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Oil reserves put Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest under the lens

Asian oil interests wanting access to western Canada’s tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have prompted a focus on the Great Bear Rainforest by the world’s most celebrated and talented nature photographers, the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) said this week.

Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the planet’s most priceless treasures, iLCP said in a news release.

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Photo by Ian McAllister/Courtesy of iLCP 

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Photo by Ian McAllister/Courtesy of iLCP 

“The iLCP works in countries around the world and we receive many important requests for support. Yet from the perspective of threats to biodiversity and indigenous culture, few issues compare to the potential environmental catastrophe this proposal could bring about,” said Cristina Mittermeier, president of the iLCP. “With the ongoing oil disaster we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the State of Michigan, Canada should reconsider bringing oil to the Great Bear Rainforest.”

Enbridge Inc., the world’s largest pipeline construction company, recently filed an application to the Canadian National Energy Board to build a 750-mile (1,200-kilometer) twin pipeline between Alberta’s tar sands and British Columbia’s north Pacific coast, ILCP said.

First Nations oppose pipeline 

“The unprecedented proposal, facilitating Asian access to Canadian oil, would be constructed over a thousand streams and rivers, including some of the world’s largest salmon producing watersheds, while introducing super oil tankers to the pristine waters of the globally recognized Great Bear Rainforest. The indigenous First Nations who call this area home unanimously oppose this project.”

“We support this effort to document the lands and seas of our traditional territory,” said Ernie Hill Jr., Sn’axeed, Gitga’at Hereditary Eagle Chief. “Enbridge’s pipeline and oil tanker proposal will destroy our way of life and we must do everything possible to show what we stand to lose.”

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Photo by Ian McAllister/Courtesy of iLCP 

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Photo by Ian McAllister/Courtesy of iLCP 

Documentation by iLCP photographers will showcase the immense ecological importance of western Canada’s threatened rain forest and marine environment. The images and stories from the expedition members will be shared with international media and partner organizations and will be featured in a traveling exhibition across North America and Europe.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is an environmental treasure, and the international exposure that the iLCP is capable of generating will undoubtedly prove a clarion call for its protection,” said Ian McAllister, conservation director for British Columbia-based Pacific Wild and recently nominated Associate of the iLCP. “We have everything to lose and very little to gain by allowing oil tankers on our coast.”

Watch this National Geographic video about the Great Bear Rainforest:

The iLCP expedition team will include some of the world’s most renowned photographers who will focus on documenting the natural and cultural history of the B.C. coast.

“I have been on assignment for National Geographic Magazine in many of the world’s most beautiful places and the B.C. coast ranks among the best,” said Paul Nicklen, National Geographic photographer and World Press winner. “I’m looking forward to helping document this ecological treasure and hopefully contributing to its protection.”

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Photo of Great Bear Rainforest by Cristina Mittermeier/Courtesy of iLCP 

In 2006 British Columbia legislated protection for nearly 30 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest, signaling support for an economy based on conservation and wilderness protection. Introducing massive oil tankers to the coast threatens existing businesses and emerging economic opportunities, ILCP said in tis statement.

“Our lodge, the largest community employer in the region is considered Canada’s finest according to Conde Nast, but it sits along the pathway of the proposed oil tankers,” said Michael Uehara, King Pacific Lodge president. “If this pipeline is built and oil tankers begin transiting these waters, we will go out of business. Plain and simple.”

The iLCP will be holding a press conference in Vancouver on September 14, 2010, to discuss their two weeks spent documenting the Great Bear Rainforest.

Posted by David Braun from media materials provided by the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Watch a preview (or the entire film) National Geographic’s Last Stand of the Great Bear:


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