Forests at Work - West Wind Hardwood

Forestry isn’t just important for our economy: it helps us enjoy our beautiful outdoors.  The recreation and backcountry road access made possible by forestry is important to both tourism and local communities – especially during our COVID travel bans.

BC has vast conservation areas and the most protected parks in the country (approximately 12% of BC’s total land area), second only to Canada’s national parks system. Many other larger portions are set aside for urban areas and cultural interests, wildlife, big trees, and habitat protections (included within the working forest).  Reconciliation, ecological conservation, and future increases as forests age over time all would suggest that BC will never “lose” its old forests.

Like the many other benefits of a working forest, cultural qualities like non-consumptive recreation — bird watching, hiking, biking, nature photography and more — help promote balance in nature.  Every day, millions of people take advantage of opportunities for outdoor recreation on both public and private land.  Designated protected areas of public land allow access for recreation, helping to improve human welfare while conserving natural resources.

Studies show that direct experience with nature is vital to emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Interacting with nature decreases stress, clears the mind, and offers the added benefit of physical exercise. People who have access to nature experience lower mortality rates and outdoor play promotes physical and mental health in children.

Participating in outdoor recreation also increases awareness of environmental issues and the likelihood that property owners will develop pro-environmental attitudes supporting environmental conservation and the long-term benefits of managed sustainable forests.

Forest recreation is important in BC, both as a valued part of residents’  lifestyles and for the economic benefits derived from tourism. Although there are many provincial and national parks where recreation opportunities abound, almost 80 percent of BC is public forest land outside of these parks. Forest recreation on public land outside of parks is very popular.  Statistics for use of BC’s Forest recreation resources outside of parks are rare. Statistics available for national and provincial parks in BC show that visits between 2015 and 2019 total nearly 30 million annually and are increasing by about 5 percent annually. The trend on BC public forest lands is likely similar.

The COVID-19 pandemic put additional pressure on recreation resources and is perhaps an indicator of future trends as people pursue recreation in low-density settings. The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC *** reported “last year, a record number of people went outside.” For example, “we saw between 40% and 140% increase in trail usage” in the Sea to Sky corridor: the strip of land between Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) and Whistler/Pemberton Valley.  

***The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC works to encourage British Columbians to get outdoors and to improve opportunities and conditions for outdoor recreation and nature experiences while speaking up for the wild places we love.

British Columbia is renowned for its outdoor recreation opportunities. Its unparalleled scenic landscapes, vast tracts of wilderness, rugged mountains and extensive freshwater and marine waterways are known worldwide.  British Columbia is richly endowed in a wide variety of flora and fauna and is envied for its sport-fishing, wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities. There is more variety of climate and landform in British Columbia than in any other Canadian province. These landscapes nurture such diverse activities including backcountry skiing in BC’s Selkirk Mountains, mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains, snowmobiling near Valemount, fly fishing on a Vancouver Island, visiting a marine park in the Gulf Islands, riding an ATV on a Northern Vancouver Island back-country road or simply savouring a pleasant forest walk.  In short, British Columbia contains world-class recreation resources.

To our wonderful landscape is added the unique cultural and heritage values of its native peoples. Canada’s Indigenous Peoples have a special connection to the land through their culture and historical use. Plants, for example, play an important role in indigenous Peoples’ practice of their culture and contribute to their daily livelihood.

Conflict in forest recreation happens when one recreational resource user perceives another user reducing the quality of their expected recreation experience. The rapidly increasing use of finite recreation resources is leading to increases in conflicts. A conflict can happen within a single user group such as when too many people hike into a backcountry lake expecting solitude. Conflicts also occur between user groups. The most common conflicts reported were between motorized and nonmotorized users and between commercial and non-commercial users.

Back in 2004, Michael Rosenzweig, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona spoke on Reconciliation Ecology: Having Our Land and Sharing It Too. Reconciliation ecology refers to designing new habitats for other species amid where people live and work. 

“Rosenzweig pointed out that although human encroachment has traditionally been considered the chief threat to biodiversity, the notion that the world must be either “holy” or “profane,” either pristine wilderness or vandalized trashscape, is not true.

Further, he argued that this holy/profane assumption drives a wedge between people and nature. “I contend that if you separate people from nature,” he said, “they will forget about nature and become afraid of it.”

To speciate properly, an ecosystem must, first of all, have some area— “there’s no such thing as a miniature tropical rainforest”— but if the world’s allotment of pristine land is going to continue shrinking, what can be done?

Our only chance to foster biodiversity, Rosenzweig argued, is to make our backyards, and even the areas around sewer systems and nuclear power plants, more hospitable to other species.”

Food for thought!

All photos by Jan and/or Shelley Nielsen – Not to be used without Permission

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