Greenpeace and others pressure international buyers, protect Great Bear Rainforest, Canada, 1994-2001


Campaigners aimed to protect BC’s old-growth rainforests from logging; the groups promoted sustainable logging in second-growth forests as the economic alternative. The Coalition demanded the preservation of eighty undeveloped watersheds in the BC forests.

Time period notes

Before this campaign, others had been organizing on-site direct actions in British Columbia to protest the clear-cutting of that forest.

Time period

1994 to 4 April, 2001


United States
United Kingdom

Location City/State/Province

British Columbia

Location Description

Campaigners worked on-site in British Columbia and overseas in international markets.
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Greenpeace sponsored billboards in Vancouver, the business capital of BC, accusing the BC government of a conflict of interest.
  • Greenpeace distributed postcards addressed to BC Premier Harcourt, featuring images of clear-cut forests and asking him to “stop the chop.”
  • Greenpeace’s international affiliates began holding rallies at Canadian embassies throughout Europe, condemning the “chainsaw massacre” happening in the BC’s old-growth forests.

Methods in 2nd segment

  • Many of the invited environmental groups decided to boycott the negotiations.

Methods in 3rd segment

  • In Bern, Switzerland, they piled pulp from BC trees at the embassy.
  • the Coastal Rainforest Coalition began referring to the forests in BC’s North and Central Coast as the “Great Bear Rainforest.”
  • During this publicity-stunt, over sixty activists, costumed as grizzly, black, and white “spirit” bears, gathered at the headquarters to deliver the companies an eviction notice.
  • Activists conducted blockades of logging on Kings Island and Roderick Island.
  • Greenpeace blockaded shipments of BC lumber arriving to the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Methods in 4th segment

  • During one protest, activists seized an intercom in a Home Depot.

Methods in 6th segment

  • Campaigners demonstrated at Canada’s embassies, retail stores, and lumber yards.
  • Greenpeace blockaded wood shipments in Asia and Europe.

Segment Length

1 year and 2 months


Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and Natural Resources Defense Council united in the Coastal Rainforest Coalition.


Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Nuxalk First Nations People

External allies

Not Known

Involvement of social elites

Not Known


British Columbia government, MacMillan Bloedel, Western Forest Products, and International Forest Products

Nonviolent responses of opponent

In September 2000 and the months following, some coastal BC municipalities, influenced by labor, launched “Operation Defend,” as an effort to show their support of the logging industry. At least four mayors sought local approval to send letters to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and IKEA, among other companies that boycotting BC materials.

Campaigner violence

Not Known

Repressive Violence

Not Known





Group characterization

environmental non-governmental organizations

Groups in 1st Segment

Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Groups in 3rd Segment

Nuxalk First Nations People

Segment Length

1 year and 2 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

The North and Central Coast, or Great Bear Rainforest as it would later be known, is an area of 6.4 million hectares that extends from the BC-Yukon border all the way down the BC coastline and ending before Bute Inlet. It is the largest temperate rainforest on the planet and the rich ecosystem is home to wolves, salmon, different species of bears, including the rare white kermode bear as well as many types of unique flora and fauna. Not only is it home to a vast array of plant and animals, but is also the traditional territory of more than two dozen Indigenous communities who have strong economic, societal, historic and religious connections with the rainforest.

Due to clear cutting practices used by foresting companies working within British Columbia, the North and Central coast was in great danger of being destroyed. As a result, several ecological non government agencies (ENGOs) began campaigns to end clear cutting in the region. Prominent among the ENGOs was Greenpeace, the Sierra Club BC chapter, and ForestEthics. ForestEthics is a grassroots environmental organization concerned with the protection of endangered forests. 

Realising that to be most effective the ENGOs would need to work together, Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, and ForestEthics banded together to create the Rainforest Solutions Project (RSP).

Due to the remote location of the rainforest, traditional tactics such as road blockades and tree sits proved difficult to sustain in previous campaigns. Instead, the coalition made the decision to focus their campaign on the buyers of the lumber. Greenpeace focused on the European customers largely based out of the United Kingdom, Holland and Germany. In an attempt to create media attention campaigners held large banners in public areas connecting large companies with the clear cutting in the North and Central Coast. Along with banners, campaigners protested in public places, such as in front of the Tower of London, to create media attention towards the RSPs campaign. 

In North America, ForestEthics held further protests in front of stores known to sell products containing wood from the North and Central Coast. In addition, pranks were used to add a satirical element to the campaign. Examples of this include protests seizing a public address system in a Home Depot to announce "Endangered spirit-bear habitat on sale as two-by-fours in aisle seven!" as well as environmental leaders inviting themselves to shareholder meetings of companies who purchased lumber originating from the North and Central Coast.

As the RSP was unable to carry out physical blockades in the North and Central Coast due to its remote location, the Sierra Club BC created a digital project using satellite mapping technology that they described at a digital blockade. Entitled "Canada's Rainforest", the map showed how much clear cutting had already been done to the area as well as the progress that the foresting companies were making on new clear cutting in the area. For the first time, the customers of the foresting companies as well as the public had a visual representation of the damage that was being done.

The last part of the RSP's campaign was their renaming the North and Central Coast "the Great Bear Rainforest." Referring to the fact that the area was home to the rare Kermode, or white spirit bear, the renaming was strategically implemented in order to change the public view of rainforest from a resource rich area to a unique and diverse ecosystem. 

As a result of the RSP's campaign, over $200 million in contracts were cancelled. Furthermore, high level executives were forced to spend the majority of their time abroad working on mending damaged public relations instead of focusing on the effective operation of their businesses. The foresting companies realised that they could no longer ignore the ENGOs. In 2000 the Coastal Forest Conservation Initiative, comprised of the foresting companies and the RSP began a series of negotiations, along with Turning Point, a coalition made up of many of the indigenous communities living in the rainforest. 

Throughout the next six years, the different stakeholders created an agreement that would be acceptable to all sides, which would then be approved by the provincial government. On 7 February 2006, the negotiators announced that an agreement was reached where: 1) An area of 2.5 million hectares, or approximately one third of the Great Bear Rainforest would be protected from logging; 2) 'Lighter Touch' logging based on Ecosystem Based Management would be implemented to an area of 700 thousand hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest and that the same practices would be implemented to another 400 thousand hectares by 31 March 2009; 3) $120 million would be made available to Indigenous communities within the Great Bear Rainforest to transform the current logging based economy into a conservation based economy; 4) The indigenous communities within the Great Bear Rainforest were to be recognized not just as stakeholders but as an independent government. They would have a say in resource management in their region and would have access to mechanisms of collaboration with the provincial government.

This campaign has been widely viewed as very successful. The government has held true on its promise to protect 2.5 million hectares of the forest as well as use 'lighter touch' logging methods on another 700 thousand hectares of the rainforest. However, they have not come through on implementing those same methods in another 400 thousands hectares, and ENGOs alongside the local indigenous communities have created new campaigns to ensure that the government finally holds true to its word.


Throughout the 1990s, indigenous and environmental activists conducted road blockades and tree-sits to obstruct the logging, which drew the international attention. (For example, see… and… and…). (1)


“Greenpeace Activists Arrested.” The Seattle Times. 25 June 1997.

“Long Running Rainforest Blockade Ends with 24 Arrests, Hereditary Chief Again Arrested for Protecting Sacred Rainforest.” Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. 24 June 1997.

“Saving What Remains: The Coastal Rainforest Coalition.” 1994-2005.

Moffat, Jeanne. “Victory for the Forests: Greenpeace’s Market Campaign for the Great Bear Rainforest.” Cody International Institute. Learning & Innovations Institute 2001.

Armstrong, Patrick. “Conflict Resolution and British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest: Lessons Learned 1995-2009.” Moresby Consulting Ltd.

“The Rainforest Alliance Certifies Coast Forest Conservation Initiative in British Columbia to FSC Standards.” 11 December 2009. Rainforest Alliance.

“History of Greenpeace’s Canadian Rainforest Campaign.” Greenpeace Digital.

“Great Bear Rainforest: A forest solution in the making.” Greenpeace.

Page, Justin. Tracking the Great Bear: How Environmentalists Recreated British Columbia’s Rainforest. UBC Press, 2014.

Coady, Linda, Matthius, Lisa, Morel, David, Smith, Merran, and Wooding, Paul. “New Approaches to Environmental Challenges in British Columbia’s Coastal Forests.” Forest Ethics.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Mischa Pustogorodsky, 03/04/2013 and Laura Rigell 22/07/2014