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The Great Bear Rainforest—The Book that Saved a Forest

Posted: January 22, 2007

The Canadian Federal Government announced its commitment to spend $30 million to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth. This commitment rounds out a promise by the BC government, which had allocated $30 million for the region last February. At the time, the province agreed to put that money forward once Ottawa had matched. With the addition of the $60 million raised by private organizations and philanthropic groups committed to the area of land, the investment stands at $120 million.

The agreement to preserve 1.2 million hectares of coastal BC rainforest vindicated a book that was once called “an act of treason” by BC forest union head Jack Munro. The book, The Great Bear Rainforest, published by Harbour Publishing in 1997, catalyzed a world-wide campaign that helped lead to today’s announcement and ranks as one of the most influential Canadian books in recent decades.

Written by Ian and Karen McAllister, two young conservationists who began documenting the central and northern coasts of British Columbia in 1991, The Great Bear Rainforest is a breathtaking portrait of a vast wilderness region with abundant salmon runs, rare spirit bears and dense concentrations of grizzly bears. It is a loving tribute to the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth.

Alarmed by the clearcut logging threatening the area, the McAllisters brought seven years’ worth of photographs and journal entries to Harbour Publishing in 1996, where staff helped them shape it into the book that has now become recognized as a classic of its kind. The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast was published in 1997 to international acclaim, winning the Booksellers Choice Award in BC. Editions were published in both the United States and Germany, and Time Magazine heralded Ian and Karen McAllister as “Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century” and credited the book as being “…the centerpiece for Greenpeace International’s North American forest campaign.” Now in its fourth printing, it remains the only in-depth book about the remarkable region at the centre of today’s announcement.