WHERE THE WHITE SPIRIT BEAR ROAMS
(P1) SITUATED on Canada’s British Columbia coast between Vancouver Island and the Alaska Panhandle, the Great Bear Rainforest is the largest TRACT of TEMPERATE RAINFOREST left on Earth. The 70,000 sq km territory, ROUGHLY the size of Ireland, contains some of the richest TERRESTRIAL and AQUATIC life on the planet, including killer whales, mountain goat, coastal wolves, and sea otters.
(P2) In 2006, a LANDMARK agreement was passed to protect up to a third of the rainforest from LOGGING. But the region is still threatened by those who log in unprotected areas, TROPHY HUNT bears, and over-fish the salmon and Pacific herring. Plans have also been DRAFTED to allow supertankers carrying fossil fuels to cross Great Bear waters – a move that opponents say will further DISTURB MARINE life and raise the SPECTRE of an ecological disaster.
(P3) The Great Bear Rainforest has long been home to FIRST NATION groups, with ARCHAEOLOGICAL evidence dating human SETTLEMENT back to the end of the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago. Today, the territories of 27 First Nations fall within the BOUNDARY of Great Bear Rainforest. As a marker of their history, rock art and PETROGLYPHS are not uncommon.
(P4) With traditions rooted in ECOLOGICAL knowledge, First Nation groups such as the Heiltsuk, Wuikinuxv and Kitasoo-Xai’xais are ASSERTING their SOVEREIGNTY and rights over these coastal ECOSYSTEMS. They argue that their historical connection, PROXIMITY, and TITLE to the area make them better decision-makers and STEWARDS than government BUREAUCRATS in distant cities.
(P5) As the logging and fishing industries decline, a new TREND towards SUSTAINABLE industries can be seen, with hiking, whale watching, bear viewing, and photography EXCURSIONS drawing travellers to the region. Spirit Bear Lodge, a world-class bear viewing operation in the Swindle Island town of Klemtu, is an ECO-TOURISM SUCCESS STORY. Owned and operated by the Kitasoo-Xai’xais First Nation, the lodge is tied to a community-driven wildlife research project that MONITORS salmon numbers and bear distribution in the territory. Over the years the operation has provided greater purpose and MATERIAL GAIN to an otherwise isolated community, as well as helping paint an accurate picture of the ecological stresses facing the area.
(P6) While parts of Great Bear Rainforest are threatened, others remain either largely or completely UNALTERED by human activity. The Kitlope Heritage Conservancy, a 3,200 sq km PROVINCIAL park in the rainforest’s north, hosts the largest CONTINUOUS tract of INTACT temperate rainforest in the world. The Haisla First Nation, based in the community of Kitamaat and whose territory ENCOMPASSES the park, succeeded in protecting it in 1994. They now co-manage the area with the provincial government.
(P7) A few of Great Bear’s forests contain as much as four times the BIOMASS of their tropical counterparts, including the Amazon. The area is home to some of the oldest and largest tree species found anywhere, including western red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and Douglas fir. Some are more than 1,000 years old. Large CONIFERS UPHOLD the ecosystem by capturing rain, providing a home for animals, preventing soil EROSION, and creating STABLE conditions for salmon eggs to HATCH.
(P8) Both grizzly and black bears live in many of the region’s river systems and ESTUARIES, including a rare variety of black bear known as the Kermode or “Spirit Bear” – so named because of a RECESSIVE GENE that gives it a white or OFF-WHITE coat. The trophy hunting of bears, allowed by the province of British Columbia, continues despite WIDESPREAD public disapproval. In 2012, nine First Nations BANNED the hunt in their territories of the Great Bear Rainforest.
(P9) Pacific salmon play a unique role in how the whole ecosystem functions. Salmon are a dietary COMPONENT for the bears, as well as for 190 other plant, animal and aquatic species, including wolves, gulls, eagles, seals, and sharks. Salmon CARCASSES also act as FERTILISER for the rainforest FLORA.
(P10) Every year, salmon are born in the CREEKS, lakes, and river systems of Great Bear. The Koeye River, near the Heiltsuk First Nation town of Bella Bella, is one WATERWAY where all five major varieties of Pacific salmon can be found. If the fish survive their journey into adulthood, they will return from the ocean years later to the very same spot to SPAWN and die.
(P11) The DIZZYING richness of terrestrial species in the rainforest is reflected in the ocean ABUTTING it. The SHALLOWS of the Pacific contain a PLETHORA of life, including dozens of fish species, marine mammals like sea otters and sea lions, and plants and KELPS so numerous and thick they could COMPRISE their own forests. The Great Bear’s “intertidal zones” – sections of shoreline affected by the FLUCTUATING TIDES – form another layer of life. Low tide often reveals a CACOPHONY of clams, mussels, barnacles, sea stars, and anemones.
(P12) Some of the largest mammals on Earth – humpback, fin, grey, and blue whales – travel through the waters of Great Bear. Following the ADVENT of whaling in the colonial period, the animals suffered a sharp decline and were almost hunted to EXTINCTION. But thanks to international whaling bans that began in the latter part of the 20th Century, these creatures have made a COMEBACK. Humpback whales are now PREVALENT on the coast, especially around Caamaño Sound and Whale Channel near the Gitga’at First Nation community of Hartley Bay. Scientists say the return of humpbacks is both a sign of hope and an example of what the Great Bear Rainforest could be if PROPERLY PRESERVED.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most important natural areas in Canada. What is the most important natural area in your country?
- What is your favorite type of tree?
- What do you think the responsibility of human beings to the natural environment is?
- Do you enjoy hiking and camping in the forest, or is that too wild for you?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Success story
- Material gain