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My family and I recently sailed up to Eucott Bay, a popular hot spring halfway between Bella Coola and Bella Bella B.C., near to where we live. Shortly after we arrived, a party of camouflaged people set out from their anchored boat for the shore of the bay opposite the hot spring. It was a beautiful warm spring day. A huge black bear emerged within our sight while the party waited a few hundred yards down the beach. As the horrific reality of what was about to happen became clearer to us, I decided to row our skiff across the bay to try to persuade them not to shoot the bear in front of my husband, our 4-year-old son and I.
It turned out to be Shannon Lansdowne, daughter of former Bella Coola-based guide-outfitter Leonard Ellis with a film crew from Remington Country TV, including trophy hunting guide and show co-host Dan Harrison. During our brief conversation, they warned me that I could be charged with interfering with the hunt for coming between them and the bear. As I walked away from them they fired off a shot, walked into the bush in the other direction, and then left shortly afterwards without killing the bear.
I lodged a complaint with the local conservation officer. I was told that the Ellis-Remington group was acting well within the law and that I may be charged with interference. Hunting is considered a recreational activity in B.C.; the province allows hunting in many provincial parks and protected areas, including here in the Great Bear Rainforest, despite a ban on all trophy bear hunting imposed by nine First Nations in 2012.
Eucott Bay is a safe harbour for boaters along the Dean Channel. It is within the Cascade-Sutslem Conservancy, with the exception of a small crescent of Crown land opposite the hot spring, where the Ellis-Remington group was stationed in the intertidal zone. Its wild hot spring must be one of the most spectacular in B.C., surrounded by glacier-topped mountains, waterfalls and salt meadows and shouldered by giant moss-covered boulders fallen from the cliffs above. The next day we soaked and splashed in the odourless hot waters of the spring and watched another big black bear feeding on sedges. Later on we saw a small grizzly frolicking on the opposite shore. I had been dreaming of travelling to this spot on our sailboat for many years. In spite of the tense conflict, it was a trip I will always treasure, made even more perfect by a long encounter with a pod of over 100 playful white-sided dolphins on the return voyage.
I think there are certain places that should be left for people and wildlife to simply enjoy. Hot springs are places of healing and spiritual cleansing. On this part of the coast they are few and far between; Nascall, the nearest hot spring to Eucott, is on private land and is not open to the public.
Regardless of where one stands on the science and ethics of bear hunting and trophy hunting, or on the relative value of different types of park use, the safety of all park visitors should be a foremost consideration. The hunters we encountered intended to shoot a habituated bear from the intertidal zone on a beach continuous with and in sight of where we sat, unarmed (and undressed). What if a bear was shot and wounded?
Bear-viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generated 12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting and employed over 500 people in 2012, compared with just 11 workers employed by the guide outfitting industry (Center for Responsible Travel and Stanford University, 2014). It’s time for the province to ban trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, and to stop allowing bears and other wildlife to be hunted for sport in recreational areas like Eucott Bay, where tourism and hunting are clearly in conflict.
If you agree, please write to provincial politicians to voice your support for a ban on hunting at Eucott Bay. For more information on what you can do to stop the grizzly bear trophy hunt in B.C., visit Pacific Wild’s Take Action page.
Please copy your letters to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and to Bella Coola Tourism at email@example.com.
BC Premier Christy Clark: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson (responsible for Crown lands): email@example.com
Minister of Environment Mary Polak (responsible for parks and protected areas and wildlife management): ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Written by Krista Roessingh. All photos by Ingmar Lee, 2015.
BC Government Commits to Killing 180 Wolves
– Declining caribou population blamed –
January 15th, 2015
Pacific Wild is condemning today’s announcement by the B.C. government to slaughter over 180 wolves by aerial shooting.
“After decades of destroying critical caribou habitat, dismantling the Forest Practices Code and gutting environmental oversight and protection, the BC government in a final desperate act of cruelty has declared a war on wolves.” said Ian McAllister, Conservation Director for Pacific Wild. “When will this government learn that killing wolves will not bring endangered caribou back in the absence of habitat protection.” he further stated.
