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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Landmark deal to save Canadian forest
The Great Bear Rainforest is located along the Pacific Cost of British Columbia
The rainforest is found on the coast of British Columbia
Timber companies, environmentalists and Indians have signed a landmark agreement over logging in a controversial rainforest in Canada.

They have agreed to preserve more than 1m hectares (2.5m acres) of pristine wilderness along the country's Pacific coast, which is home to a rare species of bear.

The environmental group Greenpeace, which says the area has some of the last untouched temperate rainforest in the world, led an international boycott against companies who were cutting trees there.


This is a tremendous leap forward in securing the future of the Great Bear Rainforest

Tamara Stark, Greenpeace Canada

In return for the agreement, the boycott is suspended and the logging companies will receive about $7m in compensation from the government of British Columbia.

It is known as the Great Bear Rainforest - an area of the central British Columbia coast containing dramatic scenery but also valuable timber.

It is home to many plant, bird and animal species, including grizzly bears and the rare Kermode or "Spirit" bear.

About 400 of the bears, a sub-species of black bear but with white fur, live there.

Boycott

To save their habitat, environmental groups, including Greenpeace, blockaded shipments of Canadian lumber arriving in Europe and mounted billboards in cities around the world.

A grizzly bear in Canada
Grizzlies and many other species live in the rainforest
They also convinced some major wood buyers, particularly in the United States, to boycott lumber from the area.

Now, the timber companies, environmental organisations and the region's aboriginal group have signed an agreement to limit logging.

"This is a tremendous leap forward in securing the future of the Great Bear Rainforest," said Tamara Stark, Greenpeace Canada Forest Campaigner.

The timber companies say the move is costly and predict job losses and the closure of saw mills.

Costly battle

But after a costly public relations battle with the environmentalists, most firms decided enough was enough.

"We need to say that it is not just okay to buy wood from B.C (British Columbia) but that it is good to buy B.C wood," Rick Jeffrey of the Truck Loggers Association told AP news agency.

BBC Vancouver correspondent Ian Gunn says the deal may not end all the feuds over logging in the region, but getting any agreement out of parties who have been locked in bitter confrontation for decades is clearly a major step forward.

Under the agreement, about 20 of the area's most critically valleys will be permanently protected, while logging in another 68 will be deferred.

Greenpeace officials said the plan will also guarantee that future logging practices in other areas of the Great Bear Rainforest will become more ecologically responsible.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia fails to tackle logging
30 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Illegal logging boom in Cambodia
19 Jan 01 | Americas
Roads lead to Amazon 'destruction'
17 Nov 00 | Americas
Grizzlies back to the wild
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