Despite the various planning processes, the controversy between forest harvesting and maintaining wilderness characteristics remains a major provincial and regional issue. The impact of timber harvesting on wilderness characteristics on which tourism depends has been severe in some locations around the province.
The mountain pine beetle epidemic is another significant concern for the B.C. tourism industry. Access to the interior regions of the province to harvest MPB damaged forests now and in the future continues to require careful, often site-specific management to minimize conflict with competing land and water use interests, this would include both during and after forest harvesting activity. Measures should be taken to ensure that areas particularly valuable to the tourism industry are managed in light of extensive pine beetle salvage logging. In addition, alternative harvesting methods and incentives should be utilized to the extent practicable to focus harvesting on beetle-impacted trees.
Tourism property owners and tenure holders should have available to them requirements and support that promote fair and effective consultation and cooperation with forest licensees operating within or adjacent to their areas of operation. Tourism operators should be automatically notified when harvesting plans are being prepared, and forest licensees should be responsible for considering the interests of tourism operators when developing harvesting plans. This should include such considerations as access road development & deactivation, harvesting timelines, as well as how licensees will manage such tourism attributes as trails, viewscapes, and other site-specific amenities supporting tourism.
In high-value tourism areas, timber harvesting must be done in a manner that is sensitive to the need to provide an enjoyable experience to tourism clientele with very different backgrounds and interests. In some high-value tourism areas, the potential impact of resource use on the tourism experience or the associated impact on a wilderness lodge site may mean no resource activity or it may mean extraction only under very specific conditions.
WTABC and the Forest & Range Practices Advisory Council
Since 2013 the WTABC has been a member of the Minister’s Forest and Range Practices Advisory Council (PAC) representing the tourism and recreation sector. During 2014-2015 PAC initiated a review of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The purpose of the review was to determine if FRPA is effectively promoting sound forest and range practices. PAC’s method was to assess the achievement of the Government’s ten original goals for FRPA after ten years of implementation of the Act and supporting framework. PAC developed a series of recommendations for improving the Act which was submitted to Minister Thompson in the fall of 2015 and will soon be available to the public.
The main areas of recommendation include:
Forest Practices Board Report: Forest Stewardship Practices
In mid-August 2015 the Forest Practices Board (FPB) released an anticipated report on FSPs entitled Forest Stewardship Plans: Are They Meeting Expectations? FSPs are the primary plans governing forest activities on public land and the only operational plan that must be made available for public review and approved by the government. The investigation looked at a sample of 43 forest stewardship plans from all regions of the province, prepared by a variety of tenure holders, from major corporations to small communities and concluded that most of these plans do not meet the public’s needs, are not enforceable by government and provide little in the way of innovative forest management.
The FPB is recommending that the government not renew or approve any forest stewardship plans that don’t meet the standards set out in the Forest and Range Practices Act and that the public consultation process be improved. A copy of the report can be found here.
Less recently, the Forest Practices Board released a report entitled A Decade in Review: Observations on Regulation of Forest and Range Practices in BC in May 2014. The report provides observations and ratings for the components of the legislative framework concluding that:
The report also includes advice on what needs to be done to achieve the intent of the legislation and ensure B.C. has sound forest and range practices that warrant public confidence. You can find a copy of the report here.
In 2012 the Liberal government released a report titled “Beyond the Beetle: A mid-term timber supply action plan”. This report was a response to recommendations from the Special Legislative Committee on Timber Supply that held hearings throughout the province to investigate and address the loss of mid-term timber supply in the interior due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic. You can find the government’s report here.
The WTABC is also responding to specific member issues as they arise, for example, the intense logging on ranch tenures in the Cariboo region and proposed logging impacts in the Discovery Islands area.
Forestry & Visual Quality Objectives
Visual resources and scenic values are an essential component of a high-quality tourism experience. They are key to both present and future tourism use opportunities. The tourism industry must do everything in its power to uphold the existing Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs) by working with stakeholders. We have also met with senior government officials and elected representatives to discuss the issue.
The WTABC is reviewing and monitoring the VQOs on the North and Central Coast of BC. As coastal operators may recall, a new Visual Management System (VMS) was agreed upon for the coast in the Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) processes. However the VMS was never included in the final Land Use Plan and Government Order enacting the plan, so it was never implemented. Visual management defaulted to the existing VQO system and some changes were made to these VQOs to reflect throughout the province. The WTABC has been working hard to address this issue including researching impacts, identify existing VQOs and correlating these with key tourism scenic areas and viewscapes, reviewing forestry simulations for landscape alteration, attending meetings and wart, the recommendations of the VMS in the LRMP. There were however some significant gaps and the WTABC is exploring ways to try and address these gaps. We are also working with our coastal operators to monitor the existing VQOs to ensure that they are being complied with.
