The so-called "Mackenzie Decision" in British Columbia (Canada ) makes exactly the kind of world leading sustainable management of forests and biota that the 1999 New Zealand Labour government undid in the year 2000 when it rescinded the West Coast Accord and legislated avoidance of compensating industry the millions of dollars of economic and financial damage inflicted on them by the government decisions. Forest and Bird, Native Forest Action, the NZ Greens and Labour should take note of the mental backwater their environmental thinking is in.

Five million acres allocated to sustainably managed BC reserve

Canadian action shows up New Zealand Labour government environmental actions relating to the West Coast state indigenous forests to be the nonsense they are.

One source of some of this information can be seen at Working for Change.

Another is the Christian Science Monitor where Todd Wilkinson wrote an article, published on 10th December 2000. This page uses some of his material.

He said it took eight years of bitter haggling between Canadian environmentalists, native Americans, loggers, and miners, resulting in a benchmark conservation pact that protects a vast sweep of virgin wilderness the size of West Virginia.

The so-called "Mackenzie Decision" approved last month by the provincial government, makes British Columbia the only jurisdiction in North America to meet the UN goal of protecting 12 percent of its land base.

Conservation experts on both sides of the US-Canadian border say the 5 million acres ( 2,023,430 ha) set aside, combined with 11 million acres ( 4,451,546 ha) already protected in the adjacent Muskwa-Kechika preserve, stand to yield huge dividends for wildlife protection efforts in the US as well.

However, the mining association and some First Nations (aboriginals) did not support the 'Mackenzie' process. "Together these two stakeholders could undermine the decision!" said Canadian forestry professional Gary Bull. "Keep in mind zoning is only appropriate at certain spatial scales." he added.

"New Zealand should take note of this example, especially considering the dichotomous attitude exemplified in year 1999 and 2000 Labour government decisions about indigenous forest - on the South Island West Coast in particular - where the government applied its erroneous view that locking up vast tracts of potentially multi-use forest from sustainable management will somehow better "protect" the forest and biota than would existing and proposed sustainable management which is proven to provide exemplary enhancement for threatened indigenous biota." said Brian Swale, campaigner for sustainable forestry.

"This example from Canada where sustainable management is being applied and accommodates humans and their needs in the environment as well as the indigenous biota is an applied lesson that parallels what Timberlands West Coast intended with its innovative and environmentally advanced plans for managing rimu and beech forest right here in New Zealand", he added.

British Columbia's Premier Ujjal Dosanjh noted that he liked to think of this as Canada's gift of wildness to the rest of the world.

"We're very proud of what this accomplishes. In effect, it creates the largest protected area in North America and establishes an important precedent," he was reported as saying.

The precedent, he noted, is the formation of an uncommon alliance, including diverse economic, social, and cultural interests that often have been at loggerheads over the fate of the continent's last significant spread of untouched forest.

"This is exactly what the West Coast Accord of November 1986 was and achieved in New Zealand, signed on behalf of the then Labour government by Phil Goff, then Minister for the Environment. " observed Brian Swale, "but the new Labour government of 1999 has passed an Act which abolished the Accord AND prevented the payment of compensation to parties injured by the enactment".       "Some companies lost nearly $4 million in development costs wasted through the cancellation of agreements entered into with the government in good faith, and others lost money through the cancellation of sustainable supply of premium rimu and beech logs from Timberlands West Coast's sustainably managed forests". The West Coast Accord involved about 130,000 ha of lowland forest which had been excised from about 1,300,000 ha of adjoining forest and mountain land.

The Mackenzie plan does not exclude industry, but carefully appropriates portions of provincial lands in Muskwa-Kechika to specific uses. It leaves alone, for example, sensitive habitat that is important for wildlife while granting logging and mining companies regulated access to other areas.

"This designation represents a potential turning point to ongoing conflict because it proves that local land-use planning can work," says Wayne Sawchuk, a fur trapper and big-game hunter affiliated with the Chetwynd Environmental Society, a conservation organization involved in the negotiations.

Involvement of local communities in the sustainable management of natural resources that it was desired to maintain, was recognised in October 2000 by the IUCN in a forum held in Amman (Jordan) as being essential in some circumstances. "850 NGO enviromental organisations supported this decision." reported Dr Grahame Webb, (Darwin) of the IUCN. " Involvement of local communities in the sustainable use of a resource gives them a stake in making sure it is properly managed."

"Here, people realized that the frontier mentality which led to virtually unrestricted exploitation of natural resources has taken a huge toll," Mr. Sawchuk says. "The only way we will save what's left is by carefully zoning the land for certain sustainable uses."

