April 1, 2016. Originally published in the Financial Post by Elisa Birnbaum.
It’s been said that if you want to get within 20 feet of a grizzly bear, Doug Neasloss is your man.A founding member of ecotourism and wildlife viewing operation Spirit Bear Lodge in the coastal community of Klemtu, B.C., Neasloss affirms the rumour is true, tracing it back to when he also acted as guide for the venture. Today, the “bear whisperer” juggles various hats including chief of Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation and stewardship director, while still overseeing capacity building and training at the Lodge.
The community-owned enterprise, launched in 2000 to provide local employment opportunities and economic sustainability, helped put Klemtu on the map, attracting tourists worldwide to one of the most remote parts of Canada to view bears (Grizzlies, Black bears and the rarest of them all — Spirit Bears) in their natural habitat. The venture didn’t initially find unanimous approval, Neasloss said, adding some people were concerned that tourists would deplete the limited resources of the 350-person community and others were convinced no one would schlep to an isolated island in the middle of nowhere.
Turns out they would. Hailed by National Geographic as a must-see-and-stay-at destination, today Spirit Bear Lodge employs 45 and stands as the second largest industry in the region, recently surpassing six figures in revenue.
Keep reading here.