VANCOUVER, British Columbia – British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest has been largely protected from logging in a landmark agreement between aboriginals, forest companies, environmental groups and the government.
Premier Christy Clark announced the agreement Monday. The land-sharing deal, 20 years in the making, will protect 85 percent of the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, located about 435 miles (700 kilometers) northwest of Vancouver.
The Great Bear Rainforest, stretching from the Discovery Islands northwards to Alaska, is 6.4 million hectares (16 million acres), and more than half the region is covered by ancient forests. The agreement ensures 3.1 million hectares (7.7 million acres) of the forests are permanently off limits to logging.
Environmentalist Richard Brooks said 95 percent of the area was open to logging 20 years ago, but protests, blockades and ensuing negotiations resulted in Monday's agreement that ensures most of the forests will not be logged
Twenty six aboriginal tribes, environmental groups, coastal forest companies and the government reached the agreement. It is the territory of 26 aboriginal tribes.
Coast Forest Products Association chief executive officer Rick Jeffery said the deal involved complex talks between groups with opposing points of view, but compromise and success was achieved over time.
"'It's unprecedented in the history of our province," said Jeffery. "It's a unique solution for a unique area.".
The agreement also ends the commercial grizzly bear hunt and protects habitat for the marbled murrelet, northern goshawk and mountain goat.
The area was officially named the Great Bear Rainforest by then-premier Gordon Campbell in 2006. Environmentalists had given the area the name years before that in an effort to protect the central coast from logging.