Thursday, February 09, 2006
HARTLEY BAY, British Columbia, Feb. 4 — In this sodden land of glacier-cut fjords and giant moss-draped cedars, a myth is told by the Gitga'at people to explain the presence of black bears with a rare recessive gene that makes them white as snow.
The Raven deity swooped down on the land at the end of an ice age and decided that one out of every 10 black bears born from that moment on would be bleached as "spirit bears." It was to be a reminder to future generations that the world must be kept pristine.
On Tuesday, an improbable assemblage of officials from the provincial government, coastal Native Canadian nations, logging companies and environmental groups will announce an agreement that they say will accomplish that mission in the home of the spirit bear, an area that is also the world's largest remaining intact temperate coastal rain forest.
A wilderness of close to five million acres, almost the size of New Jersey, in what is commonly called the Great Bear Rain Forest or the Amazon of the North will be kept off limits to loggers in an agreement that the disparate parties describe as a crossroads in their relations.
Scientists say the agreement should preserve not only the few hundred spirit bears and other black bears, but also one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America as well as unique subspecies of goshawks, coastal wolves, Sitka blacktail deer and mountain goats.
I'm thinking of going to visit after I graduate. Anyone want to camp out with some bears with me?