As members of the Applied Conservation Science Lab we wear many hats. We are trained in ecology, community-engagement, statistics, science communication, outreach, bear safety, education, boat operation, and first aid. For the past few months we have also been event planners, speakers, and emcees in service of Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s campaign to buy out the Nadeea guide hunting tenure in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Often when we introduce this campaign, audiences are perplexed as to why we would want to own hunting tenures as a conservation organization. Though initially paradoxical, Raincoast’s motivation in acquiring these tenures is simple: to protect coastal species from commercial trophy hunting. The effects of trophy hunting are particularly insidious in small and vulnerable populations where a specific phenotype (like large size or ornaments) is desired, often superseding natural selection as the primary agent that removes variants in populations. Though there is currently a moratorium on grizzly hunting, these types of policy decisions have been overturned in the past, and trophy hunting is still permitted for other vulnerable and valuable species such as wolves, mountain goats, and black bears with the potential to ‘bear’ white cubs.
This is a long-term solution. Upon the acquisition of a tenure, the owner possesses the exclusive rights to guide clients within this territory in perpetuity. The aim of Raincoast and their Coastal First Nations (CFN) partners extends beyond the Nadeea tenure to the acquisition of all hunting tenures within the CFN portion of the Great Bear Rainforest. Once bought, coastal carnivores and ungulates within these tenures are permanently protected from commercial hunting. This type of conservation action is simple, tractable, long-term, immune to the whims of political expediency, and practical enough for even the most jaded of conservation cynics.
A central element of the acquisition of these hunting tenures is their transfer to Coastal First Nations. They will be owned and managed by this umbrella group in perpetuity. Raincoast’s role is as an intermediary to acquire funds to purchase these tenures, and keep the licenses in good standing under the Wildlife Act (and by “hunting” using cameras, not guns).
With the explicit agreement that these tenures can never again be operated for commercial trophy hunting, the tenures will ultimately be transferred to Coastal First Nations and extinguished.
As a lab, this fall we have made several contributions. We helped organize a photography exhibit, presented at a Women in Conservation night, hosted a trivia and live music event at UVIC, and campaigned on social media for the purchase of the most recent guide outfitter territory, the Nadeea tenure. We recognize that this type of conservation outreach and action, though it takes time from our research efforts, complements our common goal of using science, advocacy, and education to protect and preserve species and ecosystems on this beautiful coast for the future.