Jody Holmes: The Amazing Saga of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest

As a primary architect of the globally significant 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, Jody dedicated 20+ years of her life to the insanely challenging, complex and ultimately successful struggle to protect the largest expanse of old-growth temperate rainforest in the world. This historic agreement formalizes a large-scale model for First Nations reconciliation and shared decision-making, ecologically responsible forestry, and absolute protection of 85% of the forest. Jody will explore how we can find durable solutions to our most “wicked” problems by examining the dynamics of power, gender, science and culture and by using tools drawn from whole systems thinking, innovative conflict resolution techniques and consensus decision-making.

Introduction by J.P. Harpignies, Bioneers Associate Producer. This speech was given at the 2017 National Bioneers Conference.

The stunningly beautiful Great Bear ecosystem, the largest coastal temperate rainforest on Earth (representing a quarter of all such remaining forest on the planet!), stretches along British Columbia’s coast north of Vancouver Island. The traditional territory of many First Nations who have lived there thousands of years, it has been called ‘Canada’s Amazon’ for its biodiversity and ancient trees. It teems with salmon, grizzly bears, wolves, and its totemic, rare white ‘spirit’ bear.

An epic decades-long struggle between Indigenous people, environmentalists and eco-conscious citizens on one side and the logging industry and its allies on the other included years of dramatic protests and civil disobedience and creative activism that included very savvy media campaigns and the strategic boycotting and picketing of retailers and companies in the U.S. using Canadian lumber. Those heroic struggles yielded results when all the stakeholders finally realized they had to come to the table. It took many more years of tough negotiating to hammer out a definitive, final agreement, but in the end the recently finalized historic deal marks an extraordinary moment in the annals of land preservation and offers an inspiring model for the entire planet.

A coalition of environmental organizations, First Nations communities, logging companies and the British Columbia Government were able to put aside their differences and listen to each other. They came to a very long-term, multi-generational agreement, based on groundbreaking “Ecosystem-based Management” principles that, among other stipulations, protects 85% of the 15-million acre forest, guarantees Indigenous peoples’ shared decision-making, and mandates ecologically responsible forestry.

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