Author Tags: Environment, Essentials 2010
QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:
One of the most influential Canadian books—ever—is The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast (1997), co-authored by Ian McAllister, Karen McAllister and Cameron Young, with a foreword by Robert Kennedy, Jr. It successfully sparked awareness and engendered protective legislation to conserve the northern half of B.C.’s west coast, one of the northern hemisphere’s richest unprotected wildlife habitats and home to Canada’s largest grizzly bears.
From 1991 to 1996, the McAllisters charted an ecosystem which stretches from Knight Inlet to Alaska, taking thousands of photos, keeping journals, making seven pilgrimages in seven years, building their vision to protect a 2,000-kilometre strip of bear habitat. Like modern-day Darwins in a rain-soaked Galapagos, the McAllisters succeeded, in the spring of 1996, in reaching Smokehouse Creek off Smith Inlet, the last valley on their list. The couple often used a trimaran to explore an area where approximately two thousand grizzly bears reside, where “white spirit” Kermode bears roam, where spring migration of eulachon can attract thousands of eagles, where pictographs abound and where an overzealous photographer can get bruised on the chin by a flying salmon—yes, it happened. All this was undertaken in order to present their anti-logging perspective on behalf of the Raincoast Conservation Society, an organization which they co-founded with Ian’s father and some friends in 1990.
After the British Columbia government introduced measures to protect some of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006, promising in February to allocate $30 million if the federal government matched that commitment, in February of 2007, the federal government pledged to spend $30 million to help preserve 1.2 million hectares of rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth. An additional $60 million was raised by private organizations and philanthropic groups. Time magazine heralded co-authors Ian and Karen McAllister as environmental leaders for the 21st century and credited their coffee table book as “the centrepiece for Greenpeace International’s North American forest campaign.”
As a founding member of the Raincoast Conservation Society, Ian McAllister is not satisfied with the extent to which the Great Bear Rainforest has been protected and preserved. For his follow-up natural history title, The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Great Bear Rainforest (2007), he tracked, photographed and wrote about wolves over a five-year period during which he and his wife were living mainly in the outport of Shearwater on Denny Island.
The northern half of B.C.'s west coast, between Vancouver Island and Alaska, has long been one of the northern hemisphere's richest unprotected wildlife habitats and home to Canada's largest grizzly bears. Co-authored by Ian McAllister and Karen McAllister, with a foreword by Robert Kennedy Jr., The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada's Forgotten Coast (Harbour 1997 $39.95) was produced as a pictorial exploration of the area to spark awareness and engender protective legislation.
After the British Columbia government introduced measures to protect some of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006, promising in February to allocate $30 million if the federal government matched that commitment, in February of 2007, the federal government pledged to spend $30 million to help preserve 1.2 million hectares of rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth. An additional $60 million was raised by private organizations and philanthropic groups--making The Great Bear Rainforest, now into its fourth printing, one of the most influential Canadian books ever.
Time magazine heralded Ian and Karen McAllister as "Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century" and credited the book as being "...the centerpiece for Greenpeace International's North American forest campaign." But as a founding member of the Raincoast Conservation Society, McAllister is not fully satisfied with the extent to which the Great Bear Rainforest has been protected and preserved.
For his follow-up natural history title, The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts Of The Great Bear Rainforest, Ian McAllister tracked, photographed and wrote about wolves [See review below] over a five-year period during which he and his wife Karen were mainly living in the outport of Shearwater on Denny Island. It was shortlisted for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and won the BC Booksellers Choice Award in 2008. [See Press Release below]
McAllister's latest offering, Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest (Greystone $50.00) underscores the importance of wilderness conservation. Through photos and personal narrative, McAllister maps a journey through the ecologically sensitive Great Bear Rainforest. From the headwaters of unexplored river valleys to hidden offshore depths, twenty-five years of research, exploration and campaigning to preserve the forest’s biodiversity allows McAllister to provide a glimpse into one of the wildest places left on earth. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. provides a foreword.
Raised in Victoria, Ian McAllister is the son of environmental activist Peter McAllister. He is a nature photographer, writer and conservationist who has dedicated his life to exploring the remote wilds of the BC coast. His images have appeared in numerous publications including International Wildlife, BBC Wildlife, Audubon, Sierra, and Beautiful British Columbia.
