Rainforest Logging Shutdown in BC

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Great Bear Forest. Photo by Tim Ennis
See our photo essay of the Great Bear Forest. Photo by Tim Ennis
The British Columbia logging company MacMillan Bloedel announced January 8, 1997, that it is shutting down its logging operations in the Clayoquot Sound rainforest, BC, for this calendar year and part of next. A well-publicized series of on-site confrontations between loggers and activists over a four-year period triggered the pullout. A government appointed science panel also decried the impact of the clear-cutting on ecosystems and on sacred native land with strongly worded recommendations.

The activism extended far beyond the BC rainforests. A powerful US-based coalition, the Clayoquot Sound Rainforest Coalition, lobbied MacMillan Bloedel customers in the U.S. to discourage their purchase of MB products. By tapping the public dismay over the clear-cutting of old-growth rainforest, the group was able to get the attention of some of MB's biggest customers, like Pacific Bell, a large west-coast communications company that uses rainforest pulp in its telephone books.

The Coalition—comprised of Greenpeace, the National Resource Defense Council, Pacific Environment & Resources Center, and Rainforest Action Network—lobbied shareholders, top management and employees. Although PacBell did commission a trial run of non-wood fiber, the phone company still uses MB rainforest pulp in its phone books. However, the point was not lost on MB or PacBell. The efforts of the coalition will serve as a model for future strategies.

This summer, an area about 10 times the size of Clayoquot—about 12 million acres ranging north of Vancouver's mainland coast up to Alaska—will likely be the setting of a new round of confrontations, involving a number of logging companies and environmental groups.

MacMillan Bloedel says it will replace clearcutting with a form of selective logging that leaves more old growth forest standing. Old growth makes up about 10 percent of MacMillan Bloedel's holdings.

CEO Tom Stephens says that the move is in response to demands from environmental groups and consumers. “We are hearing more and more from our customers that they and their customers don't want wood from old growth clear-cuts,” Stephens told The Financial Times.

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