An unprecedented amount of submissions were made in response to the B.C. governments draft Wolf Management Plan in 2013 with the overwhelming majority opposed to government sponsored wolf killing.
Wolves are highly social and intelligent animals and research shows that predator kill programs increase reproductive rates in wolves and destabilizes pack structure causing more predation of livestock and other non-native prey. It is the view of Pacific Wild that this announcement is scientifically unsound and that wolves are being used as a scapegoat to divert attention from the fundamental problem of ongoing habitat destruction and displacement caused by human encroachment.
“This is not management, it’s a tax-payer funded kill program of one of our most iconic species.” he further stated. “This is not only a horrific day for wolves in British Columbia but a sad day for public engagement and policy that will surely bring international condemnation to our borders.”
Ian McAllister, Conservation Director – Pacific Wild
Contact Pacific Wild: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Wild is a BC based non-profit wildlife conservation organization and a leading advocate for changes to wolf management in British Columbia. www.pacificwild.org
Maureen Vo is a volunteer for the Great Bear LIVE project.
Sounds of the Ocean
You can research everything there is to know about the area and Google the breathtaking images, but nothing can truly prepare you for the incredible connection and admiration you will feel once you arrive in a place like the Great Bear Rainforest.
A passion for conservation and a desire to protect British Columbia’s coastal environment brought me to Pacific Wild headquarters in the heart of the GBR. My goal was to learn as much as I could about their work, the research, and the non-intrusive technology they are using to study wildlife.
One particular technology I was curious to learn about was their system of hydrophones, which have been set up at several sites along the central coast of B.C. The hydrophones allow for live acoustic monitoring year-round in order to better understand how a variety of marine mammal species utilize the waters along the coast of the GBR.
Diana, the resident conservation biologist and systems guru, already introduced me to how the systems work and how the hydrophone spectrographs show contrasting pink spikes or ripples against the blue background when sounds have been detected. I was excited to get started as I sat there in the floating lab and started my first acoustic monitoring session.
The hydrophones are recorded in 15-minute intervals, and you go through each session to search for any interesting sounds. For the most part, the ocean is pretty quiet with the occasional sound of random things bumping or brushing up against the hydrophones. As I opened a new recording, I noticed there was a large pink area indicating a lot of sound activity. My excitement was building as I thought about high-pitched dolphin squeals or glorious whale songs. As I listened intently, I could hear the noise getting louder and louder, but this was no whale. My hopes quickly faded as I realized this was simply a boat passing by. Patience is a virtue, and I realized it may take a while before activity might occur.
I eventually came upon a session with sounds from the phenomenon of humpback bubble net feeding, which was incredible to hear and made all the sifting through silence that much more rewarding.
by April Bencze
The boat engine roars to life as Diana and I untie from the dock this misty morning. Clay the dog is curled up in the only wind-free spot on the boat as we make the short passage to Bella Bella from Denny Island. Leandrea, a Pacific Wild intern, greets us at the dock on the other side. With tool kits in hand and gumboots on foot, we climb in the truck and head up the mountain to perform some electrical maintenance to keep the hydrophones and remote cameras operating smoothly.
Steadily the truck climbs the inclining path, peeling apart the overgrown branches on either side of the road as we pass by. It is a soggy morning atop the mountain. Although we cannot see it, we know a spectacular view must sit beneath the blankets of thick mist hanging over the surrounding islands and waterways below.
We arrive at the relay station where solar panels face the sky, a wind turbine spins and satellite dishes high atop a mast connect with the cameras and hydrophones dotted around the coast. Diana unlocks the control boxes containing batteries and wiring, and the team gets to work replacing temporary switches and improving the flow of wires.
