As Canadians, we have the pleasure of enjoying some of the most breathtaking mountains and forests right at our back door. These epic landscapes are home to a broad and diverse selection of plant and animal species, and it's our job to protect them in everything we do. At Näak, our sustainability initiatives have led us to a partnership with the BC Parks Foundation. Working directly with their Parks Bank of British Columbia division, we raise money towards protecting and preserving our beautiful Canadian Parks.
We recently had the pleasure of talking to Emma Griggs, the Program Manager for BC Parks Foundations Wildlife Forever division. She has some fantastic tips on how you can enjoy Canadian parks this summer without damaging their ecosystems.
There are all the obvious things (that harm Canadian parks), like leaving your garbage in the park, going off trail and damaging the ecology, and harassing wildlife. However, we do many things in parks that we don't even realize have negative impacts. For example, the sounds of helicopters and other significant noise disturbances can be distressing for animals. Hence, every search and rescue call not only requires lots of money and resources but also impacts the biodiversity in the area.
Also, while you might think feeding wildlife like chipmunks and birds is helping them eat, the opposite is true. The more animals and birds get accustomed to being fed, the more habituated they are to being around humans and depending on them for food. Often, these animals do not survive.
The BC Parks Foundation
The BC Parks Foundation has been established to protect, preserve, and maintain the magic that is Canadian parks. The Foundation aims to let our parks flourish by protecting them against any human disruptions.
The Foundation has been able to provide such great supporting programming for parks. Our citizen science work has fostered such an incredible community of people collecting crowd-sourced data on BC's biodiversity. Our Discover Parks Ambassadors have brought interpretive and educational experiences back to parks.
It's staggering, and humbling, to see the amount of goodwill for parks and protected areas in BC, and the willingness of British Columbians (and beyond) to get together and protect more beautiful spaces for generations.
1. Practicing Sustainable Tourism
If you have plans for this summer, remember to play your part in protecting our forests. Increased human traffic to wild areas can lead to several harmful effects on our parks and the species that call them home.
Canada is certainly known worldwide for the incredible landscapes - many of them in parks and protected areas. Parks are a HUGE part of the Canadian tourism industry, and even more so in BC, which holds the sixth-largest parks system globally, drawing more than 26 million visitors every year. This means that we need to work together, as a community, to be sure we're not 'loving our parks to death,' and still being welcoming to new park visitors.
Tourism involves transportation to general locations, accommodations, shopping, leisure activities, and a plethora of other factors. The idea behind sustainable tourism is to partake in all of these aspects in an enviro-friendly way.
The goal is to reduce your harm to local communities while minimizing the impact on the environment.
In terms of sustainable tourism, I think the biggest thing we can do is be gracious hosts. Celebrating the sharing of our parks with tourists while also sharing key information they simply may not know. Be kind and welcoming, and if asked, invite visitors to please stay on trails, don't feed or get too close to wildlife, and don't litter in the parks.
2. Personal Actions To Protect Our Parks
There are ways that you can help protect our Canadian parks in your everyday actions. Being a respectful host to visitors, working with government projects to collect data, and staying educated about the land you're on all play a part in protecting and honouring our surroundings.
One way to support Canada's biodiversity is by becoming a citizen scientist. This community is having a huge impact on research and monitoring. The act of collecting photos when out in parks may seem small, but the amount of data that can be collected if we all take part is astounding. Helping to document inventories of the species we share BC with is a great way to give back to the parks.
When visiting other parks and areas, staying informed about local customs, heritage, and traditions helps guide you in the right direction to appropriately enjoy the beautiful Canadian surroundings.
Visitors can also do their best to research small businesses in local communities near parks and be sure to support them while in the area. Moreover, researching the local Indigenous and First Nations peoples is important. Being aware of whose traditional land you are exploring is another way to connect more deeply with the area. It also helps acknowledge the privilege that we can enjoy them.
3. Leave No Trace
One of the most straightforward ways to respect our parks is to leave no trace of your presence in our surroundings. Bring snacks that are easy to pack and can be cleaned up without leaving a giant mess behind.
Our Ultra Energy Bars provide a great source of energy for your time in the mountains. The carbohydrate to protein ratio leaves you energized for longer, meaning less food that you need to pack into the parks. The wrappers are a simple clean-up that can be taken with you when you go.
For more tips on planning an environmentally-friendly adventure, read our article How To Plan A Sustainable Outdoor Adventure.
Our parks are a place of magic and should be treated as such. The beauty surrounding us is a gift, and it is up to our community to take care of this gift and pass it forward to future generations.