On November 8th, the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative and our partners at CPAWS-BC hosted a gathering on Skwxwú7mesh and St’át’imc Territory in Whistler, to discuss grizzly bear recovery in Southwest BC. This event, the very first of its kind in the region, brought together First Nations from across the region, provincial and regional government staff, scientists, local politicians, and conservationists to talk about the plight of local grizzly bear populations and identify paths toward recovery.
The symposium began with a powerful speech by Laura Grizzlypaws from the St’at’imc Nation discussing the cultural significance of grizzly bears to the St’át’imc Nation and the relationship between their survival and Indigenous cultural preservation. We were given living proof of this message when Laura, along with other Bear Dancers of the St’át’imc Nation, shared a traditional bear dance ceremony.
Throughout the day, there were presentations and panel discussions by a number of different scientists with a history of working on grizzly bear conservation. We heard about the current state of grizzly bear populations in Southwest BC and the efforts needed to protect them. We also looked at what can be learned from grizzly bear recovery initiatives in the US and the Kootenays, and ways to reduce human-grizzly bear conflicts.
We were fortunate to be presented with a diverse array of viewpoints, both on the panels and in the questions that followed. For many, it was the first time they had been in the same room as the other participants. What came out of it was a realization that the number of different groups concerned with grizzly bear recovery is broad, and the opportunities for cooperation are many. We hope that this symposium will be the start of many great partnerships to come as we move toward a shared vision of recovering southwest BC’s threatened populations of the iconic grizzly bear.