Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative

Protecting and restoring grizzly bears and their habitat in southern British Columbia

The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative is a collaborative effort to stem the ongoing loss of grizzly bear range and promote grizzly bear recovery in the transboundary ecosystems of southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state.

May 2021: Read our latest update on this international collaborative effort!

Southwest B.C.’s threatened grizzly populations are in dire straits due to habitat fragmentation from roads, logging and other development, increasing human conflict, small numbers and genetic isolation.

Fewer than 100 grizzly bears remain in four semi-isolated populations scattered across this sprawling area, including approximately:

The grizzly bear populations of southern British Columbia are also endangered, making natural recovery in the North Cascades infeasible. Map: Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative
  • 59 bears in the Squamish-Lillooet population northwest of the Sea-to-Sky Highway (99) and the towns of Lillooet, Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish.
  • 24 bears in the Stein-Nahatlatch population southeast of Pemberton, northeast of Harrison Lake and west of the Fraser River.
  • 2 bears in the Garibaldi-Pitt population east of the Squamish River, north of the city of Vancouver and west of Harrison Lake.
  • 6 bears in the transboundary North Cascades population south and east of the Fraser River, extending into Washington state and North Cascades National Park and adjacent wilderness areas.

Another 200+ bears live in the South Chilcotin ranges at the north end of the program area, north of Anderson Lake and Lillooet. The Chilcotin population provides a bridge between healthy grizzly bear populations in northern BC, and those struggling in the southwest part of the province. The British Columbia government classifies all five grizzly populations as threatened.

Initiative members

The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative is led by Joe Scott, our International Conservation Director.

Partners include Conservation Northwest, the St’at’imc Chiefs Council, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (BC Chapter), Sierra Club BC, BC Nature, Pemberton Wildlife Association, BC Spaces for Nature, AWARE, Whistler Naturalists and Lillooet Naturalist Society.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance, Squamish Nation and many local governments and municipalities in British Columbia have also passed resolutions supporting grizzly bear recovery. Scroll down for PDFs of these resolutions as well as letters from other local communities.

Resources and links

VIDEO: the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative (2015)

Working to restore a Northwest icon

The grizzly bears of southwest BC and northwest Washington are victims of habitat fragmentation, increasing human conflict and illegal hunting, small numbers and genetic isolation. Losing these grizzlies would represent serious further erosion of grizzly bear range in western North America.

We can only restore at-risk grizzly bears to self-sustaining numbers by working cooperatively to address the root causes of regional grizzly bear declines. To that end we are partnering with communities, First Nations, industry and civic groups to prevent human-related grizzly bear deaths and to link critical grizzly habitats and populations.

A grizzly bear takes a dip in Chilko Lake, British Columbia, while searching for sockeye salmon. Photo: Jeremy Williams
The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative seeks to protect and recover threatened grizzly bears and safeguard their habitat in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state through science-based planning and community involvement.

Why Coast to Cascades?

Grizzly bears are in dire straits in the Coast to Cascades region, particularly in the south. These bears are barometers of the health of our wildlands because they need a wide variety of secure, productive and interconnected habitats to find adequate nutrition, raise young and find mates.

Where grizzly bears thrive, it’s very likely most other native wildlife species are also thriving and natural values like clean water and wild places are protected. Grizzly bear conservation is shorthand for protecting ecological integrity and building landscape-scale resilience to climate change.

Cultural and ecological integrity go hand-in-hand. The grizzly bear is a “cultural umbrella species” for local First Nations people. People and grizzly bears have depended on the same foods for generations. First Nations have forged a tight bond with the bear and see its protection as fundamental to their cultural survival.

As well, the grizzly bear is an icon that holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians. Communities in the Sea to Sky corridor, for example, have enshrined grizzly bear recovery and habitat protections in their consensus-based Land and Resource Management Plans.

Our goal: Recover grizzly bears

Our goal is to restore grizzly bears regionally to self-sustaining numbers in areas where they are declining and adequate habitat still exists. To do so it will be necessary to maintain and restore connectivity between at-risk grizzly bear populations. These populations have been separated by decades of persecution and human impacts on their habitat.

Coast to Cascades grizzly bears are threatened because their core habitats and links between those essential habitats are not secure enough to keep them safe and allow them to move as needed. Landscape connectivity is fundamental to the Coast to Cascades vision, and for maintaining grizzly bears in southwest BC, across the province and into northwest Washington state.

How to save Coast to Cascades bears?

Partnerships and strategies that prevent human-bear conflict and reduce the chances for people to kill grizzly bears are paramount. And with thousands of kilometers of backcountry roads in grizzly habitat, motorized-access management is a priority. Equally important are outreach strategies that eliminate bear attractants in communities and enshrine best practices for bear-friendly grazing, forestry and energy industries.

Coast to Cascades and Conservation Northwest staff are reaching out to First Nations, area communities, tourism-related businesses, local government and relevant industry sectors including forestry, ranching and agriculture to form partnerships and seek support for grizzly bear management that leads to grizzly bear recovery.

Years of scientific research in southwest BC have contributed information about regional grizzly bear demographics and genetics, critical habitats, causes of declines and opportunities for recovery. The precarious situation of the bears in southwest BC warrants continued monitoring of bears and the condition of their habitat. Restoring grizzly bear numbers in the Coast to Cascades region will require immediate and long-term actions with cooperation from communities, industry and governments.

Resolutions supporting Coast to Cascades grizzly bears

A grizzly mother and cubs in north-central British Columbia. Photo: Jeremy Williams for the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative