Conservation Wins and Travel Awes

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By Breanna Giovanniello (WWF Online Marketing Senior Specialist) and Katy Lai (WWF Director, Private Finance Sector Strategy and Engagement)

Our journey started in Homer, Alaska, also called the “Halibut Capital of the World”. Homer is a small, however vibrant fishing city perched on Kachemak Bay, close to the underside of the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is surrounded by a big space of protected state land the place the local people and its vital wildlife inhabitants of over 100 chook species and a big native moose inhabitants coexist.  

They say that the climate in Alaska is predictably unpredictable, which we discovered to be very a lot true. On the day we had been scheduled to fly in a bush airplane over to Bear Camp, we had been greeted with an unlucky quantity of fog and no method to land on the seashore over by camp. We had been wanting to spend as a lot time as we might with the bears, nonetheless, our delay allowed us to expertise the wildlife and nature round Homer.

Small plane with people at Bear Camp, Alaska

© Breanna Giovanniello / WWF

We noticed sea otters from our resort balcony, bald eagles nesting with their chicks on a pole exterior our resort foyer, and sandhill cranes on a short drive into city. On a small hike, we noticed wildflowers, salt marshes, and glaciers simply throughout Kachemak Bay, and heard tales concerning the wild neighbors that frequent these areas—moose and black bears. An abundance of nature earlier than even setting foot at Bear Camp. 

When we lastly obtained the go-ahead to fly, we had been elated. The range and grandeur of the panorama was one thing that might solely be actually appreciated from an aerial view; snow-covered volcanoes, huge glaciers, rivers operating by way of meadows, lush forests, and extra. A surreal 45 minutes later, we touched down on a pristine seashore proper in entrance of Nat Hab’s Alaska Bear Camp. After a fast tour and an opportunity to drop our luggage off in our tents, we set off for our first bear-viewing expedition.  

Two WWF staff members standing in front of the Nat Hab Bear Camp sign in Alaska

© Katy Lai / WWF

Bear Camp sits on non-public land, the location of a historic homestead on the ancestral land of the Dena’ina Athabascan individuals, surrounded by Lake Clark National Park, one of many world’s most famous bear-viewing locations. Johnny, certainly one of our expedition leaders, toured us across the authentic homestead on the property the place we discovered extra concerning the intrepid homesteader, Wayne Byers, in addition to how homesteading got here to be an vital a part of Alaskan historical past.  

The Bear Camp Expedition Leaders are skilled naturalists and bear consultants. Johnny and Mike taught us a lot about bear habits and coached us in correct etiquette for respectful viewing, together with tips on how to navigate shut (and thrilling) bear encounters. It was extraordinary to be company within the properties of those magnificent creatures and observe their each day lives with out being perceived as a risk (or prey).

The abundance of meals on this space permits brown bears to collect in excessive densities with out battle. We noticed bears digging for razor clams, grazing in sedge meadows, fishing for salmon, and nursing their cubs. We had been additionally capable of witness the playful nature of moms and their cubs wrestling on tidal flats, operating by way of the woods, swimming within the rivers, and snoozing within the solar—a really outstanding expertise.   

Bear carrying salmon in Lake Clark National Park Alaska

© Katy Lai / WWF

When bear-viewing, we’re reminded that our presence shouldn’t affect the bear’s habits and that the animals ought to all the time have the ability to pursue their actions undisturbed. How does that translate to growth in southwest Alaska? 

Nat Hab’s Bear Camp sits solely 70 miles away from the Pebble Mine undertaking, a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. For greater than a decade, the Pebble Mine undertaking has threatened the wealthy wildlife, fish-fueled financial system, and bustling native communities of this southwest area of Alaska.  

Last 12 months, the Pedro Bay Corporation, which incorporates over 200 shareholders of Aleut, Yupik, and Athabascan descent, protected their land by permitting the environmental nonprofit The Conservation Fund to buy growth rights on greater than 44,000 acres of land as conservation easements that can prohibit the event of the land in perpetuity. In early 2023, the EPA took one other main step towards defending this space by banning the disposal of mine waste in a part of the Bristol Bay watershed.  

Sticker seen on a boat in Alaska with a red slash through Pebble Mine

© Brian Adams / WWF-US

As we rejoice this momentous conservation win, WWF is continuous to work with the communities in Bristol Bay to make sure the financial and environmental sustainability of the area. Much like bear-viewing, WWF’s mission is for individuals to dwell in concord with wildlife and nature striving to ensure that human presence doesn’t negatively affect the habits of those bears, sea otters, eagles, moose, caribou, and lots of extra unimaginable species. 

Sunset over Bear Camp, Alaska

© Katy Lai / WWF

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