The Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia (ORCBC) has officially welcomed the Province of British Columbia’s (Canada) draft Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework, launched in November 2023.
The council, representing a broad spectrum of public, non-commercial outdoor recreation interests, has offered a series of recommendations aimed at strengthening the framework to benefit BC’s outdoor recreation industry and the province’s ecological well-being.
The ORCBC’s response to the draft framework underscores the deep connection between the health of ecosystems and the quality of outdoor recreational activities. The council acknowledges that while outdoor recreation offers considerable benefits, including public health savings and enhanced community well-being, it also depends on the resilience and health of natural ecosystems.
Highlighting the societal and individual benefits of outdoor recreation, the ORCBC emphasizes the need for an integrated approach to planning and management. This approach would consider both ecological and human needs, aiming to mitigate negative impacts on the environment while promoting outdoor activities.
The council has pointed out the critical role of biodiversity and ecosystem health in ensuring a high quality of life in British Columbia. It suggests that the framework should make a clear connection between robust ecosystems and the prosperity of communities, emphasizing the importance of these elements in attracting residents and visitors to the province.
ORCBC has raised concerns about the current capacity of the Ministry of Water, Lands, and Resource Stewardship to effectively implement the framework. The council notes that existing planning processes are inadequate and calls for a more proactive approach to recreation planning across the province’s diverse landscapes.
The submission also addresses the fragmented nature of outdoor recreation management in BC, with significant areas of the province lacking comprehensive planning and oversight. ORCBC recommends empowering Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) with the necessary resources and authority to lead on this front, ensuring that outdoor recreation values are integrated into broader land use planning efforts.
The council has underscored the vital contributions of volunteer-powered recreation associations in BC, which develop and maintain infrastructure and engage in stewardship activities. However, these groups face challenges such as limited funding and support from the provincial government. ORCBC calls for increased backing for these organizations to enhance their capacity to contribute to the province’s outdoor recreation and conservation goals.
In its recommendations, ORCBC advocates for the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework to explicitly recognize the link between healthy ecosystems, quality of life, and thriving communities. The council suggests showcasing stewardship initiatives across the province to inspire further engagement and support from the outdoor recreation community.
Furthermore, ORCBC emphasizes the need for transparency and effective communication in the implementation of the framework. It also calls for alignment with the province’s ongoing Outdoor Recreation Strategy to ensure a cohesive approach to managing BC’s natural resources and recreational activities.
The council’s feedback highlights the importance of long-term funding and support for the organized recreation sector, emphasizing the role of community-based and volunteer-powered groups in fostering stewardship and planning initiatives. This support is crucial for empowering citizen-driven reconciliation efforts and nurturing relationships with Indigenous communities.
ORCBC’s endorsement and recommendations for the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health Framework reflect a comprehensive vision for the future of outdoor recreation in British Columbia.
By integrating conservation and recreational planning, the framework can enhance the province’s ecological integrity while supporting a vibrant outdoor recreation industry. This collaborative approach promises to safeguard BC’s natural landscapes for future generations, ensuring that they continue to offer unparalleled outdoor experiences.