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Shots are from great bear rainforest in BC. Credit: Ian McAllister

Ian McAllister/Ian McAllister

Environmental organizations from around the world are urging B.C. Premier Christy Clark to fully implement an existing agreement to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

In 2009, B.C. signed an agreement with first nations, environmental groups and logging companies to protect the rain forest, increase first nations say in decisions affecting the territory, and support sustainable economic practices in the region. In a letter sent to Ms. Clark on Thursday, the organizations said swift action could help guide conservation efforts around the world.

"Protection of the temperate rain forest of British Columbia and in particular, the Great Bear Rainforest, can serve as a model for all of us," read the letter, which was signed by Peru's Amazon Conservation Alliance, the Gorilla Organization, based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

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"The world is waiting for solutions of this kind," it continued.

The Great Bear Rainforest stretches across more than 6.4 million hectares along the Pacific coast from Knight Inlet, near the north end of Vancouver Island, all the way to Alaska.

Steve Thomson, the minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said considerable progress had been made on the project and that the outstanding commitments would be met by the 2014 deadline. Mr. Thomson said he was unable to speak to the specifics of the project.

"We remain on track," said Mr. Thomson, who later added, "We'll continue to work pro-actively and with diligence to meet the overall commitments of the agreement."

Jens Wieting, a forest campaigner for Sierra Club BC, said the rain forest and the agreement protecting it are known around the world.

"It's the largest, mostly intact temperate rain forest on the planet and it's both a global ecological treasure and … a remarkable story of collaboration," said Mr. Wieting. "We have a unique responsibility in this part of the world to follow through and implement this model."

Mr. Wieting said Sierra Club BC, Greenpeace and ForestEthics are working closely together on the project. He expressed concern that some elements were now 18 months behind schedule, including mapping work to delineate areas that are closed to logging in the region.

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Mr. Wieting said the delay did not bode well for future milestones for the project, including increasing preserved forestland and reviewing logging practices to protect key species.

Cesar Moran-Cahusac, the former executive director of the Amazon Conservative Alliance and a signatory to the letter, was reached by telephone in Cuzco, Peru, where he described his own country's struggle to protect its natural environment.

"We need to learn from experiences," he said. "We have the Amazon … the headwaters of what is the most important hydraulic system in the world, but again, we have major threats."

Mr. Moran-Cahusac said the collaborative approach taken with the Great Bear Rainforest project, if fully implemented, could be a great road map for countries like his that are experiencing environmental pressure from forestry, mining and industry.

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