Friday, May 14, 2010

Wilderness and Recreation in Managed Forest Landscapes

In the last post we looked at the considerable area of forest in BC that has been designated as protected areas such as Parks and Ecological reserves. It encouraged individuals and community groups to volunteer to maintain local Parks.

Some communities do not have Provincial Parks at their doorstep. There is an area of wilderness and forest likely to remain in pristine natural condition that is much larger than our designated parks. These natural areas are found within managed forest landscapes. Much of BC has mountain terrain and on average more than half of a managed forest landscape consists of inaccessible forest, water, alpine areas, rock and ice.

These areas within managed forest landscapes will never be harvested or subject to forest operations. Forest road access within a landscape can put you within easy reach of a waterfall, mountain peak or other special landscape feature. Some forest landscapes have many of these special places. Landscape architects call these "genius loci" or spirit of place. Landforms, geology, water, vegetation and view come together to produce something that is unique.

Special places within the forest are part of the natural capital of the forest and are amenities to be enjoyed. Protecting and sustaining these amenities is part of sustainable forest management as defined by the Montreal Process. Hiking trails provide access and enjoyment of the amenity. A community with a selection of natural features and hikes of differing intensity can attract tourists and some direct employment in tour guiding.

Switzerland started developing hiking trails and other infrastructure to attract tourists to its mountain landscapes over 150 years ago. BC has landscapes, features and natural diversity much exceeding Switzerland, yet we have done little to develop our potential. Some of our poorly executed resource extraction has reduced the potential of some landscapes.

Communities, community groups and individuals that want to see trail access developed to features within local landscapes should adopt a can-do attitude and organise volunteers to develop trails. You need to plan the trails and get permission from the Ministry of Forests and follow good practices in trail location and construction. We will cover what you need to do in the next blogs.

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