On the first day of February 2006, a landmark agreement that has been called "one of the most visionary forest conservation plans on Earth" was inked by First Nations elders, the provincial government and environmentalists. Eighty five per cent of the Great Bear Rainforest -- at 3.1 million hectares, an area roughly twice the size of Vancouver Island -- is permanently off limits to logging.
What is at risk is very clear. Just talk to the people who live in this region, and they will tell you. It's their jobs -- the fishing and tourism industries -- and their cultural identity. And it's the spectacular ecosystem upon which all of that depends. A place that is as unique a global treasure as the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon rainforest. It is no wonder that so many Canadians exercised their democratic rights by participating in the review process for this project. More than 9,500 people wrote to the Joint Review Panel, 96 per cent against the pipeline.
Individual conservation successes are important, but together they point to the need for a much bigger global conversation about how we can meet human needs while sustaining healthy ecosystems and protecting our last precious wild places. In the end, our gift to the earth can be nothing less.
We've seen it before. As close to home as Alaska, where the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill devastated wildlife, communities and cost a generation its livelihoods. As close to home as Michigan, where an Enbridge pipeline leaked 800 thousand barrels of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. It is still being cleaned up, three years later.
We don't have to risk the destruction of one of the world's most spectacular environments to get full value from our oil sands resource. Of course, we have to put refineries in environments that can best handle them and not in areas that can't. The recent proposal to build a refinery in Kitimat is an example of building one in the wrong place. That's why I'm saying no to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and yes to a more sustainable future for the Great Bear region.