Philanthropist Michael Audain announced on Thursday Sept. 8 a new non-profit Grizzly Bear Foundation for B.C. that will play a critical role toward the survival of a species that is not protected by the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Dr. Faisal Moola, director general for Ontario and Northern Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation, said Audain's effort is a strategic opportunity to leverage conservation for a species that is "in real trouble."
"Right now, grizzly bears have lost about half their historical range in North America. In B.C. we've lost 18 per cent of their historical habitat," Moola said. "There's a very high likelihood in the next couple of years that we will possibly lose some of those populations altogether."
Audain, who is the chair of Whistler's Audain Art Museum, and the chair of Polygon Homes Ltd., said: "This is the only charity in the country set up to focus on grizzlies. The purpose is to promote the welfare, education, research and conservation activities." A board of inquiry is set to tour the province to conduct public meetings beginning this month. There is no meeting scheduled for the Sea to Sky corridor, but there is an Oct. 18 meeting in Vancouver.
Moola said he was repeatedly consulted over the last few years before the creation of the foundation. "I think the message I gave (Audain) was this is a very auspicious time for grizzly bear conservation that needs leadership, and the conservation that the foundation is going to invest is critically needed right now.
"Here's an example of an animal that is in dire need of assistance," said Moola. "It's neither provincially protected nor federally protected and there's been a real dearth of leadership when it comes to ensuring that the species is adequately managed."
Audain sits on a three-member board along with Stuart Mclaughlin, chair of the BC Pavilion Corporation, and Suzanne Veit, a retired B.C. government deputy minister. The foundation board of directors includes Dr. Ken Macquisten, a wildlife veterinarian; John McKercher, a retired corporate lawyer; Bruce McLellan, who studied grizzlies for the B.C. government for 35; and Douglas Neasloss, chief councillor for the Kitasoo/Xai'xais.
Moola said that polling by the David Suzuki Foundation reveals that 91 per cent of British Columbians would like to see an end to grizzly trophy hunting. "The B.C. government seems deaf to the overwhelming public consensus that this practice is completely at odds with the morals and values of British Columbians."
Audain wasn't certain of the role the foundation will play in any advocacy work to cease trophy hunting.
"You'll have to wait and see," he said. "We'll consult with the people of B.C. to find out."
Audain has made a $500,000 donation to create the foundation, which will solicit funds from the public for future costs. He said in early 2017 he hopes to issue the final report on the results of the public meetings.
Full details can be found online at www.grizzlybearfoundation.com.