Ecotourism and Local Partnerships to Protect the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

Ecotourism and Local Partnerships to Protect the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
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Maureen GordonAt the ESTC12, Maureen Gordon, representing the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Maple Leaf Adventures, will present an inspiring example of "the epic partnership" between ecotourism and conservation to buy out Great Bear Rainforest trophy hunters. Frustrated by the government's removal of a moratorium on grizzly hunting (despite 80% of residents' opposition to it, and despite a study showing the economic superiority of bear viewing over sport hunting), the local conservation organization Raincoast Conservation Foundation decided to do something: they would buy one of the major hunting territories for themselves. As the bear viewing improved, the ecotourism companies also flourished. The area is becoming known as one of the world's important bear viewing areas. Ecotourism in the Great Bear Rainforest is a multimillion dollar industry and growing quickly.


(See session details - "3.1 Making the Business Case for Conservation through Ecotourism", Tuesday, September 18th)


Great Bear Rainforest Ecotourism Experience

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. calls it the last stand of the great North American rainforest. Its 6 million hectares of fjords, rainforest, river valleys, protected ocean channels and thousands of islands on the north and central coast of British Columbia, Canada. There are no roads here. To get around, you travel by water: by boat or seaplane. It's home to the rare, white Spirit Bear, as well as to wild populations of grizzly bears, black bears, salmon-eating coastal wolves, killer whales, humpback whales and much other wildlife.


Great Bear Rainforest

Bear viewing is spectacular in the Great Bear Rainforest (Photo by Maple Leaf Adventures)


Although this stupendous land and seascape is wild and thriving, there are remote coastal communities, most of them First Nations communities. The culture of these communities has evolved for more than ten thousand years on the coast and is wholly integrated with the coastal wildlife and landscape. To travel here is to be fully in the present, but also to understand what all of the northwest of North America once looked and sounded like.


Collaboration for "Conservation Economy"

The "conservation economy" has been touted as having a major future for this area. This requires the marriage of conservation and sustainable business. This can take many forms – business such as ecotourism, or sustainable fisheries, or non-timber forest products, for example. There are businesses owned by First Nations and there are businesses owned by local British Columbians who are not descended from the First Nations. These businesses work with the conservation organizations in the area, and also with each other and local residents.


Some examples of working relationships and/or partnerships between conservationists and businesses (of any colour) and local villages are:

  • Working together to raise money to buy trophy hunting licences to effectively stop the trophy hunt of grizzly bears, wolves and other "trophy" animals; supporting wildlife viewing as a superior economic, and ethical, option.
  • Conservation scientists sharing research results with businesses and communities (who pass them on to their customers, naturalist staff, or other members); businesses and communities gathering sightings data and submitting it to the conservation scientists. Businesses and communities supporting the research through donations or other support.
  • Working together to raise awareness of and try to stop a proposal to send 200+ oil supertankers through the winding fjords, island channels and a treacherous shallow sea in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Ecotourism companies voluntarily negotiating economic protocol agreements with individual nations and paying a voluntary user fee for each day in a local territory, the money from which goes to the watchman program of locals who patrol the territory for conservation and to report wildlife sightings to scientists.
  • Working together to educate and host journalists about the area.
  • Understanding that we all win, if we can grow the conservation-based economy in the area.


About Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Raincoast Conservation FoundationRaincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by rigorous, peer-reviewed science and grassroots activism (focusing on the ‘informed advocacy’ approach) to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. The Foundation's vision for coastal British Columbia is to protect the habitats and resources of umbrella species, which will help ensure the survival of all species and ecological processes that exist at different scales. Raincoast is a not-for-profit research and public education organization with a strong on-the-ground presence and a deep-rooted understanding of this vast coastline. Working in partnership with scientists, First Nations, local communities and NGOs, Raincoast helps build support for decisions that protect marine and rainforest habitat on BC’s coast.


About Maple Leaf Adventures

Maple Leaf AdventuresMaple Leaf Adventures, a 26-year-old eco-cruise company, operates high quality small ship cruises on Canada’s west coast and Alaska’s inside passage. The company was designed from the outset, in 1986, to operate only according to the principles of ecotourism. Maple Leaf Adventures’ vision is to provide our guests excitement and engagement in the B.C. & Alaska coast’s natural and cultural history, while increasing its likelihood of conservation. Destinations include: Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Great Bear Rainforest, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands National Park, Southeast Alaska. Maple Leaf is a Canadian company incorporated in British Columbia that is privately funded, and a proud supporter and advocate for the "conservation economy" on the coast.






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