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The Great Bear Rainforest, Canada

The Great Bear Rainforest is an iconic, globally significant area that is home to one-quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest. It covers 6.4 million hectares along the central and north coast of British Columbia. The World Wildlife Fund has ranked the Great Bear Rainforest as a globally outstanding ecosystem due to its biological diversity and rarity.

The Great Bear Rainforest is sparsely populated with fewer than 21,000 people, many of whom are First Nations. In 2006, the Government of British Columbia and the region’s First Nations committed to ecosystem-based management, new protection areas and a collaborative government-to-government governance structure for the Great Bear Rainforest. Ecosystem-based management is defined as “concurrent achievement of high levels of ecological integrity and high levels of human well-being.”

With the establishment in 2016 of the Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Objectives Order and the Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act, achievement of ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest is complete. The Order sets out the land use objectives that apply to forestry activities in the Great Bear Rainforest and identifies 550,000 hectares of managed forest that will support a sustainable harvest. The Act provides for the application of unique forest management rules to the Great Bear Rainforest.

Ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest is supported by over 30 negotiated agreements between the Government of British Columbia, forest companies, First Nations and environmental groups. This unprecedented collaboration protects 85 per cent of the area’s forests and assures sufficient habitat for five species of special interest, including grizzly bears. It also offers certainty for the forest industry through sustainable harvesting in 15 per cent of the area’s forests. This creates stability for First Nations, workers, communities, investors and customers. The agreements also support opportunities for business, including tourism, and community development, training and employment. First Nations, in particular, are well placed to take advantage of new opportunities.