First Nations, B.C. gov’t join forces to build resilience in the Great Bear Rainforest
July 27, 2023 By Government of B.C.
New measures to sustain the Great Bear Rainforest as one of the world’s most treasured and diverse coastal temperate forest ecosystems have been introduced.
Coastal First Nations, the Nanwakolas Council and the Ministry of Forests, have worked in partnership to identify new steps to be taken as part of strengthening implementation of ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest, including to expand stewardship measures for key habitat for grizzly bears, Kermode (Spirit) and black bears, along with important fish habitat.
“First Nations have been resourceful, responsible managers of our forests for thousands of years,” said Dallas Smith, president, Nanwakolas Council. “Under our care, and with the systems we used, both our forests and the people and creatures who depend on them thrived. It is gratifying to work with a government that recognizes that, and is working with us to return our forests to those Indigenous-led, sustainable management systems. These new measures are a vital step on that pathway.”
The changes result from a review of a land-use order. The regulatory and policy review is a key accountability under the co-management of the Great Bear Rainforest.
“The collaborative Great Bear Rainforest agreements have already been a huge success—establishing a framework for co-governance to protect and sustainably manage our cultural sites, fish-bearing streams, wildlife habitat and old-growth forests using principles of ecosystem-based management,” said Christine Smith-Martin, CEO, Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative. “These new measures strengthen what is already an inspiration worldwide for conservation, sustainable forest management and enhanced carbon sequestration, and will lead us further on a path of shared decision-making and reconciliation.”
These changes reflect provincial government’s and First Nations’ leadership commitment to continuous improvement of forest management in First Nations territories and are part of a broader responsibility to build a conservation-based economy that supports maintenance of ecological integrity and human well-being for the North-Central and South-Central Coast.
“The successful introduction of these new measures demonstrates the power of collaboration and the and benefit of working to continuously improve the ecosystem-based management model,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “These achievements under ecosystem-based management will inform the new Forest Landscape Planning tables to be introduced across the province and will expand First Nations co-management and public participation in forest management.”
Improvements have been made in four key areas:
- First Nations co-management: Increased oversight by First Nations of forest planning and timber harvest activity, stronger protection of Indigenous cultural heritage sites and features, and improved stewardship of key Indigenous forest values in their territories.
- Biodiversity: Improvements in the way old-growth reserves are being created, enabling First Nations to take a stronger role in their development and expedite the protection of important forest values. This work will enhance the 1.5 million hectares of protected areas and conservancies already established through legislation with an additional 1.6 million hectares to be reserved through the landscape reserve design process.
- Wildlife: Increased requirements for the protection and stewardship of habitat for regionally important wildlife, particularly in relation to grizzly bears, Kermode (Spirit) bears and black bears.
- Aquatic habitat: Strengthened requirements for protection of important fisheries watersheds, maintenance of watershed health, and stewardship of fish-bearing rivers and streams, and other important aquatic habitats and riparian forests.
These measures also support carbon sequestration and the ongoing production of carbon offsets. More than 9.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been sequestered since the implementation of the Great Bear Rainforest. Those tonnes are verified as carbon offsets and sold by First Nations through the Great Bear Rainforest Carbon Initiative. Funds generated from the sale of these offsets support a wide range of conservation stewardship, economic development and capacity building projects and continue to be an important source of revenue in support of the ecological and human well-being goals regarding the Great Bear Rainforest.
The updated Great Bear Rainforest land-use order will be accompanied by new policy guidance to better support the implementation of ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest. A Great Bear Rainforest monitoring strategy, supported by new highly detailed landscape mapping data (also known as LiDAR), will be implemented in collaboration with key stakeholders over the next two years. This approach will strengthen the province and First Nations’ ability to track implementation and ensure our ecological and economic objectives are being met.
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