B.C. introduces the Great Bear Rainforest Act
March 3, 2016 - The introduction of the Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act supports a strict new ecosystem-based management regime that will include an Allowable Annual Cut of 2.5 million cubic metres per year for the next 10 years.
By Andrew Macklin
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.
“Ecosystem-based management balances the needs of the people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest region, and the needs of the unique ecology in the area,” says Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson. “It brings stability, economic opportunity and certainty for local First Nations, communities and forest products companies.”
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.
- 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.
- Establish new timber supply areas and reconfigure existing ones to better reflect the boundaries of the Great Bear Rainforest.
- Provide for the designation of new special forest management areas that prohibit commercial timber harvesting activities.
- Enable regulations to specify where forest practices may differ from those under the Forest and Range Practices Act and regulations.
- 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 provides the certainty the forest industry needs on where to operate, and what rules will apply,” says Ric Slaco, chair, Coast Forest Conservation Initiative and chief forester and vice-president, Interfor. “It also opens up new opportunities to strengthen and build partnerships with First Nations.”
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.