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest
The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada's Forgotten Coast (Harbour 1997 $39.95) 1-55017-166-6
The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts Of The Great Bear Rainforest (Greystone 2007) Contributors: Chris Darimont, Introduction by Paul Paquet
The Salmon Bears: Giants of the Great Bear Rainforest (Orca 2010). With Nicholas Read.
The Sea Wolves: Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest (Orca 2010). With Nicholas Read
The Great Bear Sea (Orca 2013) $19.95 978-1-4598-0019-9
Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest (Greystone 2014) $50.00 978-1-77164-045-9
Great Bear Books Bundle (Orca, 2015) $49.95 9781459809895. With Nicholas Read.
The Wild in You: Voices from the Forest and the Sea (Greystone 2015) $24.95 978-1-77164-161-6 Photography by Ian McAllister; text by Lorna Crozier
Wolf Island (Orca 2017) $19.95 978-1-459812642. Co-writer Nicholas Read
Great Bear Rainforest (Harbour $39.95)
For Ian and Karen McAllister, getting to know grizzlies was easier than compiling a coffee table book.
After charting an ecosystem which stretches from Knight Inlet to Alaska, taking thousands of photos, keeping journals, making seven pilgrimmages in seven years, building their vision to protect a 2,000-kilometre strip of bear habitat, the young Victoria couple resisted pressure to make themselves into personalities for The Great Bear Rainforest (Harbour $39.95), co-written with Cameron Young.
"People all over the world understand the importance of salmon and bears," says Ian McAllister. "We didn't want to distract their attention as characters. Our goal was to explore every single intact valley on the mainland coast."
Like modern-day Darwins in a rain-soaked Galapagos, the McAllisters succeeded in the spring of 1996, setting foot in Smokehouse Creek off Smith Inlet, the last valley on their list.
The couple used a trimaran to explore an area which they claim represents two-thirds of the planet's temperate rainforest, where approximately 2,000 grizzly bears reside, where 'white spirit' kermode bears roam, where spring migration of eulachon can attract thousands of eagles, where pictographs abound and where an overzealous photographer can get bruised on the chin by a flying salmon -- it happened -- to present their anti-logging perspective on behalf of the their Raincoast Conservation Society, which they co-founded with Ian's father and a few friends in 1990.
"With the same doggedness that drives the tobacco industry to insist smoking doesn't necessarily cause cancer, the forest industry insists clearcut logging doesn't necessarily harm salmon stocks...
"The indisputable fact is that after twenty-eight years of clearcutting, the once mighty Rivers Inlet sockeye run fell from over 3 million fish to 65 thousand, and one of the planet's great salmon fisheries had to be closed to commercial harvesting."
The McAllisters' next step -- after publishing an American edition of their book with the Sierra Club, addressing the Rockefeller Foundation and discussing production of an IMAX film -- is to prepare a 'biological blueprint' for conservation in consultation with all the 'stakeholders' along the coast. "The government's not doing it," says Ian McAllister. "They're being totally negligent."
THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST—THE BOOK THAT SAVED A FOREST
Press Release (2006)
February 7, 2006
BC Premier Gordon Campbell’s announcement today of an agreement to preserve 1.2 million hectares of coastal BC Rainforest vindicates a book that was once called “an act of treason” by BC forest union head Jack Munro. The Book, The Great Bear Rainforest, published by Harbour Publishing in 1997, catalyzed a world-wide campaign that led to today’s announcement and ranks as one of the most influential Canadian books in recent decades.
Written by Ian and Karen McAllister, two young conservationists who began documenting the central and northern coasts of British Columbia in 1991, The Great Bear Rainforest is a breathtaking portrait of a vast wilderness region with abundant salmon runs, rare spirit bears and dense concentrations of grizzly bears. It is a loving tribute to the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth.
Alarmed by the clearcut logging threatening the area, the McAllisters brought seven years’ worth of photographs and journal entries to Harbour Publishing in 1996, where staff helped them shape it into the book that has now become recognized as a classic of its kind. The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast ($39.95, Harbour Publishing), was published in 1997 to international acclaim, winning the Booksellers Choice Award in BC. Editions were published in both the United States and Germany, and Time Magazine heralded Ian and Karen McAllisters as “Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century” and credited the book as being “…the centerpiece for Greenpeace International’s North American forest campaign.” Now in its fourth printing, it remains the only in-depth book about the remarkable region at the centre of today’s announcement.
