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Spirit Bears in NYC

It’s been over a year since we were in the Great Bear Rainforest – heard whispers of the Spirit Bear, the Kermode Bear, that graces this wild landscape with its presence. It’s been over a year since we listened to the stories of the Gitga’at people, stories of their culture so entwined with the ocean,...

It’s been over a year since we were in the Great Bear Rainforest – heard whispers of the Spirit Bear, the Kermode Bear, that graces this wild landscape with its presence. It’s been over a year since we listened to the stories of the Gitga’at people, stories of their culture so entwined with the ocean, so balanced with their land.

Kermode Spirit Bear fishing for salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

We listened as they wove threads of a sustainable future with the threats of impeding mega tanker traffic. Mega tankers that would be transporting dirty oil from a pipeline originating from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, headed to markets overseas. We listened with disbelief that the wreckage and oil seeping from the Queen of the North, a ferry that sank on a routine trip, has not yet been cleaned up. We grew wary as we heard from local conservation groups that the Canadian government is not making moves to stop this tanker traffic or the pipeline.

We were inspired to use the tools that we possess to get involved with this story, to help stand up to this challenge, to join this campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest.  We set up tripods, we followed guides, we lived on sailboats and tugboats, we were welcomed by the Gitga’at community, we took to the air – swam in the ocean and shimmied on our stomachs with salmon working their way upstream to their spawning grounds. We set up rain canopies to protect equipment, we were encouraged to wear galoshes, rain coats, water proof pants (we needed them).

We captured this unique landscape, where a wild ocean meets a wild rainforest, through imagery, through video, through stories and experiences shared. We now strive to use these images to give the Great Bear Rainforest and the Coastal First Nations communities a voice, – to show people what stands to be lost, and illuminate for all those that see that this is not a local issue, it’s not a BC Coast issue, it’s not a Canadian issue or even a North American issue, it’s reach is global.

Kyel Spring Camp, Gitga'a People, fishing, seaweed collecting, food gathering, halibutKyel Spring Camp, Gitga'a People, fishing, seaweed collecting, food gathering, halibut

Let the government of Canada know that places like this need to be protected and that the peoples that call it home need to be empowered to continue their way of life. A way of life that is one with the wilderness around them, a symbiotic relationship, an example we can all learn from.

Take action with Sierra Club BC and Pacific Wild

SPOIL, a documentary about the iLCP RAVE and the Great Bear Rainforest is playing in NYC:

SPOIL is screening this Saturday, October 22 at 3pm as part of MountainFilm in New YorkGet tickets to the Program. A film which follows the International League of Conservation Photographers and the Gitga’at First Nation people of British Columbia in their search for the illusive spirit bear. All white, but not albino, and rarer than the panda, the spirit bear lives only in the Great Bear Rainforest on the north coast of British Columbia, a place that is at risk from a proposed oil pipeline. In an effort to oppose the pipeline, the iLCP’s mission is to create images of this rare bear and the unique ecosystem that it relies on. At risk is an intact and rare-in-the-world temperate rain forest that is home not only to the Gitga’at, but also to a host of animals, from the spirit bear and genetically distinct wolves to an array of marine mammals.

Steller sea lions in Douglass Chanel's coastal islands and surrounding Great Bear Temperate Rain Forest, British Columbia, Canada, in an area threatened by oil carrying super-tankers.

About the filmmakers:

Trip Jennings is a videographer, director of photography, and producer. In 2007 he was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Honoree for his work in Papua New Guinea. He’s most proud of his work stopping timber sales in Oregon’s old growth forests and growing delicious vegetables.

Andy Maser is an experienced cameraman, producer, and film editor. A National Geographic Young Explorer grantee, he’s equally at home filming wildlife deep in the jungle, as he is documenting stories of science, conservation and adventure.

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia (Canada). September 8, 2010. The expansion of Alberta's tar sands oil extraction will require the construction of a 2,000 mile pipeline across British Columbia and through the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by © Daniel Beltra

About the Great Bear Rainforest Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE):

The International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) has teamed up with Pacific WILD, the Gitga’at First Nation of British Columbia, LightHawk, TidesCanada, Save our Seas Foundation, Sierra Club BC, and the Dogwood initiative to carry out a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. We are focusing our energy and cameras on this pristine region in response to plans by several large multinational companies to build a pipeline for heavy crude oil from the Alberta tar sands across British Columbia to the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest.

The tar sands in northern Alberta are arguably one of the world’s most environmentally-devastating extractive industries and the proposed pipeline would put one of our planet’s most ecologically-sensitive and intact marine ecosystems at risk for a catastrophic oil spill through increased mega tanker traffic.

The 14-day expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest called upon 7 world-renowned photographers and 3 videographers to thoroughly document the region’s landscapes, wildlife, and culture. The RAVE provided media support to the First Nations and environmental groups seeking to stop the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline project (and thus expansion of the tar sands) and to expose the plan to lift the oil tanker ship moratorium.

The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.

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Meet the Author

International League of Conservation Photographers
The mission of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) is to further environmental and cultural conservation through photography. iLCP is a Fellowship of more than 100 photographers from all around the globe. As a project based organization, iLCP coordinates Conservation Photography Expeditions to get world-renowned photographers in the field teamed with scientists, writers, videographers and conservation groups to gather visual assets that are used to create conservation communications campaigns to foment conservation successes. iLCP is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Support our work at this link.