The Great Bear Rainforest encompasses much of the northern British Columbia coast, from around Knight Inlet opposite Vancouver Island to Southeast Alaska. It's a vast area of wilderness which is home to abundant wildlife such as eagles, whales such as Orcas, humpbacks and gray whales, wolves, plus three kinds of bears - brown, or grizzly, bears, black bears and the rare white variant of the black bear, the Kermode or Spirit Bear. The glacially-carved fjords extend for miles into the mainland interior and countless uninhabited islands dot the entire region. Access to most of the region is by boat or float plane.
This area is one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests in its largely natural state on Earth. commercial timber harvesting and hydroelectric power generation is prohibited in much of the Great Bear Rainforest. The forest thrives on the large amount of rain that falls on the steep mountains as warm humid air from the Pacific Ocean moves onshore. Giant western red cedars, some up to 1,000 years old, tower over the shore, as does the famed Sitka spruce (a coveted wood for ship masts in the 19th Century), which can reach heights of some 300 feet (90 meters).
Because this area of British Columbia is one of the most resouce-rich parts of North America, and Canada especially, conservationists and resident native, or First Nations tribes have lobbied for decades for the region to acquire some sort of protective status. Logging and commercial fishing have been economic mainstays but local tribes and conservationists began to see a bad end to this hauntingly beautiful coastal forest. Finally, after years of work, the Canadian government officially recognized the region as the Great Bear Rainforest and gave it a special status as a protected area subject to regulate usage. This is so critical considering that this type of rainforest used to dominate the North American Pacific coastal regions all the way south to Northern California, most of which has disappeared during the 20th Century.
Under the current agreement, some 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest would be protected from logging, and logging would be strictly regulated in the rest. Plus, some 26 traditional First Nations tribes whose occupancy pre-dated Europeans by 10,000 or more years were given critical roles in decision-making as well as share in timber and tourism revenues.