The north half of the West Coast, between Vancouver Island and Alaska, has been one of the northern hemisphere's richest unprotected wildlife habitats and home to Canada's largest grizzly bears. Written to spark awareness of that area and engender protective legislation, The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada's Forgotten Coast (Harbour 1997 $39.95) by Ian McAllister and Karen McAllister, featured a foreword by Robert Kennedy Jr.
The British Columbia government introduced measures to protect some of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006, promising in February to allocate $30 million if the federal government matched that commitment. In February of 2007, the federal government pledged to spend $30 million to help preserve 1.2 million hectares of rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth. An additional $60 million was raised by private organizations and philanthropic groups--making The Great Bear Rainforests one of the most influential Canadian books ever. Time magazine heralded Ian and Karen McAllister as "Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century" and credited the book as being "...the centerpiece for Greenpeace International's North American forest campaign." The book reached its fourth printing by 2007.
Karen McAllister is a conservationist with a special interest in the flora of BC's mainland coast. Born and raised in Alberta's Rocky Mountains, she studied biology and environmental studies at the University of Victoria. She is a founding member of the Raincoast Conservation Society. 1-55017-166-6
Great Bear Rainforest (Harbour $39.95)
For Ian and Karen McAllister, getting to know grizzlies was easier than compiling a coffee table book.
After charting an ecosystem which stretches from Knight Inlet to Alaska, taking thousands of photos, keeping journals, making seven pilgrimmages in seven years, building their vision to protect a 2,000-kilometre strip of bear habitat, the young Victoria couple resisted pressure to make themselves into personalities for The Great Bear Rainforest (Harbour $39.95), co-written with Cameron Young.
"People all over the world understand the importance of salmon and bears," says Ian McAllister. "We didn't want to distract their attention as characters. Our goal was to explore every single intact valley on the mainland coast."
Like modern-day Darwins in a rain-soaked Galapagos, the McAllisters succeeded in the spring of 1996, setting foot in Smokehouse Creek off Smith Inlet, the last valley on their list.
The couple used a trimaran to explore an area which they claim represents two-thirds of the planet's temperate rainforest, where approximately 2,000 grizzly bears reside, where 'white spirit' kermode bears roam, where spring migration of eulachon can attract thousands of eagles, where pictographs abound and where an overzealous photographer can get bruised on the chin by a flying salmon -- it happened -- to present their anti-logging perspective on behalf of the their Raincoast Conservation Society, which they co-founded with Ian's father and a few friends in 1990.
"With the same doggedness that drives the tobacco industry to insist smoking doesn't necessarily cause cancer, the forest industry insists clearcut logging doesn't necessarily harm salmon stocks...
"The indisputable fact is that after twenty-eight years of clearcutting, the once mighty Rivers Inlet sockeye run fell from over 3 million fish to 65 thousand, and one of the planet's great salmon fisheries had to be closed to commercial harvesting."
The McAllisters' next step -- after publishing an American edition of their book with the Sierra Club, addressing the Rockefeller Foundation and discussing production of an IMAX film -- is to prepare a 'biological blueprint' for conservation in consultation with all the 'stakeholders' along the coast. "The government's not doing it," says Ian McAllister. "They're being totally negligent."