B.C.’s Coastal First Nations were quick to endorse a new U.S. study of the value of bear viewing in their traditional territories.
Kitasoo/Xai’xais councillor Doug Neasloss said the study by the Washington D.C.-based Centre for Responsible Travel supports what the northwest coast aboriginal communities have been saying for years: “Bears are worth more alive than they are dead.”
The study calculated that in 2012, bear viewing in what is now popularly known as the Great Bear Rainforest generated 12 times the visitor revenue as bear hunting. It counts 510 people employed in bear viewing companies compared to 12 jobs in guided hunting.
The study is the latest salvo in a battle over trophy hunting in B.C. In November the province proposed to expand its traditional grizzly hunt to include Cariboo and Kootenay regions that were previously closed due to population concerns.
The Coastal First Nations, which includes Haida, Heiltsuk and seven other North Coast communities, has asserted its unresolved treaty rights in logging and pipeline protests as well as bear hunting. In 2012 the group announced a ban on trophy hunting for bears in its territories.
The province has continued to issue “harvesting” permits, including one well-publicized trophy shot by NHL player Clayton Stoner in May 2013, who took only the head and paws.
The U.S. study, funded by Tides Canada and Nature Conservancy USA, suggested B.C. has overstated the value of its guide-outfitter business to remote economies.
The province tracks wildlife populations and records human-related deaths, including vehicle accidents and “conflict kills,” where ranchers or conservation officers shoot bears to protect homes or livestock.
The U.S. study reports that there were 74 grizzly hunters from outside B.C. in 2012, 80 per cent of them from the U.S.
From 1976 to 2009 the province issued hunting permits for an average of 297 grizzly bears a year.