"There are countless little brooks and rivulets garlanding the islands and inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest in remote northern British Columbia, many without even a name. But the salmon know them well, and return each September, paddling relentlessly against the current, leaping over rocks and little waterfalls, shedding their skin and dying from the outside in to give life to another generation.
Because salmon are the keystone to this ecosystem’s food chain, many never make it back to their birthplaces to spawn. At this time of year, the banks of the streams are littered with salmon carcasses and splayed guts like the remains of some grisly bacchanal. Many are tidily decapitated and otherwise fully intact, because the local wolf packs feed only on the heads.
Later in the month, the black bears come, accompanied by a few of their elusive cousins, the kermodes, born with a recessive gene that leaves their coats a ghostly pale yellow. The locals call them spirit bears. Salmon give life to this lush band of forest stretching from Prince Rupert to the north shore of Vancouver Island, the largest pristine ecosystem of its kind left in North America. But the spirit bears are the icons: August’s National Geographic cover featured one, with the headline “The Wildest Place in North America.”
That wild place is set to become the front line of a battle over Canada's energy future.
At the beginning of 2010, the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency formed a Joint Review Panel to consider an application made by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. for permission to snake a pair of oil pipelines 1,172 kilometres from the oil sands north of Edmonton to the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Traversing the territories of more than 40 first nations, both pipelines would end at a new terminal in Kitimat, a small industrial town."
Get the Story:
Chris Turner: Pipeline to prosperity or channel to catastrophe?
(The Daily Globe and Mail 9/24)
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