The mist begins to lift, slowly uncovering the spattering of islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Once finished with the maintenance, Diana and Leandrea pull out the netbook to test the improved system. After flicking the switch back on, lights illuminate and Diana sounds pleasantly surprised as she informs us that everything is working smoothly, on the first try! The bugs who kept close company, borrowing some blood as we worked, must have been a motivating factor to do it right initially. So we label the reconfigured wires in the electrical box, top up the water in the batteries and close up the relay station for the day. Down the mountain we go, stopping for deer on the overgrown roadway. The boat ride back to Pacific Wild headquarters is a dry one as the soggy morning begins to evaporate.
After lunch we attend an Enbridge Opposition strategy meeting put on by the Heiltsuk Nation at the Community Hall in Bella Bella. We brainstorm ideas to halt the pipeline project in its oily tracks. The sense of community and connection with the land and ocean is alive in the hall as we put pen to paper, letting ideas flow to protect British Columbia’s natural coastline from pipeline and tanker threats.
We are now in the floatlab for the rest of the afternoon, Diana and the interns closely monitor the hydrophones as orcas sing into the microphones, and porpoises surface outside the window of the lab. One of the remote cameras is trained on the sea lion haul-out on the outer coast as they enjoy an afternoon nap. It is another great day at Pacific Wild headquarters.
GreatBearLIVE – View sea birds and marine mammal interactions on this sea lion haul out on the Great Bear’s rugged outer coast. Press play to view the underwater camera in the seal garden – a nearby kelp forest and eelgrass bed. Sign up for Great Bear LIVE Alerts to stay up-to-date on the latest action and watch highlights here.
Our volunteer copywriter Danielle explains how a Lake Louise wildlife centre and a search on Google led her to the Great Bear Rainforest.
Three months ago, I’d never even heard of the Great Bear Rainforest. Now, here I am, living in the thick of it.
I came to Canada in April last year, an English woman hankering after the outdoors. The real outdoors. Open horizons, epic mountains, space. I came looking for forests and rich-hued lakes, for the great mammals, for a life lived in closer connection with the Earth. I came in search of the wilds that in my so-called ‘old’ country no longer exist. I found all of this, and it put me on a path that led to Denny Island, and Pacific Wild HQ.
My epiphany happened back in August, during a trip to the Canadian Rockies. At a wildlife interpretive centre in Lake Louise, I was sadden to learn that the majority of recorded bear deaths in the Rocky Mountain parks are a direct result of human activity. Behind the bear-wary precautions we took as tourists out on the hiking trails – singing, jangling bells, scrutinizing scat – and behind our half-nervous jokes about ending up as a bear snack, a real irony lay. As much as we were sensible to give Canada’s great iconic mammal a wide berth, the truth is that we have far less reason to fear it than it does to be terrified of us.
Once I’d seen wild Black bears with my own eyes, that was it. I couldn’t get those beautiful bears, or their breathtaking habitat, out of my head. My growing concern for a world of shrinking forests and melting ice caps, and my growing love for Canada – the real, wild Canada – spurred me into action. I wanted to experience the wilderness, and I wanted to make my own contribution towards protecting it.
Unearthing the Great Bear
After some rummaging around on Google, I found Pacific Wild. I learned that there was a Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. I learned that Black bears could be white, and that it’s legal to shoot grizzlies for no other reason than a warped and marginally held concept of ‘sport’. I learned just how willfully governments, conventional energy corporations and a tiny minority of B.C.’s citizens are ignoring the astonishing, life-affirming natural wealth that’s been gifted to them. One of the last untouched stretches of our blue marble planet. A place I traveled seven and a half thousand kilometres to discover.
My role in the all-new Pacific Wild website!
So here I am on Denny Island. I’m thrilled that my skills in charity comms and Web writing are being put to good use in the development of Pacific Wild’s brand new site. I can’t wait to see it launched! It’s going to be visually stunning, informative and easy to navigate – a showcase for the world-class photography, Great Bear LIVE footage and audio that will have the natural world leaping off your screens and into your homes, wherever you may be.
