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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 07:43 GMT
Deal protects Canada rainforest
Salish tribe members dance and sing to celebrate a land use agreement announced by British Columbia
Indigenous tribes will have an unprecedented say in land use
Canada's province of British Columbia has announced plans to protect a huge swathe of Pacific Coast rainforest, known as the Amazon of the North.

The forest is home to a rare white bear species and is the ancestral land of several indigenous Canadian tribes.

The deal will save a vast area of forest for wildlife, while allowing sustainable logging in other parts.

The settlement between tribes, loggers and environmentalists is being hailed as an example for other countries.

The land covered by the Great Bear Rainforest is huge. At 64,000 sq-km (25,000 sq-mile), it is about twice the size of Belgium.

It stretches 400km (250 miles) up the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island all the way north to Alaska.

Past clashes

It has seen frequent disputes in recent years between the lumber industry and environmental groups.

Under the new agreement, about a third of the land is being preserved completely to protect wildlife in the region, including the Kermode bear - a sub-species of black bear with white fur, found only in this region - wolves, grizzly bears and wild salmon.

The rest of the region will see some logging and mining but even environmental groups say they are satisfied the companies will use sustainable practices that will be a model for the rest of the world.

Local aboriginal groups have given their backing to the agreement. They have been fighting for a much greater say in land use around their traditional territories for decades.

Provincial Premier Gordon Campbell, announcing the agreement alongside native Indian drummers, said: "The result is a strong marriage that balances the needs of the environment with the need for sustainable jobs and a strong economic future for coastal communities."

The BBC's Ian Gunn in Vancouver says this is all a far cry from just a few years ago, when environmental groups and the logging industry clashed in the same forests with blockades and frequent arrests.

Now both sides say they have an agreement that should settle the matter for good.

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