Two sea lions sit on rocks, a clearcut hillside is behind them

A more environmentally friendly source of employment for communities

The President of the Wilderness Tourism Association (WTA) says eco-tourism could offer communities a reliable and more environmentally friendly source of employment than either fish farms or resource extraction. 

“There are some viable alternatives, if they had a fair shake and didn’t get booted out every time a clear cut wanted to go in,” said Breanne Quesnel, who is also one of the co-owners of Spirit of the West Adventures on Quadra Island. “As rural communities, it is very important that we sit down and have discussions about what we want our communities to look like and how we’re going to get there.” 

Kayakers in kelp – Photo courtesy Wilderness Tourism Association

Earlier this year, Quesnel told the Strathcona Regional District Board that wilderness tourism in the Discovery Islands brings in $40 to $50 million dollars in direct revenue. 

This  figure does not include the millions of dollars earned by hotels, motels, vacation rentals, restaurants, transportation and other support industries.

Courtesy Wilderness Tourism Association

She pointed out that the decisions governments take to support one industry do impact other sectors.

Unfortunately, Quesnel said, both local and provincial governments currently focus on resource extraction.  

“We need things like BC’s Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA) to be modified to not talk about things like ‘the loss of timber harvesting land base’ and instead look at it as the gain to the people of British Columbia by the use of the land,” she said. “To not have forestry, mining and fish farming superseding tourism in every occasion, which they currently do.”

At this time of years, bears have one thing on their mind – Photo by Deborah Freeman via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

 In the podcast she cites an example from the Johnstone Strait where tourism was clearly shown to be the better economic choice for a parcel of land, regardless of the scenario, but the government tenure still went to forestry. 

On the local level, last April the Wilderness Tourism Association asked the Strathcona Regional District  Board to support DFO’s decision to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands

“People come from around the world to see the iconic species: the whales, bears, large trees and wide open spaces. Without wild salmon, all of those species would be impacted,” said Quesnel. “If you look at any of the marketing that the province does, it is all about beautiful British Columbia and those iconic images.”  

So the Wilderness Tourism Association is hosting a campaign called “We don’t want to go #bellyup.”

Quesnel explained, “This campaign is meant to highlight the fact that the tourism industry is a significant economic contributor to the province and without wild salmon it would be impacted. Wild salmon are such a backbone to so much on this coast that we can’t risk any additional pressures on them at this point in time.”

Looking out on the ocean at sunset by James Stewart via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Top photo credit: Sea Lions and Clearcuts – Photo courtesy Wilderness Tourism Association

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