When most people think of rainforests, they think of a tropical jungle — but rainforests can exist in temperate regions that receive heavy rain, too. These forests are rare, found mostly along the Northwestern coast of North America, Southern Chile, and New Zealand, and that makes their unique ecosystems especially vulnerable to commercial logging and development. That’s why the Canadian government just moved to protect 85 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, banning logging across 9.1 million acres of land.
This plan to protect the land was first announced in 2006, with the past decade spent on negotiating the exact details. First Nations groups first started pushing back against timber companies more than twenty years ago, fighting to preserve the forest where their ancestors had lived for more than 10,000 years. All told, the region is home to 26 different indigenous groups, which will now have greater control over how their land is used.
It’s not just indigenous people who will benefit from this deal. The Great Bear Rainforest is home to 1,000-year-old cedar trees and abundant wildlife, including gray wolves, grizzly bears, cougars, mountain goats, sea lions, otters, wild salmon, and along the coast can be found orcas and humpback whales. It’s also the only place on Earth where the Kermode bear lives, a variety of black bears with a unique genetic mutation that leaves their fur white. These are considered sacred by the T’simshian people and sometimes called “spirit bears.” It’s estimated only about 400 of these bears exist in the world.