YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST
Will We Lose It Before We Even Knew We Had It?
Article by Jeff Hansen, D.C.
and Photos by Ian McAllister
We couldn’t see it through the tall grass but could feel it, the ground vibrated, it was heading our way, and it was big. Paralyzed with uncertainty and fear we crouched down as the huge grizzly poked its head through the grass. Her nostrils flaring, tasting the air for the smell which must have intrigued her. She stood five feet away, without any aggression, but rather a gentle curiosity as if she had never seen a person before. After more than a minute she peacefully turned away and disappeared into the grass.
We had just begun our hike along an ancient bear path beside a stream alive with thousands of spawning salmon, their backs cresting out of the water as they completed their life’s journey. I was in a paradise beyond my greatest expectations. Bald eagles silently glided just a foot overhead. River otters frolicked, playing hide and seek with us as we walked along the bank. About the only animal we hadn’t seen in our two-hour hike was a wolf, so I howled. Fifteen seconds later the forest erupted into a cacophony of howls and whimpers. Two adult and four wolf puppies emerged from a small stand of sitka spruce. The puppies’ attention was split between playing with each other and with us. The adults timidly and cautiously approached, just feet away they stared with that same bewildered look the grizzly displayed previously. They were quick to retreat with any sudden movement or sound, but tolerated our intrusion into their home allowing us a glimpse into the lives of wolves who hadn’t been calloused by contact with humans. After thirty minutes they calmly retreated back into their forest. It was simply an incredible day.
Unbeknownst to most people the “Great Bear Rainforest”, lying along the west coast of British Columbia, is our planet’s last great coastal temperate rainforest, and one of nature’s greatest gifts. Not even Disney’s imagination could have dreamt up such a magical place. It is a region of glacier-gouged peaks, nestling pristine rainforests resplendent in their beauty. Within its bosom lives a wondrous array of wildlife. Where grizzly bears and wolves are still numerous and having had such little contact with humans, they rarely show aggression or fear, but rather an innocent curiosity. It is the only home of a shy all-white phase of black bear called the kermode or “Spirit Bear”. Its watersheds contain the healthiest salmon runs left on earth. Walking just ten feet into these forests you are connected with a part of yourself many have forgotten, you are overwhelmed with a sense of peace. It is like entering a grandiose living cathedral.
The same temperate rainforests that occupied the northwest coast of America have long since been destroyed. Unfortunately this incredible region is now being destroyed as fast as the chainsaws can cut. Virtually every valley is scheduled to be logged in a manner so destructive they will be lost forever. Forests that have evolved for thousands of years are being turned into toilet paper and phone books. All for the short-term financial gain of a few individuals even though more sustainable and economical alternatives are available.
As the rainforests are destroyed they are replaced by a “crop” of trees, turning one of the richest environments on earth into a tree farm. The destructive logging practices also destroy the salmon streams, and it is the salmon that are the backbone of the region’s ecology and the economy of the fishing industry. This is the ancestral home of the First Nation peoples who have lived in harmony within its nurturing realm for thousands of years; they watch as their way of life is being ripped out river valley by river valley. The logging roads bring access to hunters who find the non-wary animals easy to kill.
Indeed a week after our incredible visit we received a call from our friends, Ian and Karen, informing us that just north of where we had our incredible experience with the grizzly and wolves, they had discovered the carcass of one grizzly and a wolf beneath it, all killed from an illegally built hunting stand.
Ian and Karen McAllister are leading efforts to protect this region, and they need all of our help. Over half of the region has already been destroyed and at the current rate of logging the rest will be lost in five years. The world needs special places like the Great Bear Rainforest. We have continually taken from nature and it is time we all take responsibility and do what we can to preserve this region. One doesn’t have to sit in front of a bulldozer to make a difference.
At this time the provincial government is considering a ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears. They have been approached by numerous biologists, who after much research have determined the grizzly will be hunted into extinction within two decades. Unfortunately the powerful hunting lobby is also exerting its influence. The government has also been presented with a management plan for the region which will preserve its integrity. The lumber companies are counting on our apathy. Decisions will be made within weeks. Even if we never visit this area we should all care. This magnificent area belongs to the earth, the native peoples and wildlife within it, and all future generations.
Jeffrey Hansen is the owner of Hansen Chiropractic, located at 18510 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, CA. He is concerned about the environment and the future of our world and can be reached at (714) 779-1605.
For further information, contact Raincoast Conservation Society, P.O.
Box 8663, Victoria BC Canada V8W 3S2 or www.raincoast.org
on-line petitions. You can also e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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