On February 1, 2016, a landmark agreement for the protection and conversation of a large swath of British Columbia’s coastline was established.

After nearly 20 years of negotiations, environmental non-government organisations (ENGOs), 26 First Nations communities, industry representatives, and the provincial government of British Columbia agreed on how to protect, conserve, and responsibly manage one of the largest — and still fairly intact — coastal temperate rainforests in the world.

The area is called the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR). A Globe and Mail editorial on that day advanced that the agreement was “proof nature, natives, and development can co-exist.”

The agreement may, indeed, offer a framework for other future large-scale environmental agreements. It recognises the need for First Nations to responsibly manage their ancestral lands and benefit from its exploitation.

The Globe and Mail published a full spread regarding the protection of Great Bear Rainforest.
The Globe and Mail published a full spread regarding the protection of Great Bear Rainforest.

The agreement also recognises the need to preserve intact forest for the protection of biodiversity. The industry gets to harvest the timber it needs while following a new ecosystem-based forestry management practice. This, in turn, will allow the paper product companies operating in the GBR to use the prized sustainability label for their products.

It is a jewel for all to enjoy.

An area roughly 32,000 km2 (12,000 square miles), the GBR is more than twice as large as Lake Michigan. Canada’s West Coast is one of the most awe-inspiring natural areas of the country.

Great Bear Rainforest will protect natural materials and wildlife.
Great Bear Rainforest will protect natural materials and wildlife.

A visit will stir all sorts of emotions within, starting with the sheer size of the gigantic Douglas firs that make you feel so small, the 1000-year-old red cedar trees that were there well before Columbus showed up on the other side of the continent, the pristine rivers and lakes teeming with fish and wildlife activities, and, of course, the great “spirit bear.”

Once on site, one gets the overwhelming feeling that this “gift of nature” must be indeed preserved for future generations.

Publishers want sustainable and conflict-free papers.

In the mid-1990s, the large and influential German Pulp and Paper Association became keenly aware of the logging practices in the GBR and, over time, took the position that all parties needed to arrive at an agreement if they were going to continue to buy Canadian forest products.

Many other publishers followed suit either because of environmental organisations’ pressures or pressure coming from their own customers.

In Canada, The Globe and Mail supported ENGOs like Canopy Planet with its forest conservation and sustainable forest management goals for Canada’s boreal and rainforests.

In particular, The Globe’s publisher, Phillip Crawley, participated in live conversations and discussion groups for the cause. The company also provided advertising space for the promotion of the creation of the Broadback Forest conservation area, an area of the boreal forest in Quebec that still offers intact forests, pristine rivers, and lakes, and is host to a crucial biodiversity that supports endangered species like the woodland caribou.

A July 2015 agreement between ENGOs, First Nations, the industry, and the government will effectively protect about 62% of the Broadback Forest area and improve logging practices for the rest of it. It is worthy to note that the protected area is equivalent to an area eight times the size of New York City.

It is, however, a balancing act. Costs for printing newspapers are always top of mind, notwithstanding the issue of finding solid recycled fiber that can sustain the high-speed printing presses we now depend on.

Nonetheless, we are all custodian of this one planet, and we should collectively continue to foster responsible forest management principles and unrelenting innovation.