Some might say that with the signing of a Great Bear Rainforest agreement, the McAllisters’ work is done. But Chris Genovali, the executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Society, believes that the government requires further commitment to protected areas if the area’s biodiversity is to be safeguarded in the future.
A press release issued by the Raincoast Conservation Society states that while the Great Bear Rainforest announcement represents political progress, at 30 per cent or less protection it falls well short of the ecological criteria set out by the scientific advisors to the region’s land use negotiations.
The Coast Information Team, the assemblage of scientists appointed to inform land use negotiations for the central and north coast, identified 44 per cent protection as the minimum (high risk) requirement for maintaining biodiversity in this globally significant landscape. Even higher levels of protection (as much as 70 per cent) would be necessary to ensure that biodiversity values remain at a low risk in perpetuity.
“Raincoast supports the legislating of the proposed protected areas, but the province should do so with the full knowledge and recognition that lasting protection of the Great Bear Rainforest will require additional steps and commitment from all parties,” said Genovali.
-- Harbour Publishing
The Last Wild Woves (Greystone)
Publisher's Promo (2007)
An intimate portrait that documents for the first time ever a distinct population of wolves through firsthand observations, captivating photos, and rare video footage on DVD.
For seventeen years, Ian McAllister has lived on the rugged north coast of British Columbia, one of the last places on the planet where wolves live relatively undisturbed by humans. This book describes his experiences over that period following two packs of wolves, one in the extreme outer coastal islands and another farther inland in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.
The behavior of these animals—which depend on the vast old-growth forest and its gifts—is documented in words and pictures as they fish for salmon in the fall, target seals hauled out on rocks in winter, and give birth to their young in the base of thousand-year-old cedar trees in spring. Most interestingly, scientific studies reveal a genetically distinct population of wolves—one that is increasingly threatened by human incursions.
The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts Of The Great Bear Rainforest
from Andrew Findlay
Ten years ago, Ian McAllister and his wife Karen published one of the most influential Canadian books ever.
The Great Bear Rainforest (Harbour) generated legislation to protect one of the northern hemisphere’s richest unprotected wildlife habitats—the main B.C. habitat for grizzlies.
After provincial and federal governments pledged $60 million to preserve 1.2 million hectares of the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth, Time magazine heralded the young couple as “Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century.”
But as founding members of the Raincoast Conservation Society, Ian and Karen McAllister believed mainstream environmental organizations—such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Forest Ethics—had struck a compromise with industry and government that was unacceptable.
Keeping an arms-length from the negotiations, the McAllisters settled in the tiny west coast outport of Shearwater on Denny Island where they have raised their first child.
And their conservation crusade continues.
Over a five-year period, Ian McAllister has repeatedly returned to the rainforest to track wolves for his new natural history title, The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts Of The Great Bear Rainforest (Greystone $45).
In June, freelancer Andrew Findlay joined McAllister aboard his trimaran Habitat to sail up the serpentine Roscoe Inlet in search of hard-to-find wolves in the lush estuaries near the head of the fjord.
He sends this report.
Now somewhat of a loner in the B.C. conservation movement, it’s not surprising that Ian McAllister is drawn to wolves as subject matter for his new book.
Growing up in Victoria, while other kids flocked to the shopping mall, Ian McAllister boated Vancouver Island’s west coast exploring tidal pools, surge channels and inlets with his father.
“Over the years I’ve spent three, perhaps four months alone, at a time, in these inlets looking for wolves,” says McAllister, as we motor through a narrow passage near the entrance of Roscoe Inlet which the Heiltsuk people call the Gateway. “It’s been at times very frustrating but also very rewarding.”
Anyone who has tried to track and photograph wolves soon realizes they would have almost as much success capturing a shooting star or a bolt of lightning. But McAllister has maintained a soft spot for these animals, recording the elusive carnivores on film with a Zen-like commitment. It’s the same sort of tenacity that enabled him to fight so effectively for the preservation of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Wolves occupy a curious, and one might say unenviable, position in the animal kingdom, at least as far as humans perceive them. Hunters malign them for killing “their” game. Ranchers ostracize them for preying on livestock. And popular literature often casts them in an unfairly sinister light.
