Fantasy Friday – Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

All over the Canadian news this week has been articles about a proposed pipeline to Kitimat, where huge oil tankers would attempt to maneuver their way around treacherous waters to be delivered to Asia.

Please read what this stunning landscape holds, and why I fantasize about vising the Great Bear Rainforest some day to see the abundance of wildlife including the spirit bear, grizzly bear, and orca, as well as the Sitka spruce trees.

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Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range on the west coast of British Columbia. The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (2 million hectares), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand 1,000-year-old cedar trees and 90-metre tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare and mysterious white Kermode (spirit) bear.

Coastal temperate rainforests constitute one of the most endangered forest types on the planet. Rare to begin with, they originally covered less than 1/5 of 1 percent of the earth’s land surface. Coastal temperate rainforests have three main distinguishing features: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and high rainfall. Their ecology is marked by the dynamic and complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. Coastal temperate rainforests are primarily found in the coastal regions of North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile and Argentina. In addition, they are found in extremely limited areas of Japan, northwest Europe, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey and the Republic of Georgia.

Close to sixty percent of the world’s original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed as a result of logging and

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development. North America’s ancient temperate rainforest once stretched the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska to northern California. Today, more than half of this rainforest is gone and not a single undeveloped, unlogged coastal watershed 5,000 hectares or larger remains south of the Canadian border. One of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world is on British Columbia’s mainland coast in the Great Bear Rainforest.

BC’s coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth, the most common of which are Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir. Trees can tower up to 300feet and grow for more than 1,500 years. The biological abundance of BC’s coastal rainforests is the result of over 10,000 years of evolution which began when the glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch melted. These coastal forests have evolved to their biological splendour because natural disturbances, such as fires, happen infrequently and are usually small in scale.

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Terrestrial and marine systems in BC’s coastal rainforest zone are inextricably linked. The dynamic interaction between terrestrial and marine systems is described in the Conservation International/Ecotrust paper Coastal Temperate Rainforests: Ecological Characteristics, Status and Distribution Worldwide: ” The forest reaches out to the sea, which in turn furnishes the wind and rain necessary for maintenance of the forest character. This exchange of nutrients and energy creates the base for a complex food chain, rich enough to support numerous migratory as well as resident species.”

” In North America approximately 350 bird and animal species, including 48 species of amphibians and reptiles, 25 tree species, hundreds of species of fungi and lichens, and thousands of insects, mites, spiders and other soil organisms are found in coastal temperate rain forests. Although much remains to be learned about both systems, biological diversity indices for some taxa in coastal temperate rainforests (notably invertebrates, fungi and soil organisms) may compare to those of tropical rainforests. Researchers are just now discovering the number of organisms, particularly insects, living in the canopy of North American coastal temperate rainforests. These woodlands may support the highest fungal and lichen diversity of any forest system.”

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Wild salmon are the most important keystone species for coastal rainforest ecosystems and grizzly bears depend on healthy salmon runs for their survival. Wild salmon are an important food source for a wide array of wildlife as well. Recent research is suggesting that even the ancient temperate rainforests on the coast utilize salmon. Bears drag the carcasses of spawned out salmon into the forest, facilitating a major upslope nitrogen transfer into the forest soil.

Years of industrial logging have left vast holes in this precious forest. Clearcut logging is ongoing, logging roads cut deep swathes across watersheds, and wildlife habitats are permanently destroyed. The provincial government of British Columbia has pledged to protect the area, but it must follow through on its commitments if the Great Bear Rainforest is to be protected.

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I cannot believe all the spectacular landscapes and wildlife thriving in this area. It would be absolutely devastating if Enbridge and the Canadian government choose to build this pipeline through such an ecologically sensitive area.

That is why I am supporting the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition‘s position to divert the pipeline to an already existing line to Vancouver. Compromise!

For more information on the pipeline debate, read the following reports:

For the Record: Pipeline Debate and the Youth Coalition by Simon Jackson

Why not end the Northern Gateway in Prince Rupert by Gary Mason

Is there a better route for Enbridge’s oil? by Robert Matas

For more on the Great Bear Rainforest, this book is what you need:

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Fantasy Friday – Learning about responsibility in the Arctic

I am still able to tolerate this cold weather that has swept Toronto, and I am nervous that this high spirit I have about snow and cold and warm drinks may go away at any moment, so I better daydream about a cold weather travel adventure while I can!

