Wanted Alive, Not Dead…

Kevin Smith of Maple Leaf Adventures explains brilliantly why BC wins by viewing bears instead of killing bears.

(…) I am a businessman, and my growing business is part of a growing industry called bear viewing. What if we get rid of all the emotional baggage and simply look at the almighty dollar and the irrefutable bottom line? In 2010 is a bear worth more living or shot dead?

(…) This is a high-value industry. We offer a hard-to-get wilderness experience that is highly sought, and described by many as the “experience of a lifetime”. It is expensive for us to provide, and I estimate that at least 80 cents of every dollar we earn is rolled right into the B.C. economy in the form of wages, trip operations, maintenance, supplies, permits and other expenses. These businesses are also almost 100% B.C.-owned.

This industry is based on a “renewable” resource: great viewings of healthy, wild bears. It is low impact and thrives in areas where conservation of natural areas is in place. In fact, it is a poster child for the “conservation economy” in the Great Bear Rainforest. It is sustainable over the long term, based not on a boom-and-bust model but one of steady, long-term use.

(…) In 2003, Integral Economics conducted a study that compared the economic impact of the then-nascent bear viewing industry in B.C. with that of the industry that offers a commercial hunt and kill of grizzly bears for trophies (not food).

At this time, the bear viewing industry was extremely young. Many businesses were just getting started. The number of multi-day adventure cruises featuring bear viewing could probably have been counted on one hand. I know because I run one of them and knew everyone else. Yet, at that time, the researchers found that for ecotourism operations involving grizzly viewing, total revenues directly attributable to the presence of grizzlies were then approximately $6.1 million annually.

Guide outfitting operations with a grizzly hunt component, in comparison, generated only about $3.3 million dollars from grizzly hunting activities.

In fact, a single bear viewing business at that time generated as much revenue as all grizzly hunt companies combined!

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