CBC Digital Archives

B.C. creates a sanctuary for the Spirit Bear

Vancouver Island's Clayoquot Sound. Manitoba's boreal forests. The Central Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. These picturesque locales have served as the battlegrounds over the controversy of clearcutting — the logging practice that strips a forest bare by cutting every single tree down. On one side are the environmentalists. On the other, logging companies. In the middle are native people. The fate of Canada's old-growth forests and the forestry industry as a whole rests in the balance in the 'war of the woods.'

media clip
The rare and beautiful spirit bear won't lose its home turf to logging anytime soon. A historic pact announced today in British Columbia will preserve a million hectares of the bear's long-threatened habitat. The deal bans logging in several areas of the mid-coastal region known as the Great Bear Rainforest, and brings an end to environmentalists' campaigns costly to the province's forestry industry. Ecology-based logging practices will replace clear-cutting, leaving streams and valleys unspoiled for the unique bear and several other threatened species.

• Environmental groups captured worldwide attention by putting the spirit bear front and centre in their campaigns to save old-growth forests in British Columbia. Groups including Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defence Council and the Rainforest Action Network pressured companies in Europe and the United States to stop purchasing timber products harvested from environmentally sensitive areas of B.C. forest. Activists hung banners in London's Trafalgar Square and prompted letter-writing campaigns that brought a deluge of mail aimed at saving the bear's irreplaceable habitat. • As huge companies like Ikea and Home Depot cancelled timber contracts, government and industry joined the fight to save the spirit bear's habitat. Together with the environmental groups and First Nations, they worked out a pact that preserves a network of intact valleys, streams, and mature and old-growth forest throughout the Great Bear Rainforest, including almost 100,000 hectares on Princess Royal Island. Greenpeace activist Ian Birch told the Vancouver Sun that with the deal, "B.C. has gone from global pariah to eco-hero in one day."

• The spirit bear, long known as the Kermode bear, is neither an albino bear nor a polar bear. Instead, this rare animal is actually a subspecies of black bear with a recessive gene that selects white fur instead of black in 10 per cent of bears.

• According to First Nations legend, Raven, the Creator, wanted a permanent reminder that the world was once covered with snow and ice, so he flew among the black and brown bear peoples and turned every tenth one white. Also called moksgm'ol and masala, meaning "little white bear," the spirit bear remains an uncommon sight in the coastal rainforests. Estimates put the total population between 160 and 400 bears.

• In 2006, a further agreement forged by government, environmentalists, industry and First Nations groups secured another three million hectares of forest for conservation. This agreement was similarly hailed as a crucial step in mapping out a model for sustainable forest development practices in B.C. and the world.
• The spirit bear was a leading contender for mascot of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, but was not selected for the job.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 4, 2001
Guest(s): Tzeporah Berman, Ujjal Dosanjh, Richard Slaco, Merran Smith
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Terry Milewski
Duration: 2:26

Last updated: June 27, 2014

Page consulted on June 27, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Greenpeace: Always Bearing Witness

From its humble beginnings in Vancouver, Greenpeace has grown into the world's leading environ...

Clearcutting and Logging: The War of the Wood...

Vancouver Island's Clayoquot Sound. Manitoba's boreal forests. The Central Avalon Peninsula of...

Bob Hunter hasn't given up hope for the plane...

Bob Hunter is interviewed about receiving a citation for his work for the environment.

Canada's trees: Crusader fights against anti-...

As logging crews double cutting efforts to stop the pine beetle, Judy Stratton devotes her lif...

New Brunswick sets new environmental standard...

New Brunswick is going to become the first province to meet new environmental standards for fo...

Clearcutting and Logging: extra clips

Vancouver Island's Clayoquot Sound. Manitoba's boreal forests. The Central Avalon Peninsula of...