The Raincoast Conservation Foundation celebrated a major win recently. After two years of fundraising, the Canada-based conservation group raised $1,920,000 to buy out the hunting rights to more than a quarter of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. In doing so, they hope to protect the indigenous wildlife of the area—including grizzly bears, wolves, and cougars—by preventing commercial trophy hunting of animals.
The purchase covers 18,000 square kilometers (approximately 6,949 square miles) of the Great Bear Rainforest, located about six hours north of Vancouver. “As I look back on the accomplishments of this project, it feels really good to reflect on the thousands of individual animals over many generations who are alive today because of it,” says Brian Falconer, Raincoast’s guide outfitter coordinator. “It also feels very rewarding to reflect on the profound effect it has had in building healthy diverse coastal ecosystems.”
It is the Raincoast Conservation Foundation's longterm goal to entirely eliminate commercial hunting in the area. They argue that it is not only beneficial for the environment, but also more economically sustainable. The group cites a 2014 Stanford University study, which found that bear-watching accrued 12 times more revenue and employed 27 times as many people compared to hunting. “We purchase these tenures with a more sustainable economy in mind—wildlife viewing and ecotourism,” explains Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast. “The acquisition of these tenures has given substantial support to this sector, which will be an important component of transitioning to a new, non-extractive economy.”
While conservationists are elated by the purchase, local hunters claim it is “abusing” commercial licensing. Hunters for B.C. president Robin Unrau adds that responsible hunting can help maintain healthy biodiversity, and that these conservation efforts would be better spent on habitat protection. “There's always two sides to a story; if conservation organizations or environmental groups choose not to really look at the big picture, which is the habitat,” Unrau says. “If we're not able to look at that, I think it's a failure on all our part for the wildlife.”