From Victoria, B.C.
Last fall, Raincoast’s wolf team conducted a ten-day expedition on our research vessel Achiever. We collected genetic samples from areas in the Great Bear Rainforest we had not yet visited and to re-visit wolf home sites we had previously identified. One evening, we anchored by a wolf hot spot. As was my wont on this trip, I slept on deck in our observation platform.
It was still dark when the bark of a wolf woke me up. I rose with my sleeping bag still draped around me and crouched behind the blind of the observation platform, listening intently. Suddenly, a cacophony of howls reverberated through the valley, almost as if in an echo chamber. Just as suddenly, the howling came to a halt. In anticipation I grabbed my binoculars. Then, in the slowly advancing light of day, the wolf pack began to appear on the beach, one by one or a pair at a time. The pack’s play and roughhousing went on for a good part of this rare sun-drenched morning.
Sadly, my elation at watching these elusive animals was tempered by the knowledge that this valley – such productive habitat for large carnivores – is not protected by the Great Bear Rainforest agreement; also, the wolves in this watershed are not protected from trophy hunting.
This brings us back to the federal government’s recent announcement that they will be giving $30 million to “protect the Great Bear Rainforest.” By my count, this is the fourth time since 2001 that one government or another has announced that the Great Bear Rainforest has been “saved.” When I heard the news, all I could think of was baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra’s famously comical quote, “it’s like deja vu all over again.”
The forthcoming $30 million to support coastal communities is a positive development, even though the Conservative government’s announcement is, as Vancouver MP Stephen Owen pointed out, a rehashing of the previous Liberal government’s policy.
However, the more relevant issue is that this funding will not rectify the significant flaws in the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. Despite the spin of yet another Great Bear Rainforest announcement, the fact remains that the agreement falls far short of the conservation strategies provided by the assemblage of scientists that advised the negotiation process and thus fails to protect enough habitat for a variety of species including wolves, grizzly bears and salmon.
The Great Bear Rainforest is now also faced with a creeping industrialisation. In addition to the ongoing status quo logging, there is talk of massive wind farm projects in key large carnivore habitat, run-of-the-river hydro projects in salmon watersheds, mining for both minerals and gravel in pristine valleys, lodge development in protected areas, fish farm expansion, off shore oil and gas exploration and development, increased tanker traffic, and oil pipeline construction; it would appear the Great Bear Rainforest campaign is far from being finished.
Which brings to mind another classic quote from Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”