UPDATE 1-Historic deal to protect Canada rainforest from logging

Mon Feb 1, 2016 2:47pm EST
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(Adds official announcement, quotes)

By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER Feb 1 (Reuters) - British Columbia on Monday unveiled a historic agreement to protect a massive swath of rainforest along its coastline, having reached a deal that marries the interests of First Nations, the logging industry and environmentalists after a decade of often-tense negotiations.

Under the agreement, about 85 percent of forest within the Great Bear Rainforest would be protected, with the other 15 percent available for logging under the "most stringent" standards in North America, environmental groups involved in the talks said.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world's largest temperate rainforests and the habitat of the Spirit Bear, a rare subspecies of the black bear with white fur and claws. It is also home to 26 Aboriginal groups, known as First Nations.

"The Great Bear Rainforest, there's no question, it's a jewel in the crown of magnificent landscapes in British Columbia," Premier Christy Clark said at an event on Monday.

She added that the "landmark agreement" would protect more old and second growth forest, while still ensuring economic opportunities for local Aboriginals and communities. The province is expected to enshrine the new measures into law in the spring.

The Great Bear rainforest, which includes forests, waterways and mountains, covers 6.4 million hectares of the province's coast. More than half its surface is forest, including 2.3 million hectares of old growth, which stores high levels of captured carbon.

In the 1990s, frustrated over what they saw as destructive forestry practices on their traditional lands, First Nations partnered with environmentalists to fight back against logging companies, blockading roads and protesting.   Continued...