A bright-spot for bear conservation

Doug (Muq’vas Glaw) Neasloss and Kyle Artelle discuss decolonial conservation management for grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Doug (Muq’vas Glaw) Neasloss and Kyle Artelle are guests of Adam and Mendel on the Future Ecologies podcast. In this episode, Adam and Mendel begin by reminding listeners of the North American Model  of wildlife conservation (NAM), before diving into its shortcomings and issues. 

Adam and Mendel speak with Doug and Kyle about the evolution of grizzly bear conservation in Haíɫzaqv, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nation territory. In 2012, the Nations banned grizzly bear hunting in their territories in accordance with Indigneous Law. The BC government opposed the ban, appealing to the NAM, first saying that the hunt was grounded in sound science, and then arguing that it had huge economic benefits for communities and the province. 

Doug tells the story of the back-and-forth exchange between the Nations and the BC government. The Nations collaborated with researchers, including those at Raincoast, to get to the bottom of these statements. In a 2013 study, they discovered that the ‘scientific basis’ of hunt management approaches, used to defend the notion that there was a surplus in the population which could be hunted, was unfounded. They found that there was great uncertainty around the poaching rate, population growth rates, and population sizes, all of which factor into determining the effects of hunting at a population level. The researchers showed that quotas could be set that take into account these uncertainties, which require reducing grizzly hunting; instead, the province responded by increasing quotas. Moreover, the economic argument was also proven wrong in a 2014 study – Doug shared how the hunt required more money to run than it generated in revenue. 

With anecdotes told by Doug, Kyle, and the hosts, the podcast turns to how the Haíɫzaqv, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nations have exercised their sovereignty and taken control over grizzly bear management policy in their territories. Their governance is not anti-hunting across the board, as food hunting constitutes an important activity, but is founded on principles of respect and reciprocity that preclude trophy hunting of grizzly bears. Notably, the governance of these Nations has worked in stewarding species and places for millenia. The podcast then turns to the recent paper published on grizzly bear management in the Great Bear Rainforest, which presents seven new principles of a decolonial model of conservation management, which contrast with the foundational assumptions of the NAM. The decolonial model is not prescriptive, but provides guidance to non-Indigneous participants who want to support decolonial management. 

The podcast stresses how implementing decolonial conservation management is not just a means to an end; it is not contingent on conservation outcomes or protecting more acres of land. Rather, it stems from the reality that we cannot address stewardship without addressing whose land is being stewarded in the first place, and who has the rights to govern it. 

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