I hope that the new pacificwild.org will aid your own discoveries of this ancient coastal forest, its waterways and ocean – all teeming with life. May it bring a touch of wild beauty to your day. And may that experience inspire you to take action in whatever small way you can. It’s your little act, added to the little acts of many others, that in the end will add up to a big force for change.
We’ll be announcing the launch date of the new pacificwild.org on our social media sites in the coming weeks, so make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @pacificwild to stay up to date!
Despite the pouring rain and high winds, more than 200 people turned up in person for the “Save B.C. Bears” rally on February 15, 2014 at the Legislature Buildings in Victoria, British Columbia. Supporters of all ages, carrying signs and placards, came to protest against the unsustainable, unethical and immoral trophy hunt in British Columbia. Speakers at the event included nationally celebrated poetry “power couple” Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, MLA Andrew Weaver, eco-tourism operator Eric Boyum, bear guide Neil Shearer, and the legendary environmentalist Vicky Husband.
The aim of the event was to tell B.C.’s elected representatives that the trophy hunting of B.C.’s grizzly bears and black bears must stop, and that grizzly hunting in the Cariboo and Kootenays must not be re-opened this spring.
A recent report published in January 2014 by the Center for Responsible Tourism (CREST) in collaboration with Stanford University highlighted the eco-tourism dollars to be gained in British Columbia from the thousands of tourists who come to view rather than kill wildlife, taking home photographs rather than dead animal parts for display. CREST’s report Economic Impact of Bear Viewing and Bear Hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, finds that bear viewing generates “12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting and over 11 times in direct revenue for B.C.’s provincial government.” Furthermore, on a purely employment-related note, bear viewing companies directly employed an estimated 510 persons, compared with the 11 persons employed by guide hunting outfitters in 2012.
Tourists from all over the world flock to our province of Beautiful British Columbia. Take the B.C. ferry between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert during the spring and summer months and you will meet an array of visitors from Europe (many from Germany), Australia, Asia and North America who are excited to be experiencing Canada’s great outdoors, whether they’re here to surf, kayak, or capture wildlife on their cameras. Some lucky ones have arranged to go on a famed spirit bear and grizzly bear guided tour on the central and north coast, an experience of a lifetime! Without a doubt tourism in our province is only on the rise, and bear-viewing is a definite factor in this.
It’s from the grassroots level that we can make our voices heard and continue to keep this topic in the forefront of the media. On the day of the rally we collected 205 signed letters from rally participants. However, it was through the power of social media that those who could not attend added their voice. Through a SayZu Communications/Social Media experiment, people could text and tweet their opinions LIVE. The ripple effect was tremendous! In ONE HOUR, 450 people sent out 1,200 tweets and texts representing a total unique reach of 412,197 twitter feeds. The hashtag #notrophyhunting even made the Canada twitter trends map!
You can keep the momentum going!
- Write letters to elected officials and your local and national newspapers. Addresses can be found here. For more background information on the hunt visit Pacific Wild’s Trophy Hunt Action page.
- Educate those around you by hosting a film screening of Bear Witness, a film by B.C. Coastal First Nations
- Sign the PETITION
- Utilize social media #notrophyhunt @ChristyClarkBC.
An Insights West poll from November 2013 finds 9/10 British Columbians are against trophy hunting. ARE YOU?
Keep us posted on facebook and twitter @pacificwild
If Canada has not yet been formally inducted into the elite roster of global petro-states, where a country’s democratic rights and economy are run by oil interests, then Thursday’s National Energy Board decision assures it honorary membership
The federal cabinet now has 180 days to make a final decision on bringing tar sands oil to the Great Bear Rainforest. As one journalist recently summed up this phase of the process, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper now has 180 days to choose which rubber stamp to use.“
Like a group of hyenas shredding a carcass, Enbridge and the Federal government will be working tirelessly to twist the 209 conditions attached to the JRP report into a confusion of meaningless, discretionary and unenforceable measures until the phalanx of big oil lobbyists is placated.
