Great Bear Rainforest
The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest remaining on the planet and it is under threat more now than ever, since its existence. This precious eco-system is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals.
The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (21 million acres), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand, 1,000-year-old cedar trees and 90-metre tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare Spirit bear.
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.
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 90 metres and grow for more than 1,500 years. The biological abundance of BC’s coastal rainforests is the result of over 10,000 years of evolution which began when the glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch melted.
Wild salmon are the most important keystone species for coastal rainforest ecosystems and Grizzly bears depend on healthy salmon runs for their survival. Wild salmon are an important food source for a wide array of wildlife as well. Recent research is suggesting that even the ancient temperate rainforests on the coast utilize salmon. Bears drag the carcasses of spawned out salmon into the forest, facilitating a major upslope nitrogen transfer into the forest soil.
Great Bear RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition)
An Ecosystem At Risk
A 1,150 kilometre pipeline is proposed to run from the coastal town of Kitimat, in the heart of the Gitga’at First Nation Territory, to the province of Alberta. The twin pipeline would transport crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the coast where it would be loaded in oil tankers for export to Asia. Some of the worlds largest super tankers carrying condensate, a chemical used to liquefy crude oil for transport, imported through Kitimat would be piped back to Alberta. The accompanying oil tankers would expose the coast to catastrophic oil spills. An Exxon Valdez-type disaster would have unimaginable consequences for our coastal environment and economy.
In 2010 the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) was invited by the Gitga’at Nation, one of Canada’s First Nations, to conduct a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada.
The following excerpt is from the related iLCP press release:
. . . Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, [the Great Bear Rainforest] is one of the planet’s most priceless treasures. Asian oil interests wanting access to western Canada’s tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have prompted the iLCP to focus on this region.
“The iLCP works in countries around the world and we receive many important requests for support. Yet from the perspective of threats to biodiversity and indigenous culture, few issues compare to the potential environmental catastrophe this proposal could bring about,” states Cristina Mittermeier, President of the iLCP. “With the ongoing oil disaster we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the State of Michigan, Canada should reconsider bringing oil to the Great Bear Rainforest.”
Enbridge Inc., the world’s largest pipeline construction company, recently filed an application to the Canadian National Energy Board to build a 1200 km twin pipeline between Alberta’s tar sands and British Columbia’s north Pacific coast. The unprecedented proposal, facilitating Asian access to Canadian oil, would be constructed over a thousand streams and rivers, including some of the world’s largest salmon producing watersheds, while introducing super oil tankers to the pristine waters of the globally recognized Great Bear Rainforest. The indigenous First Nations who call this area home unanimously oppose this project.
“We support this effort to document the lands and seas of our traditional territory,” states Ernie Hill Jr., Sn’axeed, Gitga’at Hereditary Eagle Chief. “Enbridge’s pipeline and oil tanker proposal will destroy our way of life and we must do everything possible to show what we stand to lose.”
Documentation by iLCP photographers will showcase the immense ecological importance of western Canada’s threatened rainforest and marine environment. The images and stories from the expedition members will be shared with international media and partner organizations and will be featured in a traveling exhibition across North America and Europe.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is an environmental treasure, and the international exposure that the iLCP is capable of generating will undoubtedly prove a clarion call for its protection,” said Ian McAllister, conservation Director for B.C. based Pacific Wild > and recently nominated Associate of the iLCP. “We have everything to lose and very little to gain by allowing oil tankers on our coast.”
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