July 28, 2023
Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-waututh) First Nations (Vancouver) — Yesterday, Government-to-Government (G2G) – Coastal First Nations, the Nanwakolas Council and the British Columbia Ministry of Forests – announced changes to the Great Bear Rainforest land-use order (GBRO), as part of a five-year review to the 2016 Agreements.
The changes are part of an important process of continually reviewing and strengthening the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Sierra Club BC and Stand.earth offer our congratulations to G2G for improvements, including increasing oversight by First Nations and stronger protections for cultural heritage sites; better protection and monitoring for important wildlife like grizzly bears; and strengthened requirements for watershed health and riparian zones.
Sierra Club BC and Stand.earth have provided input to the review process as members of the Rainforest Solutions Project. Our groups have raised several key concerns, which have not been addressed in the revised land use order, including:
● The revised GBRO does not effectively incorporate key findings of the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review and Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel criteria, in particular mapped at-risk old-growth areas proposed for deferral and older second-growth areas considered crucial for recruitment to reduce the level of ecological risk for big-tree ecosystems (especially in the southern Great Bear Rainforest);
● There is ongoing logging of provincially-identified high risk old growth and big-treed mature forests, in some cases not incorporated in landscape reserve designs (LRDs) and other cases in landscapes where there is no spatial planning, monitoring, or transparent reporting of logging activities; and
● The ongoing lack of transparency and equitable access to information remains a barrier to engage effectively and proactively assess ecological risk.
Lack of publicly-available information and effectiveness monitoring on key values over the last 7.5 years since the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements have been enacted, has been a continual concern for the integrity of the Agreements. We are encouraged by yesterday’s announcement confirming implementation of an updated monitoring strategy over the next two years, and look forward to greater transparency moving forwards.
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements will undergo further, and potentially substantive, changes for the 10-year review in 2026. In light of the current climate and biodiversity crises, and the ever-expanding understanding of the importance of old-growth and mature forests, we look forward to working collaboratively to continue improving the agreements under the core tenets of Ecosystem-Based Management.