Monday’s agreement on “protection” for B.C.’s so-called Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) is being sold as a shining example of reasonable and responsible compromise between the economy and the environment; a model in which government, aboriginal groups, industry and environmental NGOs hammered out a plan that was good for all involved.
There is no doubt that this vast area — covering 6.4 million hectares of the coast from the north of Vancouver Island to the southern tip of Alaska — is spectacularly beautiful, and home to charismatic animals such as the Kermode or “Spirit” bear, a black bear that, due to a genetic mutation, is white.
The deal itself, however, is far from black and white. B.C. Premier Christy Clark claimed that it might be a model for other resource development issues, of which pipelines are obviously the most contentious.
But any agreement that takes 20 years of hammering is hardly a model, especially for a hard-pressed economy looking to create jobs. Meanwhile the nature of the deal, how it was arrived at, and what sort of precedent it sets, all demand closer examination.
One controversial aspect of the agreement — under which 85 per cent of old-growth forests in the region will be off limits to logging — is that it appears to legitimize misinformation and intimidation as bargaining tools.
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