British Columbia, Canada: Sail the Great Bear Rainforest
Stretching from northern Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border, the Great Bear Rainforest holds a fraction of one percent of the human population of Canada—and an untold universe of natural wonders. Here, bald eagles dot the trees, millions of migrating salmon clog the rivers, and rare white bears stalk shadowy forests of cedar, hemlock, and spruce.
This also happens to be the proposed site of a pipeline that would connect the tar sands near Edmonton, Alberta, to the port of Kitimat, British Columbia. The pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of petroleum a day to countless ships that would thread through the pristine islands, channels, and fjords of the Inside Passage. One oil spill, critics say, and it could all be lost. In early 2013, a federal panel was reviewing evidence and hearing testimony in order to decide whether to permit the project.
Fishing and ecotourism have long provided sustainable alternatives to resource extraction in the Great Bear Rainforest, and they have offered First Nations a means of income without harming their ancestral lands. Now, a diverse groundswell of residents are attending hearings to testify that these lands—and fishing and tourism along with them—could be decimated by the pipeline. Growing numbers of travelers are critical to proving the viability of a conservation economy already worth more than a billion dollars.
The first thing you can do is go and experience the forest, one of the greatest tracts of rain forest left in North America. Our choice? Sail up the coast in a 92-foot schooner crewed by outfitter Maple Leaf Adventures. Travel up fjords in mind-bending solitude; stop to see grizzly bears, wolves, and whales; hike through ancient spruce and cedar; and explore remote First Nations villages. Maple Leaf Adventures employs First Nations guides, are members of 1% for the Planet, and, last year, donated 4 percent of their net revenues to conservation organizations. It’s easy to understand why they are fighting so hard to protect this land when surveying it all from the prow of the ship or your own private hot springs, only reachable by boat.
Price: From $2,620-$5,750 for six to ten days