest. This creates stability for First Nations, workers, communities, investors and customers.