Energy and Mining
The impact of mining and oil and gas development on wilderness characteristics and ecosystems on which tourism depends is a major concern. In some locations around the province, these impacts can be quite severe. The recent Mount Polley Mine disaster, which occurred in August 2014 when a tailings storage facility breach contaminated the Quesnel Lake Watershed polluting downstream environments all the way to the Fraser River with toxic mine wastes, is a glaring example of the serious and lasting impact of mine mismanagement. While mining and oil and gas development can provide economic stimulus and support for communities throughout BC, it needs to be done sustainably, with minimal impact on ecosystems and with consideration of other important land uses like wilderness tourism.
Similar to Forestry, tourism property owners and tenure holders should have available to them requirements and supports that promote fair and effective consultation and cooperation with mining and energy licensees operating within or adjacent to their areas of operation. Tourism operators should be automatically notified when exploration and development plans are being prepared, and mining and energy licensees should be responsible for considering the interests of tourism operators when developing these plans. This should include such considerations as access road development & deactivation, exploration and development timelines, tailings and by-product management, as well as how licensees will manage such tourism attributes as trails, viewscapes, and other site-specific amenities supporting tourism.
In high-value tourism areas, exploration and development activity must be done in a manner that is sensitive to the need to provide an enjoyable experience to tourism clientele with very different backgrounds and interests. In some high-value tourism areas, the potential impact of resource use on the tourism experience or the associated impact on a wilderness lodge site may mean no resource activity or it may mean development only under very specific conditions.
Pipelines and Tanker Traffic
The WTABC is opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project (NGP) as it is now constituted as we feel the risks to our businesses are extremely high. The WTABC is not anti-oil development. We are in the tourism business and depend on people travelling around the globe (on oil supported transportation infrastructure) to get to BC to experience the products and services we offer. Our exports sustain the foreign economies that allow those clients to visit Canada. Our concern is about how we develop (or protect) the best of BC and the associated risks involved. The Enbridge project as proposed, with a port in Kitimat and tanker route out Douglas Channel, is too risky a proposition for our industry to support.
Like the NGP, the proposed expansion of the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP) would increase tanker traffic in British Columbia’s pristine coastal waters. The TMP would triple existing pipeline capacity, delivering that much more bitumen across the province to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby and then into the tumultuous waters of Haro Straight and beyond. Read the WTABC’s Letter of Comment submission to the National Energy Board hearings here.
The routes of the proposed and existing tanker traffic are known for their strong tides and currents. This means that the spread of crude oil products in the event of a spill would be immediate, unmanageable, and catastrophic. Tourist destinations that have suffered from environmental catastrophes such as oil spills in the past have experienced significant and lasting impacts on traveller perceptions of those regions. It is feared that a spill in B.C. would affect the entire provincial tourism industry and the perception of Canadian tourism at large.
Based on our analysis of these projects and the nature and probability of minor and catastrophic oil spills on land or at sea, as well as other related cumulative impacts on air quality, water quality, scenery, and nature based tourism tenure areas, the WTA BCdoes not support these projects as they are presently proposed.
Land Use Planning
Land use planning at regional and sub-regional levels has been completed throughout most of British Columbia. Some of these plans date back many years, prior to situations such as the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) epidemic, and when the profile of wilderness tourism was much lower. As such, these plans do not adequately account for wilderness tourism-related land and resource use issues. Most of these plans are also based on the concept of “multiple use”.
In broad terms, the goal of multiple use is to provide the optimum blend of uses from an area of land. This could mean that all uses would be sought on every small unit of land. Or, it could mean that different tracts would be zoned for different primary uses so that the larger area is managed for all feasible uses.
The first approach is difficult because many activities desired on the land base are incompatible. The second approach is more practical and has been taken, to a large extent in the national forests of the United States. For example, there are areas where logging is the prime use and other areas where wilderness preservation is primary. Many of the wilderness areas within National Forests are larger than a million acres, and they include substantial forested areas.
The approach taken in BC is closer to the first. There is little room for designation of wilderness areas or consideration of wilderness tourism-related values. The only areas reserved from logging for example are provincial parks, areas mostly without merchantable timber (glaciers and snowfields, rock and tundra, alpine slopes) and some areas that are deemed “environmentally sensitive”. The prime use in the rest of the land still seems to be logging or mining of undersurface resources. Any other activity can take place as long as these activities have priority and aren’t unduly interfered with. This approach seems a little different from the business as usual scenario the tourism industry was faced with before the land use planning processes.
The government claims that the pressures on land for economic development in British Columbia are intense, and so they are unsupportive of sizeable wilderness areas for tourism and recreation. The pressure though is based on faulty economics and a misunderstanding of the tourism industry. There is still a need for a dramatic increase in understanding of the sustainability requirements necessary for the various wilderness tourism products by the government and all other land and water users.
Those land use plans that do have objectives (legal and non-legal) for tourism values, landscapes and viewscapes (VQOs), etc. need to be fully implemented and complied with. Those land use plans do not have such objectives that support tourism viability and sustainability need to be revisited. We also need to update our land use planning processes and associated regulatory processes to address issues like IPPs and increased recreation conflicts.