The Muskwa-Kechika is a critical component in a massive greenbelt chain called the Yellowstone to Yukon bioregion that follows the backbone of the Rockies and crosses the US-Canada border.

Peter Aengst, a spokesman for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, said "We're talking about protecting an area over seven times the size of Yellowstone and in a landscape that has the greatest diversity of large mammals in North America."

First considered in the 1990s, the Yellowstone-to-Yukon project area is 2,000 miles long and 300 miles wide - ( 3200 by 480 km) unprecedented in global conservation strategy and equivalent in scope to a greenbelt extending from the USA southern Florida panhandle to the rocky coastline of Maine in the north.

At one end is the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, a key USA sanctuary for abundant wildlife populations. Some 1,500 miles ( 2,400 km ) north is the Muskwa-Kechika, an area that has been called "the Serengeti of the North."

While the two ecosystems are far apart, they are linked in ways that conservation biologists are just beginning to understand, says George Smith of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The Muskwa-Kechika is home to a concentration of large animals that last existed in the American West 150 years ago. The array includes roughly three times the number of grizzlies that currently inhabit the lower 48 USA states; 1,000 wolves, 27,000 moose, 15,000 elk, 90 percent of the estimated 10,000 stone mountain sheep in the world, 3,500 woodland caribou, 5,000 mountain goats, a herd of free-roaming bison, and thriving numbers of wolverine, lynx, fisher, pine marten, bull trout and Arctic grayling.

Brian Swale noted that wolves had recently been observed ranging from Canada north to Alaska, and south to Montana, taking no notice of state or national borders, just as they didn't prior to colonisation.

Scientists view the Muskwa-Kechika as an important reservoir for many of these species, whose populations have either disappeared entirely or become severely depressed south of the 49th parallel.

This corner of British Columbia, they note, could serve as important "source" populations for future re-introductions of animals in both the US and lower Canada.

Already, transplanted wolves from the region formed the foundation of Yellowstone's successful lobo transplantation program. Canada lynx and wolverine populations could also be used for boosting deficient populations elsewhere.

US Fish and Wildlife Service announced in November 2000 that, in conjunction with a plan by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation, in the year 2002, several Canadian grizzly bears will be relocated to the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness of Montana and Idaho.

Mike Low, general manager of Abitibi Consolidated Inc., a large forest products company in British Columbia, says that industry was caught up in the spirit of Muskwa-Kechika being an important piece in the Yellowstone to Yukon puzzle which is trying to chart a new approach to conservation along the Rocky Mountain front.

Low, who admits to being initially skeptical, views the Mackenzie agreement as a breakthrough that respects his desire to earn a living from the forest and leave a legacy of wildness for his grandchildren.

Still, having watched the bitter struggle between loggers and conservationists in the American Pacific Northwest, where government intervention to reduce timber harvests was necessary to save the imperiled spotted owl and other species, Low says land users in Canada came together with the understanding they needed to forge their own future on a local level.

"One of the fears we had was that if we couldn't reach consensus then the government would make the decisions for us, and none of the stakeholders wanted that," Low says.

The timber industry wanted to be able to plan sustainable logging long into the future without encountering environmental activists every time they began felling trees.

"In New Zealand," noted Brian Swale, " the timber industry wanted the same, the West Coast Accord provided for this and had the signed agreement of nine environmental NGOs to the Accord and agreeing to sustainable forest and biota management."

"However," he added, "just as Labour got into power in 1984 supported by strategic voting by environmentalists who wanted the New Zealand Forest Service abolished, no matter what; in 1999, essentially the same occurred in respect of sustainable management of the West Coast beech and rimu forests being managed using world-leading techniques of adaptive management."

"The strange thing is," he concluded, "that despite New Zealand supposedly being a country with a good level of education and having educated citizens, the environmental movement and Labour were captured by anti-science and anti-sustainable forestry dogma put out by two environmental NGOs - the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, and Native Forest Action. Many voters showed they have poor powers of discrimination between dogma and science, and an abysmally poor level of understanding of forest biology. In addition, supposedly reputable government agencies and Departments helped in the misinformation by presenting false evidence".

Conservationists, ecotourism promoters, First Nation representatives, and traditional land users wanted assurances that vital wildlife habitat would be respected and protected.

In the end, the stakeholders who invested eight years of their lives to the process asked premier Dosanjh of the New Democratic Party to approve the accord, rather than having the government rendering a top-down edict.

"It was a horrible fight getting to this point, and it involved many nights of yelling and screaming at each other, but I'm glad we all made a conscious decision to stay together and work out our differences," Low said. "The term we're using now is that this agreement brings peace to the woods."

For further information on the Canadian action, search on the Internet for "Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative". For information on sustainable management, and on the West Coast beech matters, search on this site.

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