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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Foreword

British Columbia is home to the planet's last large expanse of coastal temperate rainforest. The forest carpets a topography of stunning geological relief, and its forest's rugged beauty, tremendous biological diversity and vast unspoiled range set it apart as one of nature's great masterpieces. The temperate coniferous rainforest is one of the earth's most diverse ecosystems, providing habitat for endangered and threatened species including salmon, wolves, eagles, and grizzly and Kermode bears. Its biological productivity is unmatched, with a biomass of 500 tons per acre, 40 percent greater than tropical forests. On my first visits to the forests of the BC coast in the early 1990s, I found a setting that exceeded all my expectations, a place where snow-capped mountains crowd the estuaries they feed with fresh water and nutrients. I hiked on snowshoes across the wide mudflats that form the second finest migratory staging ground in western Canada, providing vital sustenance for seventy-eight waterfowl species. I gathered oysters and caught coho salmon and cooked them on the shore, and I followed wolf tracks through narrow mountain gorges beneath hemlock, giant cedar, Sitka spruce and thundering waterfalls. I saw great rookeries of sea lions and bald eagles congregate for the herring run and watched fishermen harvest geoduck clams. If we ever had country like that in the United States, we've long since destroyed it with failed forestry practices.

In addition to its aesthetic and biological features, the rainforest is the centrepiece for British Columbia's tourist and fishing industries which will play important roles in the sustainable vitality of the area's economy. The forest is also home to First Nations peoples whose spiritual and cultural life is tied to its health. Unfortunately, irresponsible development and the lack of protection for the forest have left these unique cultures and the entire ecosystem in grave danger.

The British Columbia government has recently begun to recognize the importance of its north coast rainforest by setting aside small tracts as parks. These fragments are far too limited to sustain forest diversity. For example, grizzly bears, for which the northern BC
raincoast is prime habitat, often travel many miles in one day. The species will not survive in a scattered patchwork of small parks. As forest ecologist Jerry Franklin says, "the fragmentation turns plants and animals into virtual island dwellers, often with no acceptable way to travel from one remnant of habitat to another."

Ecologists are reporting the ominous deterioration associated with "Island Ecology" in systems as diverse as Yellowstone, Banff and the Serengeti. These same ecologists are now questioning whether any of the world's great parks is large enough to avoid steady ecosystem decline. As we enter the millennium, will every last elephant and grizzly bear be dependent on some degree of artificial life support?

These sobering questions are precisely why British Columbia's northern mainland coast deserves to be at the top of every conservation agenda. This forest region possesses the rarest of all environmental qualities: critical mass. At 8 million acres (3.2 million hectares) the whole Great Bear Rainforest is 9 times the size of the Olympic National Park, 5 times the size of Banff National Park and twice the size of the Serengeti -although the actual extent of productive forest amid all this wild landscape is a more modest 560,000 acres (224,000 hectares). It presents humankind with an opportunity, one which has already been lost elsewhere-to protect enough of one major ecosystem to guarantee the survival of all its components. Canada has the chance to create a world class natural attraction, store biodiversity and hedge against global climate change.

We know from experience in Oregon and Washington that the big logging companies will cut timber to the point of economic collapse. The BC provincial government's decision to encourage the hasty liquidation of these forests for cash through the most destructive practices of industrial logging is a global tragedy

I hope this book will help awaken people to the importance of this last magnificent stand of the great North American rainforest. If it is destroyed, history will not judge us harshly because few will know the magnificence that has been lost. Those of us who remember will only be able to open this book and say to our children, in Norman Maclean's lament, "Oh what a wonderful world it was."