The race to rescue Haida Gwaii’s stads k’un from extinction

With just 50 or so remaining, these forest-dwelling hawks are one of the most endangered species on the planet. Our northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons went to Haida Gwaii to learn about efforts to save them

They’re one of the most endangered species on the planet — and time is running out to save them.

I’m talking about stads k’un, a genetically unique subspecies of the northern goshawk living on the islands off B.C.’s north coast. How rare are these forest-dwelling hawks? Well, there are only about 50 left. 

You might think those dwindling numbers would afford stads k’un robust protections under endangered species legislation. But you’d be wrong.

With the clock ticking, The Narwhal’s northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons headed to Haida Gwaii to speak with the people trying to save the island’s national bird from from industrial logging.

Matt’s piece, accompanied by stunning photos from Talon Gillis, follows the efforts of Haida community members Jonas Prevost, Xuuya k’aadjuu giis Teresa Russ and others to find nests before more habitat, and birds, are lost. Go here to read the story, then read on below for a little taste of what Matt couldn’t fit into the sprawling tale.

Take care and build a safe nest,

Arik Ligeti
Audience engagement editor

Photo: Talon Gillis / The Narwhal

What was it like spending time out in the field with Jonas and Teresa?

It really struck me just how comfortable both of them were in the bush. They talked quite a bit about how much they love their jobs and how great it is to get to spend every day out on the landscape. I was a bit worried about keeping up as it’d been quite a while since I was out in coastal old-growth — and I didn’t have caulk boots — but I did alright and I guarantee they were going slower than if I wasn’t there. So much laughter, too. We were all laughing at this or that the whole time.

Photo: Talon Gillis / The Narwhal

Was there something you learned that didn’t make it into the piece?

In the truck, Jonas brought up something I found really interesting, which was that the sharing of knowledge includes youth communicating what they’re learning to Elders, not just the other way around. One of the many things he’s been working on is trying to restore habitat that has been devastated by beavers, which are an introduced species on the islands. He talked about working with some Elders to learn more about what the landscape should look like. And because the knowledge of stads k’un was mostly lost, the younger generation is now sharing what they’re learning with the Elders. It’s really inspiring.

Tell me a little bit more about the impacts of introduced species.

While I already knew this to some extent, I was still surprised to hear them describe the vast scale of the impacts that introduced species have had on the forest. The idea that the “postcard picture” of Haida Gwaii, which has been featured in magazines like National Geographic, is fake, a shadow of what the natural ecosystem should look like — that’s crazy.

This week in The Narwhal

Why tensions are escalating on Wet’suwet’en territory over the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Gidimt'en, Wet'suwet'en, blockade, Coastal Gaslink

By Matt Simmons

After TC Energy cleared an archaeological site, armed with permits issued by the province, Gidimt’en clan members and supporters set up a blockade to prevent the company from drilling under a river that’s part of an important salmon watershed. Read more.

On B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, some of Canada’s oldest living trees escape the chopping block

By Judith Lavoie

The treasured high-elevation Dakota Bowl has been slated for auction with BC Timber Sales every year for the last five years. Determined to protect the old-growth forest, home to culturally modified trees, hanging lakes and ancient cedar bear dens, a local conservation group brought new tactics and independent science to the table. Read more.

Fairy Creek, the climate crisis and the lawyer battling to redefine public interest

Chris Tollefson, environmental law, Fairy Creek

By Arno Kopecky

Lawyer Chris Tollefson says civil disobedience is a ‘symptom of democratic failure’ and in long-fought environmental battles ‘victory comes in a lot of different forms.Read more.

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