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Vancouver Sun -- Best Chance for Coastal Rainforest
16 nov 2005
Some continue to claim the proposed land use agreements to protect
B.C.'s Central and North Coast -- also known as the Great Bear
Rainforest -- and the islands of Haida Gwaii don't go far enough. Others
think it goes too far.

As 12 first nations who live in these regions, our traditional
territory, and who have 8,000 years of on-the-ground management
experience, we believe those who make those claim fail to consider one
critical question.
How do we integrate the needs of natural systems with the needs of the
people who depend upon them for their livelihoods and way of life?

We live and work on this coast, where the forest and waters are a vital
natural, cultural and economic resource for first nations, coastal
communities and B.C. as a whole.
To be successful, land use agreements must not only preserve the land
and protect its ecological integrity -- they must also respect
indigenous cultures and strengthen local economies.

To be successful, conservation must be sustainable, both ecologically
and economically.

The coastal land use agreements, currently awaiting cabinet approval, do

In these agreements, the total size of protected areas would be
quadrupled to secure many of its most sensitive and intact valleys and

This will be more than seven million acres of area protected from
logging on the Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii.
When approved, it will be the largest temperate rainforest protection
package in Canadian history. The agreements also represent the first
effort to apply ecosystem-based management on all areas outside the
protected areas.
This amounts to re-engineering an entire regional economy, tuning it to
measurable indicators of ecological health and human well-being.

Through a declaration signed in June 2000, Coastal First Nations
committed to making decisions that ensure the well-being of our lands
and waters, and to preserve and renew their territories and cultures
through tradition, knowledge, and authority.

Since then, this position has not changed, only strengthened, as we seek
to find more opportunities for conservation approaches based on
independent science and local and traditional knowledge.

As well, we are looking for approaches for our coastal communities where
unemployment and poverty rates are well above national averages.

The intricate process that has led to this stage represents a commitment
to a new relationship between the provincial government and first

Beyond mere consultation, this government-to-government relationship
will allow for a more just approach to land use decisions today and in
the future.

We believe the application of these land use agreements present the
world with its best chance yet to integrate conservation, community
development and first nations self-determination. We are supported by
Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the Sierra Club of Canada B.C. Chapter, the
Rainforest Action Network, the Nature Conservancy and others.
We are proud to support these agreements and are working with the
British Columbia government to develop legal and legislative tools to
make them a reality.

Art Sterritt is executive director of the Coastal First Nations of the
Turning Point Initiative Society.

Guujaaw is the president of the Council of Haida Nation.

*** Send a message to the BC government to protect the Great Bear
Rainforest at:

This work is in the public domain
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