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Along with this cold weather adventure, I have also been supporting the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition‘s recent issues with a proposed pipeline through a very ecologically sensitive area, an area where the spirit bear lives. Oil tankers might soon be using the waters in the area where the bear lives, which consists of areas that are very dangerous and difficult to navigate through. How absolutely ridiculous this idea is to me, and to many others out there. (please help them, it’s easy, or even just learn about the spirit bear, it’s facinating!).

Does Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline know that there is a perfectly fine pipeline infrastructure (Kinder Morgan) ALREADY in place to Vancouver harbour that is much safer to use? Easier all around? I am baffled why this is so hard for Enbridge to figure out.

As a result of my daydreaming this week, I declare my fantasy trip today to be:

1. chilly

2. include a possibility of seeing white bears (polar bears in this dream, not spirit bears just yet…that’s for a special occasion!)

3. be environmentally responsible.

Responsible Travel seems like a great site to use if you have the money to spare, and like guided tours. They claim to provide ‘respectable, environmentally-friendly and safe expeditions in the Arctic’.

Sounds positive and right up my alley in the adventure category.

For their sustainable tour of the Arctic, this is what they invite us to partake in:

Spitsbergen; with its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra and ancient glaciers, is part of the Svalbard archipelago in the High Arctic and lies just 600 miles from the North Pole. This true Arctic wilderness represents a remote and fragile Arctic realm, steeped in history and rich in wildlife.

Spitsbergen is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting of all Arctic destinations, acting as an important hunting and breeding ground for its population of more than 2,000 polar bears. Large numbers of walruses, Svalbard reindeer and Arctic foxes, as well as huge colonies of Arctic seabirds are also found across the island. The combination of long daylight hours and ice-free shores help facilitate the exploration of the unspoilt natural beauty of this area.

Our trips are led by experienced natural history experts and well-equipped zodiacs are used to navigate deep inside dramatic fjords and hike across spectacular tundra, dotted with an array of both plant and animal life.

A voyage on the waters of the Arctic seas is not one you merely take to reach your destination but one to savour in itself; giving you time and space to remove those urban cobwebs and revitalise the mind. From the outset, the seascape is both rich and expansive, where one may marvel as colossal whales raising their tail flukes from the water; follow beautiful skuas wheeling through the skies after smaller birds or watch as iconic polar bears walk along frozen pack ice in search of seals.

We provide you with the opportunity to explore Spitsbergen by sailing on a beautiful one hundred year old schooner. This charismatic light ship accommodates twenty passengers in comfortable surroundings and as the sails unfurl and catch the winds, a touch of exploration and romanticism is added to your Arctic adventure. All of these trips include a programme of lectures by noted naturalists and the leadership of experienced expedition staff.

Our exclusive Around Spitsbergen natural history voyage provides our longest exploration of this polar archipelago and the greatest opportunity to include all that you hope to see on one trip. On this 16 day trip, there is ample opportunity to see the very best of the Arctic wildlife, including beluga whales along the western coast, walruses up north, polar bear breeding grounds on the eastern shores and fin whales and Arctic foxes towards the southern end of the island, as well as the opportunity to visit some truly immense colonies of seabirds.

We are running this voyage 28th July – 12th Aug, when we can expect both to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, yet find sizeable areas of sea ice which provide ideal hunting grounds for polar bears. In this brief window, the Arctic summer brings with it immense numbers of rare and beautiful seabirds, often nesting in colonies exceeding one hundred thousand in number. This is also the season when Arctic foxes have their pups and mother polar bears emerge from their dens with their young cubs for the first time. Sailing around Spitsbergen experiencing the phenomenon of the ‘Midnight Sun’ allows you to watch for wildlife, enjoy landscapes of coastal mountains and glaciers, and truly experience the Arctic realm at your leisure.

Travel and Nature Twitterers to follow

I’ve really fallen for this Twitter social media service in the past few weeks. I am so up-to-date with all my news now, and have so many fabulous recipes in my virtual recipe book that are just waiting to be tested out.

So I thought I would share some of my favorite Twitter personalities, in which I eagerly wait on my account (@JeebsC) for their next Tweet.

Happy tweeting!

The spirit bear needs help!

Today, the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition needs your help on two fronts to save the spirit bear.

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1. URGENT REQUEST: Sign the petition to create sanctuary for the spirit bear and be part of a unique book being delivered to BC Premier Christy Clark. (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/trophyhunt.html)

2. URGENT REQUEST: Register by October 6th to have your voice heard during the Canadian government review panel that will decide if tanker traffic will be allowed in spirit bear waters. (dogwoodinitiative.org/notankers/actions/speak-for-the-spirit-bear)

Please help this bear survive on the BC coast. Voted recently, by National Geographic as the wildest place in North America.