side view of a brown bear in green grass
Grizzly Bear at Mussel Inlet of the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada. © Jon McCormack

Investing in People

Grizzly Bear Hunting Banned in BC

This important conservation milestone was made possible by Indigenous leadership.

The hunting season for grizzly bears in British Columbia is permanently closed.

On December 18, 2017, the BC Government announced that a complete ban on hunting grizzly bears will take effect immediately.

Ending the grizzly bear hunt eliminates one of the biggest threats facing this iconic species, allowing the people of BC to focus on sustainable land management. It will also boost the eco-tourism and bear-viewing industry — an economic driver that research has shown can be up to 12 times more important economically than hunting tourism.

A True Conservation Success Story  

This achievement is a clear example of the potential created by investing in Indigenous leadership and authority. 

Nature United has supported First Nation leadership on the coast for more many years. We’ve helped our partners on the ground to monitor bears in the Great Bear Rainforest and conduct innovative studies to measure salmon populations in coastal waterways. We’ve also worked with First Nation groups like the Central Coast Bear Working Group, which has galvanized efforts around research and economic analysis to end grizzly hunting and support sustainable bear management.

“The Heiltsuk First Nation...has a long history in which the lives of people are inextricably entwined with the lives of grizzly bears," writes William Housty, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation. "Rich traditions of ceremony and storytelling, rooted in time before memory for Heiltsuk people, describe a reciprocal relationship between humans and their ursine relatives that still manifests as a deep respect passed from generation to generation.”

We have been honored to support these efforts and remain committed to investing in Indigenous leadership and adding capacity to Indigenous-led conservation— a focus that has long been at the heart of our work across Canada. The results of this strategy speak for themselves.

The Heiltsuk First Nation...has a long history in which the lives of people are inextricably entwined with the lives of grizzly bears.

Member of the Heiltsuk Nation

Years in the Making  

As supporters of the Central Coast Bear Working Group, Nature United has been a strong partner to members of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’Xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations to conduct research that shows the benefits of sustainable, locally-led bear management.

In addition to years of on-the-ground work partnering with scientists from the Great Bear to learn more about bears on the coast – where they move, how many there are — Nature United, also helped the Bear Working Group show the benefits of sustainable, bear-friendly industries like ecotourism. We supported an economic analysis which showed that sustainable ecotourism — that is, a showcase of thriving bear populations in healthy habitats — is more profitable than trophy hunting, as well as a public opinion poll that revealed overwhelming support across the province for ending the practice of trophy hunting. 

a man kneeling in the forest wearing a flannel shirt and black hat.
William Housty William Housty, the Coastwatch Program Director and a member of the Heiltsuk tribe photographed next to a barbwire snare in the Great Bear Rainforest along the Koeye River in British Columbia, Canada. © The Nature Conservancy (Mark Godfrey)

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What Happens Next

Nature United applauds this decision and will continue supporting our partners with scientific expertise and capacity-building resources as they work to protect bears and other wildlife. In the Great Bear our efforts are expanding from land to water.

The waters of Great Bear sustain 20 percent of the world’s wild salmon — an important food source for grizzlies — as well as sea urchin, herring, sea cucumber, and Dungeness crab. To help maintain this ecosystem, Nature United is working to help establish marine protected areas; supporting sustainable, Indigenous-led fisheries; and supporting the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast, or MaPP: a coalition of 17 First Nations and the British Columbia government, with a bold vision for managing the rich resources of the Great Bear Sea.

Looking ahead, Nature United will continue to work with First Nations along the BC coast, investing in long-term strategies that fund and resource sustainable stewardship programs for the long haul.