Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sustainable Forest Trail Guide: Introduction

Many forest dependent communities throughout BC will seek ways to augment and diversify their timber economies. One major area of opportunity is the non consumptive, nature based forest economy. Forest trails are perhaps the most important development requirement for opening up the local landscape for recreational activities.

Forest trails can go through timber producing forests, forested parts of timber producing landscapes that will not be harvested, alpine and mountain areas, and Parks or protected areas. The area of public forest land that is available for timber harvesting in BC is approximately 22 million hectares. The area of public land available for nature based activities, accessible by potential trails, is three or four times that area. Much of the area is endowed with interesting topography, ecological diversity and will remain in natural condition. BC could host a nature based economy several times that of Switzerland.

Forest trails provide access to nature. They are the necessary infrastructure for a nature based economy. Locals throughout BC will often refer to a forest trail in the local landscape or Park as a goat trail. Often these trails are more suited to a four legged goat with hoofs, than a bipedal human with shoes. Trails of this type do not attract tourists to stay for a few days in a community. If a trail makes for difficult walking, the chances are that it is also an erosion and environmental hazard. Any route between point A and point B does not make a suitable trail.

A sustainable forest trail will traverse points of interest in the landscape along its route. It avoids impact on environmentally sensitive sites. After thorough reconnaissance, it is located on features of the land to cause the least physical disturbance. Gradients are controlled to ensure ease of walking and minimum erosion. Construction will ensure a safe walking surface or tread. A sustainable trail should give service for the long term with a minimum of maintenance.

The guide will be available under the Label "Trail Guide" in the right bar of this blog. Sections or chapters in the guide will follow progress of a sustainable trail project in a local landscape. It will start with an assessment of existing trails in a landscape and move on to location to new trail sections or routes, construction and maintenance. Since government funding of forest trails is likely to remain "Priority Z" in BC the guide will also give some advice about generating local volunteer social capital for a trail project.

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