Back to the Kitlope

The Kitlope is the next commercial hunting tenure that we’re working to secure. But for me and many of us at Raincoast, it’s more than that.

The pictures may be grainy but my memories are not. I first visited the Kitlope in 1990 aboard the Maple Leaf at the invitation of the Haisla and Xenaksiala people who were fighting to save their homeland from clearcut logging. My relationship to this place was forged in large part by my relationship to my brother Cecil Paul, a hereditary chief of the Xenaksiala. Cecil was instrumental in winning protection for this stunning place back in August of 1994, when the Province of British Columbia and the Haisla Nation announced that the Kitlope would be fully protected and jointly managed.

Cecil was the last person born in the Kitlope, and is chief of the killer whale clan of the Xenaksiala, now part of the Haisla Nation. Under his leadership and with support from his community, Ecotrust, Raincoast and many others, protection of the Kitlope set the stage for what would become the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. From a first ban on grizzly hunting to Indigenous Guardianship programs and co-management with the Haisla Nation, the legacy of the Kitlope continues to unfold on BC’s coast.

Cecil Paul and a group of Raincoasters and Maple Leafers stand in the open at the foot of mountains.
Photo by Sherry Kirkvold.

So what is the Kitlope like? It represents the world’s largest intact area of coastal temperate rainforest with trees over 1,000 years old. It is home to a stunning variety and abundance of wildlife ranging from mountain goats, to grizzly bear, black bear, wolf and wolverine. At the head of Gardiner Canal (the Hudsduwatchdu), the longest fjord in the world, is one of the largest and most productive river estuaries on the coast, home to over a hundred species of birds, from waterfowl to raptors. The Kitlope valley cuts so far in to the interior of the province, that it is home to species like moose, not normally found on the coast. Its protection was a profound gift to the world.

Maple Leaf at rest in the shadow of a mountain beside a water fall in the Kitlope.
Photo by Sherry Kirkvold.

So why are we back to the Kitlope?

While Kitlope is protected from logging, and the current ban protects grizzly bears from hunting, there remains unfinished business in the Kitlope. Until now, commercial guides have been bringing trophy hunters into this place that Cecil calls the bank of his people. “They have been robbing our bank for years… for no purpose other than to put a trophy on their wall,” says Cecil. “We don’t understand this and we want to stop it.”

So, once again, we are proud to stand with the Haisla and Xenaksiala to protect their homeland. Having completed fundraising for the Nadeea tenure last December, we have now negotiated the purchase of the commercial hunting rights for an area of 5,300 km2 that includes the entire Kitlope Conservancy and almost double that again in the surrounding area. This purchase would represent a key step in our long-term goal of ending all commercial trophy hunting through the Great Bear Rainforest.

With an agreement in place, we have until July 30th to secure the $100,000 needed for the deposit. We already have reached $40,000 and now need to raise the remaining $60,000.

Kitlope was my introduction to working for conservation and it was where I first met my Raincoast family. No words can explain how delighted I am to be returning here, working alongside the Haisla and Xenaksiala to add another layer of protection to this place that is beautiful beyond description. With your strong support, I am confident we will succeed.

For the Kitlope.

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.