For McAllister, wolves are anything but cold, bloodthirsty creatures. They are intelligent and fascinating animals, highly attuned to their environment and able to use cunning, skill and strength to hunt and kill prey. To gather material for the book, McAllister spent weeks and months following wolf packs, allowing time for the canines to become accustomed to his scent and presence. He has enough anecdotes from his trips to fill a stack of notebooks.
“There’s incredible variability in wolves on the coast. In a span of just 20 nautical miles you can go from wolves that prey on deer and bear to wolves that have a totally marine-based diet,” McAllister says.
Sometimes you needn’t see wolves to sense their presence. During springtime in the rich tidal estuaries of the central coast, unlike bears that meander in seemingly chaotic patterns in search of chocolate lilies and cow parsnip, wolves leave purposeful straight paths through the lush sedges as they move stealthily between the timber and tide lines. Such ecological subtleties are revealed only to the patient observer.
McAllister describes seeing a black-tailed deer grazing contentedly within 50 yards of a wolf pack that lay concealed in the tall grass. Though the wolves had gone days without a fresh kill, they neither lifted their muzzles nor made any suggestion of a chase. Evidently the predators calculated the cost of giving pursuit and decided that there would be other, more rewarding opportuni-
McAllister has also observed a symbiotic relationship between wolves and ravens. Just as the noisy squawking of ravens alerts wolves to the presence of carrion, ravens often descend to pick over the remains of a carcass left behind by wolves.
After three days in Roscoe Inlet, we had almost given up hope of finding wolves. The estuaries we explored were full of signs—fresh scat, a palm-sized print in the mud, and coarse hair on a salmonberry bush next to a forest game trail. Then as we motored back down the inlet, McAllister spotted a lone black wolf with white paws standing on a shoreline granite bluff, casually watching our passage.
As quickly as it appeared, the wolf vanished like a ghost into the rainforest. And Ian McAllister vanished from the wolf’s sight—a brief meeting of the minds.
--review by Andrew Findlay
BC Booksellers Choice Award in Honour of Bill Duthie
Press Release (2008)
Vancouver, BC - April 28, 2008
For seventeen years, Ian McAllister has lived with his family on the rugged north coast of British Columbia, one of the last places on the planet where wolves live relatively undisturbed by humans. He's spent countless hours documenting their behaviour and studying them non-invasively. He also co-founded the Raincoast Conservation Society to help preserve their natural habitat. On Saturday night, the booksellers of BC honoured his tireless efforts by awarding his book, The Last Wild Wolves, the BC Booksellers' Choice Award in Honour of Bill Duthie.
McAllister inherited his environmental ethic from his father, a shipping industry executive turned conservationist who led battles to protect the forests on Vancouver Island. In 1988, while accompanying his father at a protest in the Clayoquot Sound, the elder Mr. McAllister volunteered his then 19-year-old son to sit in a hanging wicker basket on a hillside to prevent the logging companies from penetrating a disputed wilderness area. "I sat in the basket reading Margaret Atwood novels and slapping mosquitoes," McAllister remembers. "It introduced me to front line activism."
The BC Booksellers' Choice Award is chosen by the members of the BC Booksellers Association and carries a cash prize of $2000. It recognizes the author and originating publisher of the best book in terms of public appeal, initiative, design, production and content, and is awarded in the memory of the highly-respected bookseller Bill Duthie. The Last Wild Wolves has also been nominated for the Canadian Booksellers Association's CBA Libris Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award.
Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest (Greystone $50)
from Keven Drews
Iin 1990, Ian McAllister joined his
father, Peter McAllister, a past president of the Sierra Club of Western Canada, and other environmentalists, journalists and photographers for a one-week reconnaissance voyage to the remote Koeye River.
Ian McAllister and his future wife, Karen Schulz, grew more interested in the area when they later saw an inventory map of habitat, compiled by Keith Moore, under contract with Earthlife Canada and Ecotrust.
To share their vision of protecting a 2,000-kilometre strip of coastal bear habitat from Knight Inlet to Alaska, the McAllisters and a few friends formed the Raincoast Conservation Society in 1990.
