After 20 years of representing B.C. coastal First Nations to negotiate what U.S.-directed activists labeled the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, a weary Dallas Smith expressed his relief and frustration.
At a ceremony to sign the final agreement in Vancouver last week, Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council of remote Central Coast communities like Bella Bella, joked that he’s finally out of a job. Then he got serious.
“My communities still aren’t better places to live yet,” he said. But the land use agreement with the province and forest companies over a vast coastal area up to the Alaska border means the years ahead will be better.
He said when he started it was like being caught in a divorce between the B.C. forest industry and international environmental groups. Dutch-based Greenpeace, its California offshoot ForestEthics and others moved on from their Clayoquot Sound battle to the B.C. coast, looking to continue the blockades against logging.
“It’s the First Nations of the Coast who stood up and said ‘no, this is how it’s going to work’,” Smith said.
How it’s going to work is that logging will continue on 550,000 hectares of coastal forest, with a greater share for First Nations, and with 85 per cent of the region preserved after a century of logging that began with sailing ships.
Aside from a few diehards who are either paid to protest or can’t get past issuing demands, B.C. aboriginal people have grown tired of being used as props in global de-marketing campaigns directed from San Francisco or Amsterdam. The protesters’ tactic of organizing customer boycotts that damage far-away economies might be good for international fundraising, but it’s bad for poor people.
Formally begun 10 years ago with $30 million from Ottawa, $30 million from B.C. and $60 million from a group of wealthy U.S. family foundations with a larger anti-development agenda, the land use plan remains under attack.
Among the many protest outfits is Pacific Wild, which has specialized in Great Bear Rainforest campaigns and now needs a new enemy. Their credibility was demonstrated recently when potty-mouthed U.S. pop star Miley Cyrus decided to speak out against B.C.’s wolf kill.
Typical of celebrities, Cyrus had no idea about the struggle to preserve dwindling herds of mountain caribou. She barely knows where B.C. is, a fact made plain when Pacific Wild toured her around the North Coast, far from the Kootenay and South Peace regions where the wolves in question actually roam.
Cyrus’s handlers spoon-fed video and statements to urban media, who were so anxious to exploit her global popularity that they played down the fact she was at the wrong end of the province spouting nonsense.
After periodically attacking their own B.C. agreement as inadequate, Greenpeace and ForestEthics have moved on to what they call the “boreal forest,” which we like to call northern Canada. The same bully tactics with forest products customers and producers have been featured.
This time, a Quebec company that signed an accord in 2010 is suing Greenpeace for “defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference in economic relations.”
Aboriginal companies on the B.C. coast will continue to log, including areas of old-growth forest and secondary growth. They will continue to export logs as economics dictate. They will continue to harvest animals, including grizzly bears.
And, I expect, they will continue to be subjected to attempts to supervise and direct them by members of urban society’s new religion, environmentalism.
The leaders of this movement don’t like peace. It’s bad for their business.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. firstname.lastname@example.org