Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Raven’s Promise of Peace

In the beginning of time the world was covered with ice & snow. One day Raven the Creator came from heaven and made the world green, like it is today. But Raven wanted something to be a reminder and a teaching to the people of the beginning times and its whiteness. So Raven went among the black bear people in the new paradise and chose every tenth bear to be as white as snow to honour the world as it was during the past age of ice. Upon finishing this task Raven looked upon them all and declared: "Moksmg’ol (the white bears) will live here forever in peace."

This paradise has since become known as the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, and the rare Spirit Bear (also known as the Kermode Bear) is one of its great mysteries and delights. The bears are a genetically unique subspecies of the black bear and the remaining 400 of them are found only on Canada’s west coast. They are a global treasure.

The Spirit Bears require an intact ecosystem to sustain a stable gene pool that in turn creates the conditions that produce them (they are not albino but are born white as the result of a double recessive gene). This process is obviously threatened by development and as such environmentalists and other groups have been fighting for years to protect the habitat that the bears need. The British Columbian government yesterday announced the combined Central Coast and North Coast Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) that "protects" the area often referred to as the Great Bear Rainforest.

It should be noted though that it’s not actually or even entirely "protected."

4.4 million acres will be protected as parkland, while the remaining 11.6 million is "zoned" for administration under a "special management plan" aimed at lessening the impact certain commercial activities will have on the environment. For example "Protected Areas" and "Biodiversity Areas" will be safe from commercial logging yet mining will be allowed in the "Biodiversity Areas." And something called "Ecosystem-based management" will oversee "sustainable forestry" in the other areas (but what this means has not yet been defined). I hope they have found the perfect balance here, but I am skeptical.

Given the importance of this area (it is an old growth temperate rainforest that is home to many species other than the Spirit Bears including salmon, grizzlies, black bears, wolves, cougars, mountain goats, moose, and deer as well as huge ancient hemlock and cedar trees - a land so rich that biologists have compared it to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon jungles) I will continue to hope for the day that the entire area can truly be preserved as The Great Bear Rainforest. Until then, may the Spirit Bear forever be wild and free, and may there finally be peace in the forest. Mitakuye Oyasin.

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