<p>Canada's pristine western coastline could be endangered by a plan to build a new oil pipeline from Alberta to the coast in order to export oil overseas, say environmental activists and native people who rely on these waters.<br><br> Oil company Enbridge plans to link the oil sands of Athabasca, in central Alberta, to the port town of Kitimat in British Columbia, with a new pipeline that would carry 525,000 barrels of oil to the coast per day.<br><br> There's just one problem: the pipeline would pass through watersheds important to Canada's commercial fishing industry and brush past Coastal First Nations lands and the Great Bear Rainforest, a protected coastal area filled with red cedars, spruce, and the elusive all-white "spirit bear."</p><p>While the Northern Gateway pipeline itself wouldn't pass through the 4.4-million-acre (1.8-million-hectare) Great Bear Rainforest, activists say it's a little too close for comfort. The International League of Conservation Photographers recently performed a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in the area, sending a dozen photographers to the rain forest to document the ecosystem they believe is at risk. A pipeline means more tankers, and because the Kitimat terminal is separated from the open ocean by more than one hundred miles of channels and fjords, the photographers argue that a tanker spill would imperil the local environment. "These are highly treacherous waters, with tremendous currents," said Cristina Mittermeier, ILCP president.</p><p>(Related: <a id="y1lr" title="Oil reserves put Canada's Great Bear Rainforest under the lens" href="http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/08/conservation-photographers-focus-on-great-bear-rainforest.html">Oil reserves put Canada's Great Bear Rainforest under the lens</a>)</p><p>The danger is not just to plants and wildlife: The lifestyle of the First Nations people living in and around the rain forest, such as these Gitga'at fishermen gathering crab in a photo from the Great Bear RAVE, would be at risk. "One major oil spill on the coast of British Columbia would wipe us out," Coastal First Nations director Gerald Amos said in a statement.</p><p><em>–Rachel Kaufman</em></p>

Crucial Waters

Canada's pristine western coastline could be endangered by a plan to build a new oil pipeline from Alberta to the coast in order to export oil overseas, say environmental activists and native people who rely on these waters.

Oil company Enbridge plans to link the oil sands of Athabasca, in central Alberta, to the port town of Kitimat in British Columbia, with a new pipeline that would carry 525,000 barrels of oil to the coast per day.

There's just one problem: the pipeline would pass through watersheds important to Canada's commercial fishing industry and brush past Coastal First Nations lands and the Great Bear Rainforest, a protected coastal area filled with red cedars, spruce, and the elusive all-white "spirit bear."

While the Northern Gateway pipeline itself wouldn't pass through the 4.4-million-acre (1.8-million-hectare) Great Bear Rainforest, activists say it's a little too close for comfort. The International League of Conservation Photographers recently performed a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in the area, sending a dozen photographers to the rain forest to document the ecosystem they believe is at risk. A pipeline means more tankers, and because the Kitimat terminal is separated from the open ocean by more than one hundred miles of channels and fjords, the photographers argue that a tanker spill would imperil the local environment. "These are highly treacherous waters, with tremendous currents," said Cristina Mittermeier, ILCP president.

(Related: Oil reserves put Canada's Great Bear Rainforest under the lens)

The danger is not just to plants and wildlife: The lifestyle of the First Nations people living in and around the rain forest, such as these Gitga'at fishermen gathering crab in a photo from the Great Bear RAVE, would be at risk. "One major oil spill on the coast of British Columbia would wipe us out," Coastal First Nations director Gerald Amos said in a statement.

–Rachel Kaufman

Photograph courtesy Cristina Mittermeier, ILCP

Photos: Canadian Rain Forest Edges Oil Pipeline Path

In the home of the elusive "spirit bear," nine Coastal First Nations people await a decision on a pipeline to carry Canadian oil to sea for export to Asia.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet