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B.C. creates a sanctuary for the Spirit Bear

The Story

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.

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

Did You know?

• 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.



Clearcutting and Logging: The War of the Woods more