Founded in 1990, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation (RCF) is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by research to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of Canada’s North Pacific coast and surrounding areas including the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest – the 250 miles of coastal watersheds and islands that lie between the Alaskan border and Knight Inlet in British Columbia, Canada. Our mandate is to investigate, inform, and inspire. We investigate to understand coastal species and processes – utilizing umbrella species such as wolves, grizzlies, salmon, marine mammals, and marine birds. We inform by bringing science to decision makers and communities – through producing public education materials including books, film documentaries, scientific reports and peer-reviewed papers, as well as outreach materials for the general public. We inspire by building a vision of stewardship for this fragile coastline through on the ground monitoring, photography, and videography of threatened terrestrial and marine habitat.
Our field station and full time research vessel, based on the central coast of British Columbia, allow us to conduct year-round research throughout the marine and terrestrial environments of the Great Bear Rainforest and beyond. Numerous academic institutions, film crews, scientists, conservation organizations and media also utilize this infrastructure. Our main office is in Sidney, British Columbia.
Currently we are looking to raise funding for our Marine Conservation program, which is focused on furthering the understanding of and protection for marine mammal and bird species, as well as their habitats. Raincoast is a registered non-profit with charitable tax-exempt status in the United States and Canada, therefore all donations are tax deductible.
Description of the problem:
Problem: Habitat destruction and hunting overkill (trophy hunting) are endangering British Columbia’s coastal grizzly bears.
Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest is home to some of the planet’s most magnificent species. The globally rare all white Spirit bear, genetically distinct wolves that feed on salmon and the largest grizzly bears in Canada.
These great mammals live in one of the most endangered forest types on the planet – temperate rainforest. Rare to begin with, these forests originally covered less than 1/5 of 1 percent of the earth’s land surface. Coastal temperate rainforests have three main distinguishing features: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and high rainfall.
Close to sixty percent of the world’s original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed as a result of logging and development. North America’s ancient temperate rainforest once stretched the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska to northern California. Today, more than half of this rainforest is gone and not a single undeveloped, unlogged coastal watershed 5,000 hectares or larger remains south of the Canadian border. One of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world is on British Columbia’s mainland coast in the Great Bear Rainforest.
BC’s coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth, the most common of which are Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir. Trees can tower up to 300 feet and grow for more than 1,500 years.
Grizzly bears have the lowest reproductive rate of any North American mammal. One reason for this is the late sexual maturation of female grizzlies, as they do not start breeding until 5 to 8 years of age. If optimum conditions exist, breeding females will produce only one to three cubs per litter at 2 to 3 year intervals. One third of all litters die before the end of their first year, and at least 70 per cent of all young die before reproducing.
Unfortunately, the same pressures that have driven grizzly bears to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 are threatening grizzlies in BC. In the Great Bear Rainforest, clearcut logging and sport hunting are the primary concerns. Because neither BC nor Canada have endangered species legislation, the grizzly bear is at the mercy of provisions under the provincial Forest Practices Code, a document rooted in cleacut logging, over harvesting and inadequate habitat protection. These logging policies, coupled with sport hunting, poaching and a salmon decline, spell potential disaster for grizzly bears. Raincoast believes that large interconnected network of core grizzly bear habitat must be established in the Great Bear Rainforest to ensure the long term survival of North American coastal grizzly bears.
Although a mother grizzly bear’s home range may be limited to one or two river valleys, male grizzly bears require large clusters of interconnected watersheds to survive. The large body size and subsequent food requirements to support a coastal grizzly bear is one of the reasons that large areas of undisturbed habitat is required. Coastal grizzly bears rely on intact ancient forests for denning and bedding sites, thermal cover and security. But most importantly they need ancient forests for their principal food supply of plants, berries and wild salmon.