A boat was needed to properly explore the area, so when Ian and Karen heard about a used trimaran sailboat for sale in Ontario, they bought the 36-foot Companion over the phone, with money from their treeplanting jobs. Neither had sailed alone before.
The McAllisters made seven pilgrimages in seven years, verifying Moore’s inventory map and collecting stories and photos for a book that would engender the safeguarding of the bear habitat. Ian and Karen McAllister eventually chose the name Great Bear Rainforest for the region along with environmental activist Tzeporah Berman in San Francisco in 1996.
With a foreword by Robert Kennedy Jr., the McAllisters’ coffee table book, The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast (Harbour, 1997), co-written with Cameron Young, quickly became one of the most influential books in Canadian history. Time Magazine heralded Ian and Karen McAllister as “Environmental Leaders for the 21st Century.”
While touring Europe in March of 1998, Ian McAllister persuaded some pulp and paper companies to curtail purchases from B.C.-based operations accused of poor logging methods, to the consternation of the Forest Alliance of B.C. spokesman Patrick Moore.
The following month Greenpeace staged anti-logging protests in Antwerp and 23 German cities. In Antwerp, 30 Belgian activists painted a 100-metre slogan on the hull of Saga Wind, a freighter carrying B.C. lumber. It read, “Don’t buy rainforest destruction. Stop Doman and Interfor.”
The B.C. government eventually introduced measures to protect some of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006, promising to allocate $30 million if the federal government matched that commitment. In 2007, the federal government pledged to spend $30 million to help preserve 1.2 million hectares of rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth. An additional $60 million was raised by private organizations and philanthropic groups.
AND HOW IT IS NOW...
the great bear rainforest on b.c.’s
central and northern coastline now covers an area three times the size of Prince Edward Island. The central figure in two new books that focus on the Great Bear Rainforest is photographer-writer-activist Ian McAllister of Bella Bella, who has written Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest (Greystone $50). UBC doctoral student Justin Page has written Tracking The Great Bear: How Environmentalists Recreated British Columbia’s Coastal Rainforest (UBC $95).
In Tracking The Great Bear, Justin Page, an environmental social scientist for an environmental consulting company based in Vancouver called ERM Rescan, identifies Ian McAllister as the main member of an “actor network” that generated the 2006 conservation agreement. Page shows that conservation agreement was no small feat because the stretch of coast was “materially and politically aligned with the interests of the forest industry, and its uninspiring name was simply the ‘Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area.’”
Page traces how environmentalists negotiated the agreement through a “linked series of processes.” That simply means they mapped the area, giving it boundaries and a physical description and shape; they published stories and photos of it; they shifted the focus and interest of fellow environmentalists to the area, capturing the world’s attention; and they managed to woo forest companies and First Nations to support their cause. McAllister’s work as a photographer in the field was fundamental. For instance, one of his photos was later used in an environmental advertising campaign in The New York Times.
Now Ian McAllister has released Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest. Departing from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, he stops just to the north in the Triangle Islands and then visits First Nations communities like Hartley Bay, also stopping off at old canneries and trekking through the rainforest. His photos and narrative capture the rhythms of terrestrial and marine life. Images of bears, wolves, herring, anemones, sea stars and kelp, humpback whales, orcas and rainforests fill the pages. So fantastic are the photos, so vivid are their colours, they tend to distract the reader from the written word.
Many people already take the existence of the Great Bear Rainforest for granted, as if the area is sacrosanct, but parts of the Great Bear Rainforest are now being considered for the future home of liquefied natural gas plants and the proposed terminus of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Tankers could soon ply those same waters, carrying petroleum products from Alberta’s oil sands to a port in the coastal community of Kitimat. The Great Bear Rainforest is also threatened—despite the 2006 agreement—by fish farms, industrial logging, seismic testing, unsustainable fisheries, and hunting.
McAllister adds towards the end: “...most of these multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel transport schemes, including refineries and liquefaction plant proposals, are so ill-conceived and economically, culturally and environmentally flawed that they should be discounted outright.”
That declarative ending seems to enforce one of Page’s central arguments: McAllister is not just targeting a general audience; his writing and photography is specifically crafted to appeal to people who may be convinced to back an environmental campaign. Saving bears, saving wolves, saving salmon. Saving ourselves.
Keven Drews is a full-time journalist concurrently pursuing a Master’s degree in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.