Slicing Up The Great Bear Pie
by Dr Brian L. Horejsi, Penticton - Focus-onlineI’d like to think that most British Columbians have heard of the Great Bear Rainforest—one of the most biologically productive landscapes in the world, stretching from the Yukon-Alaska-BC corner all the way south to Bute Inlet, from the interior coastal range west to the Pacific. It harbours runs of salmon in the millions, great bears and wolves, birds that nest only in ancient trees, rainfall that can reach four metres annually, and extensive forests hundreds of years old.
Remarkably, you and I—and all British Columbians—still own the Great Bear, although we are morally and ethically obligated to hold it in trust for all of Canada and the rest of the world.
Its presumed protection and management rests in Victoria with people like Premier Clark, Forests Minister Steve Thompson and an entrenched public service historically steeped in resource exploitation.
For 50 years it has been managed almost exclusively for the timber industry; a half century of insider politics have effectively left the people of BC on the outside looking in. Roughly one-tenth of the area was designated Protected Areas in the ’90s, then a series of land-resource management plans carved up the remainder for various forms of “management,” almost all it based on logging and road building.
Some of you are familiar with the fraudulent insider committee originally set up to massage public comment on the South Okanagan park plan; you have seen the offensive and absurd conditions Minister of Environment Mary Polak has set for Park designation; hunting, off-roading, grazing, helicopter intrusions, all protected. The message is “What’s left, the rest of you—the ‘crazies’ as one Liberal MLA calls engaged citizens—can have.”
Early in 2016 the “government” will hand us a Great Bear Rainforest plan conceived through the same kind of ideological scheme proposed for the Okanagan. Hand-picked enviros, regional Indian bands, commercial interests and the timber industry—annointed by government—have sliced up the Great Bear pie without having ever done an environmental impact assessment, without an open process for incorporating public scrutiny, and “free” of the best conservation science. Citizens who did submit comment saw it disappear into the maw of government who fed it to the insider participants.
The Great Bear “plan” capitulates to vested interests like all insider deals do. Scientifically sound conservation measures are disembowelled by pro-business and timber industry bias in legislation and management plans that state habitat protection is acceptable only if it can be implemented “without unduly reducing the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.” The Liberal government commissioned a report by MLA Mike Morris—“Improving wildlife habitat management in BC”—that rightly recognizes the timber supply protection clause “significantly lowers the threshold protecting our biodiversity” and This…has contributed to a degradation of biodiversity.”
British Columbians want to be optimistic about 2016. We know we are entitled to a great deal more “democracy” but we’re going to have to battle for it.
Dr Brian L. Horejsi, Penticton