Three Greatest Threats to Temperate Forests in British Columbia

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With the increasing pressure of numerous ecological problems, preservation of natural forests plays an important role in saving the climate from total air pollution and irrevocable change. Forests have  aesthetic value as well as  prevents the planet from turning into  concrete . Deforestation, forest wildfires, especially widespread  in  British Columbia, fires caused by human, and urbanization are the greatest threats for the forests.

Proper measures aimed at  prevention of  unintentional human actions clearly defined construction plans. So industrial growth projects should be launched only if the authorities ensure no harm is done to the natural forests. Wildfire prevention is  especially critical for  British Columbia. On average, the number of wildfires that take place  in British Columbia every year amounts to 2,000 . More than a half of these are caused by lightning and wind, the rest are attributed to due human carelessness. In 2010, for instance, there were 1673 fires that cost the country  more than $212 million. Man-made fires accounted for  more than 40 percent of all fires, which evidences  negligence and imprudence of the population. This figure is a signal for the authorities to initiate  stricter and more focused regulations to guarantee  more conscious behavior.

Forest Fire by Human

According to the British Columbia Wildfire Management Branch (n.d.), in the current fiscal year  two fires have already been caused by  humans.  Abandoned campfires during the period of strict restrictions, careless use of  campfires, smoking, arson, and rage burns are  examples of human activities that cause wildfires most often. In contrast to wildfire causes rooted in  weather conditions, these causes can and should be prevented with the help of safe burning practices.

The majority of man-made fires result from careless and negligent attitude to the organization of  campfires. According to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range (2010), with the aim to prevent human-caused wildfires, Campfire Regulation Changes were adopted. According to the new regulation act, campfires should not exceed the area of 0.5 meters by 0.5 meters. Previously, this area was twice as large. Moreover, the mandatory requirement for all campers is to prepare a fireguard. In other words, they are obliged to clean the campfire area from the dirt, leaves and other materials that can be easy lit up. This fireguard should be approximately one meter in diameter.  Moreover, campers must have at least eight liters of water and a hand tool, for instance, a shovel, to extinguish the fire. 345$ fine has been established  for the violation of the set requirements. Additional 345$ will be imposed  for  making campfires during the period of a ban. Severe punishment in the form of $1 million fine or three years in prison awaits those who will cause damage to CrownForest or grasslands. All these measures are taken “to ensure campfires are small enough to easily extinguish, and provide additional safety measures to reduce the risk of fire escaping” (The British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range, 2010, p. 1).

Urbanization

Regarding the urbanization issue and its influence on  forests’ health, it should be mentioned that British Columbia is the most urbanized territory in Canada, with the biggest numbers of citizens living in Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria and Kamloops. More than a half of all population is concentrated in the Southwest region of British Columbia. According to the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands (2010), the population of British Columbia increased more than in 133 times, from 30,000 in 1867 to 4,4 million in 2008.

Specific mountain-valley geography located the center of urbanization and agriculture in OkanaganValley and in the southwest  of British Columbia. Numerous inhabitants have exerted pressure on the natural resources, especially forests. In addition, there is a dilemma of keeping balance between creating new jobs, enjoying economic advantages, and saving ecosystems in terms of  the forests’ use.  All urban and rural communities of British Columbia have economic, cultural, and recreational correlations with the territorial forests. Protected Areas Strategy, Forestry Revitalization Plan, and Land and Resource Management Planning are the examples of the forest management regulation.

According to Tomalty & Townshend (2005), between 1971 and 1996 the growth of urban population equaled 37%. Respectively, the growth of urbanized territory was  77%. The lion’s share of this territory used to be  agricultural land, but the process of urbanization  also impacted the forests. It is considered “an important cause of deforestation and wetland destruction” (p.10).

Urbanization  changes  the natural landscape by destroying forest. It is about building  cities in concrete and asphalt. Thus, it is a great threat for forest safety. Moreover, cities are the largest source of  greenhouse gas emissions  made by the transport, industry, and heating. “Urban forests across the country are under stress from development activities and poor growing conditions within cities” (Tomalty & Townshend, 2005, p. 12).

The urbanization process cannot be stopped, but  all possible measures should be taken to keep the natural forest untouched when new cities are planned. This will  keep  the urban area  green, attractive and healthy. These measures  include the mixed use of land, compact housing design, finding better opportunities for building  the transportation network, and having walkable neighborhoods. Cutting out forests means a decrease in the number of nature representatives which make  air  cleaner. Hence,  pollution of urbanized area’s air increases through  harmful atmospheric emissions of new facilities. Forests “reduce noise, increase water storage, limit energy use and maintain ecosystems” (Tomalty & Townshend, 2005, p. 5). It is necessary to remember that forests are of  ecological as well as aesthetic value.      

Deforestation

The forests in the province are major  natural resources within  British Columbia that protect air from  extensive pollution by greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, these forests are one of the most valuable resources for the British Columbia economy since wood products are exported all over the world. Active deforestation for the sake of industrial  needs and the province’s economy on the whole should be conducted along  with  reforestation procedures. Thus, it is crucial that  the environmental impacts be considered. One should understand that  harvesting from the forests must be conducted in a more sustainable way since forests are a limited resource. Unless this is taken into consideration, the future generations will not  have access to these valuable natural resources.

Forests cover more than 60 percent of the British Columbia territory. This figure amounts to 55 million hectares out of total 90 million hectares. The majority of all trees are coniferous trees accounting for 83 percent of all forest types. Forests over 140 years old are growing on 22,6 million hectares. 7,1 million hectares are occupied by the forests over 250 years old. Since 1850, increasing agricultural areas, a growing number of cities, reservoirs and other land uses have changed 2 percent of province’s ecosystem. The amount of former forests that were once  converted to other land use is about 3 percent. Specifically, the Coastal Douglas-fir zone is an area which lost more than 46 percent of its forests was to  other land uses (Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands, 2010).

According to the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands (2010), “the province relies on private sector investment to develop B.C.’s forests, creating jobs and revenue while retaining public ownership to enable conservation measures consistent with public expectations” (p.22). Reforestation is a legal obligation of the tenure holders. Moreover, 14 percent of all forests are strictly protected. They are ecological reserves, national and provincial parks, as well as recreation areas.

The Forest and Range Practices Act issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (2004) is an act setting the requirements for the forest industry for more sustainable deforestation practices. It establishes the commitment to save soils and conduct reforestation procedures, and to control logging practices for prevention of wildfire possibility in these areas. With the aim to keep the sustainability of the province’s forests, the reforestation process should include the procedures of native to the region species planting and saving the natural diversity of some areas. 200 million trees are planted each year in British Columbia.

All these measures and preventive actions are combined into a broader concept of sustainable forest management. According to the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands (2010) “sustainable forest management is concerned with maintaining the long-term health of forest ecosystems while providing environmental, economic, and social opportunities for present and future generations” (p.1). It is obvious that forests like many others natural resources are limited. Moreover, it is vital to regulate the industry purposefully and consciously with the aim to avoid over-exhausting usage of this natural resource that is currently observed  in British Columbia. Inadequate policy and relatively thoughtless attitude to the use of forests can lead not only to the depletion of this resource, but also to the worsening of the environmental situation. Representatives of wildlife sphere are greatly affected in the regions where  humans actively build cities and use  land for agriculture and industry development. 

It is highly recommended that the balance be found between the urbanization and industry policies and the damaging effect on the forests.  Moreover, the number of  forest fires caused by  human activity must be reduced through the strict regulation and clear rules implementation including smoking restrictions and special regulations for the campfire areas.

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