If this sounds overly cynical, I urge you to scan the 400 plus page report: http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/dcmnt/rcmndtnsrprt/rcmndtnsrprt-eng.html. In the meantime here are a few nuggets I have come across:
On page 18, the panel states that in the event “…of a large oil spill, we found that there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups. We found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread.”
An oil spill clean up is considered ‘successful’ when 10-15% of the spilled oil is recovered. This means in a best-case spill scenario approximately 90% of Enbridge’s tar-like oil will be left for nature to clean up.
The proposed tanker route is arguably the most important critical habitat for humpback whales on the entire B.C. coast. On page 242 this is how the NEB proposes mitigation for whale disturbance: “Feeding humpback whales occur in other locations along the coast of BC and feeding habitat is available to individuals potentially displaced from the project area.”
Nice one, the whales can just move north where there are multiple LNG tanker projects proposed around the Prince Rupert area or perhaps they could move south to see how they fit into Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and tanker expansion plans.
On page 17 of the report, the JRP denies a significant connection between the proposed project and any upstream or downstream impacts. This means that the effects associated with expansion of the tar sands or the refineries in Asia that would be a significant contributor to runaway climate change were not considered in their analysis:
“Many people said the project would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and social effects from oil sands development. We did not consider that there was a sufficiently direct connection between the project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development or other oil production activities to warrant consideration of the effects of these activities.”
Yet the JRP gave plenty of space to the economic benefits that expansion of the Alberta tar sands would generate. It is clear that the NEB is a facilitator of oil projects and not a regulator as it was once meant to be.
Is there good news? Yes, definitely. The painful and insulting charade of the JRP public process is finally over. We also no longer have to delude ourselves into hoping that the panel would reach a democratic decision, one that would respect aboriginal rights, public interest and the environment.
I imagine when people get a chance to digest the content of the JRP report, they will get angry, really angry. Over 10,000 people contributed letters of comment or oral statements to the JRP process, an overwhelming majority (over 96%) of whom spoke out against the proposed project. According to the JRP report, their voices were heard, but not significantly incorporated into the final analysis. On page 14 of the report, the JRP states:
“We considered all the information and views filed on the public record. Our process was designed to receive all perspectives. Our recommendations are based on technical and scientific analysis rather than the on number of participants sharing common views either for or against the project.”
Yet they go on to declare that this project is “…in the Canadian public interest.”
Page 21 is a dandy where the panel states: “We were not persuaded that construction and routine operations of the project would have a negative effect on the social fabric of communities in the project area. We also were not persuaded that the project would adversely affect the health and wellbeing of people and communities along the route or in coastal areas.”
This one will haunt them. The panel is basically dismissing an unprecedented number of submissions, including 1,179 oral statements, 175,669, pages of evidence and 884 hours of hearings. Perhaps they should have told Canadians a few years ago that public participation would ultimately be ignored.
It is clear that this facade of a process was scripted many years ago by oil interests, but if this is Enbridge’s best foot forward we should be heartened. The gaps in this report are big enough to drive an oil tanker through, and what is going to follow will make the 40 year (and counting) Mackenzie valley pipeline process seem streamlined. Environmental and constitutional legal battles, pending elections and an increasingly concerned and committed citizenry will ensure that this pipeline is never built.
As we lament for a Canada that we once knew, let’s take heart in knowing that all cards are now on the table. No more waiting for government or anyone else to protect our coast and chart a sustainable future for us. That responsibility is clearly on our shoulders and we will be doubling our efforts to realize this dream for our coast.
As Haisla spokesperson Gerald Amos stated in the media yesterday when asked if he would consider civil disobedience in the future. “I don’t consider it being disobedient when I am obeying my elders and traditional laws while protecting my home.”
I like that and as this last roller coaster of a year comes to a close, I also pledge to be a little bit more obedient in the times ahead.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.