The Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is a name originally coined by environmental groups to describe the Central and North Coast forest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia in Canada. This unique ecosystem forms part of the Pacific temperate rain forest and is the largest such coastal rainforest in the world.

Stemming from very public and passionate confrontations during the 1990’s between logging companies and a coalition of environmental groups and First Nations governments, formal negotiations were initiated to develop a conflict resolution mechanism whereby the provincial and First Nations governments would collaboratively develop a sustainable resource management plan for this globally significant ecosystem.

The legal and policy agreement, under which this sensitive ecosystem will be managed, was the result of an Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) approach first agreed to in 2006. The resulting document, referred to as the Great Bear Rainforest Order, established goals whose initiative is widely regarded as a world-wide model for identifying and establishing collaborative solutions which strive toward resolving conflicts over land use between commercial interests, indigenous rights and large-scale conservation proposals.

Eighty-five per cent of this remote wilderness, encompassing over three million hectares, is, as of February 2016, off limits to industrial logging. The remaining 15 % of the forest will be managed under very tight restrictions regarding North American commercial logging standards.

The entire region covers an area just short of six and half million hectares (15 million acres) and stretches from the Tongass Rainforest in Alaska south to British Columbia’s Discovery Islands and encompasses the islands of Haida Gwaii, thereby representing the largest tracts of intact temperate rainforests in the world.  Twenty-six First Nations continue to live in this rainforest which is also home to towering old-growth forests, and both marine and terrestrial wildlife, such as orcas, several species of salmon, wolves, grizzly bears and the Spirit Bear, a colour phase of the Black Bear.

Direct involvement by First Nations representatives in the implementation and monitoring of this Order is required and designed to contribute to the reconciliation of their interests with the Province of British Columbia. Joint monitoring of results will further determine whether or not ecosystem integrity is being maintained and that human well-being has improved. Should either of those two goals fall short, this order may be reviewed and amended.

There are two fundamental goals described in the Ecosystem-Based Management plan. The first is to guarantee a low ecological risk, in which 70% of old growth is maintained across all rain-forest types. Achieving this goal will result in increased wildlife populations, improved ecological resilience and deliver the added benefit of retaining carbon stored in old-growth forests, which would otherwise have been lost to logging.

The second goal of the Ecosystem-Based Management approach is to retain high levels of human well-being. This goal is measured in relation to First Nations and is intended to protect and conserve cultural values that are linked to resource use and land stewardship practices.

As one of the most comprehensive conservation and forest management achievements of this scale on Earth, the Great Bear Rainforest Order marks a milestone in Ecosystem-Based Management. The plan sets praiseworthy standards for maintaining forest and wildlife health, without overlooking the economic and physical health of the communities that rely on them today and in to the future.

  • Source BC. Great Bear Rainforest. Available at : [Accessed 03/2021].