This article was co-authored by Doug Neasloss, elected chief councillor of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais First Nation, Brian Falconer, guide outfitter coordinator for Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and Chris Genovali, Raincoast's executive director.
For those of you celebrating British Columbia Premier Christy Clark's announcement declaring "the end of commercial trophy hunting" in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest, you can put away the champagne. While the announcement by the premier and Minister Steve Thomson essentially endorses the effort to buy out commercial trophy hunting businesses, undertaken by Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Coastal First Nations (CFN) several years ago, it commits no direct support, nor does it address trophy hunting by B.C. residents which accounts for 60 per cent of the grizzly kill in the Great Bear Rainforest and in the rest of province.
The province has still not recognized the ban on trophy hunting imposed by CFN and will continue to issue tags to kill grizzly bears and black bears in all areas of the Great Bear Rainforest, including in some areas where the black bears carry the white "Spirit bear" gene. In addition, the B.C. government's announcement regarding the commercial hunt is specifically applicable to CFN territory, which comprises approximately one third of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Yet Minister Thomson's comments, corrected later by ministry staff, initially gave the impression to the media and the public that commercial trophy hunting had been ended throughout the Great Bear Rainforest. "The agreement today as we announced retires the commercial hunt for grizzly bear for the Great Bear Rainforest," he told reporters. "Protecting the species is the first principle and we will continue to manage the process elsewhere on a science-based approach to grizzly bear and wildlife management generally."
Premier Clark, speaking at a press conference said the agreements "include the end of the commercial grizzly hunt in Coastal First Nations traditional territory," and later referred to ending the trophy hunt on the coast. Although her first statement was slightly more accurate, both neglected to tell the whole story.
Because of erroneous statements by B.C. government representatives and others, widely reported in the extensive media coverage of the announcement and subsequently shared via social media, the incorrect notion that trophy hunting has ended in the Great Bear Rainforest has literally travelled around the globe. To paraphrase Mark Twain, a misconception can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.
The reality is the province has committed no financial assistance to the effort to retire the commercial hunting tenures, leaving it up to CFN and Raincoast to negotiate and fund agreements with existing guide outfitting businesses. They have also done nothing to curtail the killing of bears for trophies by B.C. residents in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Trying to clarify the situation, Bears Forever, a project of CFN and the Central Coast First Nations Bear Working Group, has stated: "While the protection of B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest may now be assured, protection of bears from trophy hunting is not. There is not protection for any species of bears from resident trophy hunters and protection from commercial trophy hunting is only afforded to bears when they are within certain territories controlled by Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Coastal First Nations. We are committed to continue pushing until all trophy hunting is ended throughout the Great Bear Rainforest."
Beginning in 2005 and through the end of 2015, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, in collaboration with Coastal First Nations, raised nearly two million dollars and purchased three commercial hunting tenures covering over 30,000 square kilometers of the Great Bear Rainforest. As these commercial licenses are put to rest, First Nation owned bear viewing operations -- like the Spirit Bear Lodge in Kitasoo/Xai'xais territory -- are thriving, with all bear viewing operations generating over 12 times more in visitor spending and 11 times more in government revenues than bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest.
While it will be a challenging task, CFN and Raincoast are deeply committed to raising the money and completing the purchase of the remaining trophy hunting tenures.
The province should now step up and end the resident hunt. The bears of the Great Bear Rainforest would then be truly protected. The world would join the over 90 per cent of British Columbians who oppose trophy hunting and truly celebrate such an accomplishment.
A version of this article previously ran in the Vancouver Sun.
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