The Ottawa Citizen



Art Sterritt


B.C. pact meets needs of both natives and economy

Re: Last stand of the spirit bear, Nov. 26.

Some claim the land-use agreements for British Columbia's central and north coast -- the "Great Bear Rainforest" -- with Haida Gwaii didn't rely on available science and don't go far enough. Others think scientific and economic information was ignored and that the agreements go too far.

As First Nations who live in this region and who have centuries of on-the-ground resource harvesting and conservation experience, we believe those who make such claims fail to consider one key question: How do we protect and conserve the natural systems in the Great Bear Rainforest and also meet the needs of the people who live in them and depend upon the resources for their way of life? In June 2000, the Coastal First Nations, including the Haida, Metlakatla, Gitga'at, Haisla, Kitasoo, Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations, signed a declaration to work together to create a healthy coastal economy. To do so there must be recognition of the inextricable link between economic and ecological sustainability. It is not possible to achieve one without the other.

The land-use agreements provide a way to achieve these goals. The amount of land protected will be quadrupled to more than seven million acres, including many of the most sensitive and intact valleys and islands. It is the largest temperate rainforest protection package in Canadian history.

The agreements also put in place the first regional scale, multi-party commitment to apply ecosystem-based management outside of protected areas.

We believe these agreements present a significant opportunity to integrate environmental protection, resource conservation, sustainable coastal community development and First Nations' self-determination.

Art Sterritt,

Terrace, B.C.,

Executive Director,

Coastal First Nations