Logging road construction affects grizzly bears in various ways. Conservation biologists estimate that for each kilometer of road, ten hectares of habitat is fragmented. According to Dr. Brian Horejsi: ” Grizzlies may either be temporarily or permanently displaced from habitats near roads. Permanent displacement results in alienation (loss) of habitat. Roads fragment the ecological, behavioral and physical continuity of habitat and they physically destroy habitat. Grizzly bear mortality is typically substantially greater in areas with roads compared to roadless areas.” Logging roads also allow easy access for hunters and poachers in previously inaccessible wilderness areas.
In the Great Bear Rainforest, in addition to industrial forestry impacts, grizzlies also have to contend with habitat fragmentation caused by noise disturbance, i.e., motorized activity from jet boats on rivers, which disrupts feeding patterns and causes dislocation.
In December 1999, 68 professional biologists submitted a strongly worded petition to government calling for a moratorium on all grizzly bear hunting pending completion of comprehensive population studies in the Province’s six bioregions. The estimate by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (MELP)that there are 10,000-13,000 grizzly bears in the province is highly questionable. Just twenty years ago the official estimate stood at 6,000 – 7,000. In a comprehensive scientific review of the province’s Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, wildlife scientists Dr. Brian Horejsi, Dr. Barrie Gilbert and Dr. Lance Craighead stated that ” grizzly population estimates in BC have been consistently over-estimated.”
The reality is that a scientifically credible province-wide census of grizzlies has never been carried out in BC. MELP biologist Dionys deLeeuw has revealed that virtually all grizzly bears could be exterminated in BC by sport hunters, while government habitat suitability measurements alone would continue to calculate a theoretical potential bear abundance and continue to establish a harvestable surplus.
In his most recent report entitled Grizzly Overkill In BC Bear Management, deLeeuw concludes that as a direct consequence of overkill, the BC grizzly bear population as a whole has declined and, unless immediate steps are taken, will continue to decline. He goes on to state
that a complete moratorium, starting immediately, must be placed on all sport hunting of grizzly bears in BC. deLeeuw warns that BC grizzly bears are declining from ongoing habitat loss and that exacerbating that decline by continuing the grizzly bear hunt is biologically
Grizzly bear populations are especially susceptible to the impacts of sport hunting because of their reproductive limitations. Grizzlies do not have the biological characteristics of a prey species; they reproduce slowly and their populations recover slowly from human induced mortality.
Description of the project/solution:
Raincoast is actively engaged in the following initiatives:
Raincoast is actively campaigning for increased habitat protection for coastal grizzly bears and an end to the trophy hunt that is killing over 300 grizzly bears a year.
Coastal Grizzly Protection
Raincoast has just completed negotiations to acquire the largest guide outfitting tenure on BC’s central coast. The license covers five commercial guide-outfitting (i.e. trophy hunting) territories amalgamated into one license, which comprises a 20,000 square kilometer territory that stretches from Cape Caution in the south, to Princess Royal Island in the north and east, to Bella Coola. It includes some of the most important grizzly bear valleys on the BC coast including Greater Koeye-Namu, Fjiorlands, and Rivers and Smith Inlets. The cumulative level of protection from trophy hunting when adjacent areas that currently have long-term closures are factored in will reach 30,000 square kilometers. In addition to securing this territory from commercial trophy hunting of carnivores, we are promoting plans that support the shift from trophy hunting to eco-tourism and wildlife viewing. Over the next three years, we will develop a plan to invest in training and business development within the relevant First Nations communities so that wildlife viewing based ecotourism can be carefully developed.
Our efforts to protect BC’s grizzly bears also includes active monitoring of bear populations and mapping of important habitat. One of projects is documenting the transfer of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) from salmon to grizzly bears. As the legacy of POPs continues to haunt both industrialized and remote regions of the planet, the presence of these pollutants in grizzly bears should trigger health concerns and management responses. POP-related health risks may be considered an important factor influencing the long-term health and abundance of grizzly populations, which are already under considerable stress from trophy hunting and habitat destruction, as described earlier.