The Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act, introduced last week, supports a strict new ecosystem-based management regime created through unprecedented collaboration for the globally unique region along British Columbia’s north and central coast.
The Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares, and includes one-quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest. Ecosystem-based management was central to an agreement involving environmental groups and forest companies, and endorsed by local First Nations and the B.C. government. It is an adaptive, systematic approach to managing human activities that seeks to ensure the co-existence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities.
This innovative approach to forest management requires supporting legislation. The act, if passed and brought into force, will enable implementation of unique ecosystem-based management rules in the Great Bear Rainforest that move beyond current legislation while ensuring normal rules under the Forest Act still apply.
The act will legally establish a Great Bear Rainforest area, and assign an initial allowable annual cut of 2.5 million cubic metres per year for 10 years for the entire area. After 10 years, the allowable annual cut would be determined by the chief forester under Section 8 of the Forest Act, as is the case in other management units.
It will establish new timber supply areas and reconfigure existing ones to better reflect the boundaries of the Great Bear Rainforest, and provide for the designation of new special forest management areas that prohibit commercial timber harvesting activities.
It will enable regulations to specify where forest practices may differ from those under the Forest and Range Practices Act and regulations, and allow the minister to set “partitions” at the licence level. Partitions can be set to ensure a certain portion of a licensee’s annual cut is directed in a particular geographic area, or restricted to a particular tree species.
The act, which makes it clear that the unique provisions under ecosystem-based management apply only to the Great Bear Rainforest, will come into force by enabling regulation in summer 2016.
“We have a shared responsibility to pass on our province to future generations as magnificent and pristine as we found it while continuing the ancient tradition of making a living off the land. Today is the culmination of working together with First Nations, industry and environmental organizations for a common purpose,” said Premier Christy Clark.
“The Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act brings increased environmental sustainability to all our traditional territories. It also provides greater access to forestry opportunities; as well as ownership to more carbon tonnes than we currently have and includes special protection areas,” said Chief Marilyn Slett, president, Coastal First Nations.
With the new measures in the land use order and legislation, 85% of the forest will be protected and 15% (550,000 hectares) will be available for logging, supporting local jobs. The act creates special forest management areas – 273,000 hectares where commercial timber harvesting activities are prohibited.