The Spirit Bear Coast: No Place for Big Oil
by Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC
The rare Spirit Bear is one of North America’s wildlife treasures. Native to the coastal rainforest of Canada’s British Columbia, it is a race of black bears in which a recessive gene causes one out of ten cubs to be born all white — and right now, its very existence is being threatened by Big Oil.
The Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed by energy giant Enbridge, would carry 500,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil from the Alberta tar sands directly through the Spirit Bear’s home. This spectacular rainforest, known as the Spirit Bear Coast, is one of our continent’s last and greatest wild places — home to wolves, bears and abundant marine mammal populations. Its world-class salmon runs have sustained the native people of more than 70 First Nations for thousands of years.
Just one oil spill could destroy this spectacular ecosystem and wipe out the First Nations’ way of life forever. A serious pipeline break could happen at any time as a river of toxic oil is pumped from the Alberta tar sands across the spectacular mountains and rivers of British Columbia. It’s not a matter of if, but WHEN, a catastrophic spill will occur. Listen to the company’s own CEO:
“Can we promise there will never be an accident? No. Nobody can.”
–Pat Daniel, CEO of Enbridge
In fact, Enbridge’s track record is frightening. Its pipelines have produced more than 700 spills in the last ten years alone. Just last year, an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan ruptured, contaminating the Kalamazoo River and the nearby community of Battle Creek with nearly one million gallons of tar sands oil — arguably the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Midwest.
As if that’s not enough, when the Northern Gateway oil reaches the Spirit Bear Coast, it will be processed and loaded onto supertankers that will have to navigate treacherous reefs, fast-moving currents, frequent hurricane-force winds and a channel six times narrower than the passage that sank the Exxon Valdez, churning through wildlife-filled waters that are home to orcas, humpbacks, fin whales and Steller sea lions.
Can you imagine the sheer devastation that a supertanker spill would wreak on this wildlife paradise?
A decade ago, NRDC stood with the First Nations to help save the Spirit Bear’s rainforest home from clear-cut logging. With the land of the Spirit Bear now endangered by Big Oil, we must rise once again to its defense. Everything we depend on for a sustainable future is at stake: our last wild places, our planet’s climate and even the health of our families.
Stand with NRDC and the native people of the First Nations by sending a message to Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia, at www.SaveTheSpiritBear.org. The fate of these gentle Spirit Bears rests very briefly in our hands. Take a moment right now to help save them. Tomorrow may be too late.
Photo credit: Ian McAllister