Conservation Northwest


Conservation Northwest protects and connects old-growth forests and other wild areas from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies, vital to a healthy future for us, our children, and wildlife. Since 1989, Conservation Northwest has worke

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Gaining ground Joe Scott International conservation director, Crossing borders Restore the bears My mind is ever on the iconic wildlife at our northern border. As winter looms and snows creep down the mountainsides, the grizzly bears are trudging off to their dens after gorging on berries, salmon, and dozens of other grizzly goodies. If fishing and foraging were good over summer and fall, they'll have draped an extra 150 lbs of fat over their formidable muscles. Some of those dens will be the only ones within a 200-mile radius, particularly in the trans-boundary North Cascades. Maybe one or two will house a female with cubs…but maybe not. Further north and west in the British Columbia Chilcotin and Coast Ranges, maternal grizzly bear dens will be more common, but the bears in those dens would still be classified as "threatened" by government biologists. Their numbers are still a fraction of historic levels and far below what their habitats can sustain. The story of the grizzly bear's demise has been written from south to north as human activities have left little room for the great bear. In many of southern BC's U-shaped glacial valleys nature and time are slowly erasing the legacy of a century of logging. A decade of research shows some evidence that grizzly bear numbers are cautiously inching upward. Clearcuts are turning into huckleberry fields, even if temporarily. Vegetation and winter storms are reclaiming roads, and what were once human-dominated landscapes are becoming de facto wildlife sanctuaries. Yet the road to full recovery for the grizzly bears of southern BC and Washington is full of potholes, and often one threat gives way to others. Industrial scale logging is still prevalent, particularly as the pine beetle and its cousins have asserted their dominance over forests stressed by climate change. A decade of research shows some evidence that grizzly bear numbers in BC are cautiously inching upward. Yet evolution has programmed grizzly bears to be fastidious family planners and homebodies. They are slow to recolonize areas where they've been eliminated. BC Ministry of Environment 14 Map showing the extent of Grizzly Bridges, linking the greater Cascades to the Coast range for grizzly bears. In many of southwest BC's valleys, logging has given way to a new liquid gold rush. Proponents of privately owned and operated hydro-electric projects scramble to take advantage of government deregulation to stake claims on hundreds of BC's wild rivers. Dozens of these "independent power projects" and their permanent infrastructure of power lines and access roads threaten to interrupt the grizzly bears' comeback story. The rugged North Cascades of Washington and BC with the Okanagan Valley to the east; the sprawling Sea to Sky planning area including the world renowned Whistler resort; the history and salmon-rich Fraser and Thompson watersheds that connect the Rockies and the Coast Ranges; the arid canyons and plateaus that tumble eastward from the coastal rainforests—this is a landscape unique in all the world. In the backyard of one of North America's most vibrant and diverse human population centers, it is the canvass on which the grizzly bear recovery story can be painted. At Conservation Northwest we have always known the grizzly bear's recovery story would be told with Canadian and US cooperation—as well as with First Nations communities, who have lived, fished, and hunted in the region for thousands of years. For them the grizzly bear is a cultural centerpiece that does not know a Canadian/US border. We are working toward a public recovery planning process for grizzly bears in the US Cascades and for at-risk grizzly bear populations in southern BC—a process whose goal is to restore grizzly bears to the habitats that can still support them. In the meantime we are cooperating with allies in BC to help people and bears to coexist by minimizing potential for conflict. We are promoting forestry and ranching best practices that are friendly to grizzly bears and preventive measures and protocols for dealing with bears that come into contact with communities. Such cooperation can achieve the best of both worlds, allowing bears to find food and raise cubs and allowing people to safely and responsibly enjoy backcountry recreation. Winter

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