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Ecosystem Approach to Cave Management

Part 3

In our view, the concept that conventional industrial forest operations are not compatible with karst protection has not been widely accepted by all forest managers.

There has been a tendency to treat karst systems by their most obvious surface expressions (e.g. cave entrances) rather than by their hydrogeology, when it would seem that the only proper course of action is to exclude the whole system from industrial impacts.

We believe that it is unreasonable to assume that caves and an overlying old growth forest topography can be fragmented into separate parts.

A more rounded approach is needed - one that will define the relationship between the cave and the surface. Call it an ecosystem approach to cave management. This will make the task of predicting the impact of a particular land use more straightforward.

Our Observations and Recommendations :

Priority List of Significant Karst Features

The priority list of the significant karst features already proposed for immediate protection must be given some emphasis.

Perhaps a few square kilometres (excluding additional wind buffers where appropriate) would be required to protect the candidate features. This is but a minute portion of British Columbia's total productive forest land.

Karst systems as significant as these should be protected in perpetuity by statutory designations, as opposed to temporary reserves. There is also the problem of unique surface karst phenomena for which there is no classification scheme. Many of the most impressive of these landforms have already been needlessly damaged. In our view exceptional examples of springs, natural rock bridges, and other classic limestone landscapes should be protected. Specialized plant communities associated with limestone are also worthy of protection.

Cave Inventorying

Adequate knowledge of the nature and extent of the resource is a prerequisite to its wise use. Thus, the field inventory program should be ongoing. Though recreational cavers can play an important role in the inventory, and their participation should be encouraged, the task cannot effectively be completed by these volunteers alone.

British Columbia Cave Protection Act

British Columbia's programs indicate a fragmented approach to the protection of caves. Provision is made in the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act for declaring a site to be of heritage value. Other provincial acts that include related objectives are the B.C. Parks Act, B.C. Ecological Reserves Act, etc. For its part, the federal government can acquire representative examples of Canadian karst through the National Parks Act.

One alternative approach is a law such as the B.C. Cave Protection Act. This draft legislation has been submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Environment .

Our draft expresses the fundamental principle that all caves have relevance, yet it embodies the dual objectives which we have advocated, and which have been accepted by the province, namely:
1. Avoid damage to all caves where practicable.
2. Conserve and protect the most significant caves as natural systems.
This duality recognizes that not all caves are equal in value and that damage to some caves may not be avoidable. Furthermore, it recognizes that many caves occur on lands with a high forest capacity, and that it may not be practicable to protect all caves if timber production is to be sustained at the current levels.

The Forests Practices Code , implemented in 1995 has still not completely made it's way to the field.

For the Web version of the Forests Practices Code you can go to... Ministry of Forests Web Site


Concluding Remarks

Whatever approach is chosen, we believe it can be accomplished while giving full consideration to the concerns of the forest industry. After all, if too many logging plans are threatened, then this industry as we know it today is also threatened. Nevertheless, decisive action is vital because conventional timber harvesting activities have already disturbed or are threatening to disturb every major known karst system on Vancouver Island.

Action is much more than communication.

We have had twenty years of dialogue with many of the logging company staff and Ministry officials and their predecessors...

And we still have the situation that we have described above.

We can no longer afford inaction, half-measures and experimentation.

We look to this form of media as an opportunity to provide a new impetus to do what must be done.

Thank you for allowing us to share our perspective with you.

Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman -Province of British Columbia
The Honorable Rich Coleman

Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group
c/o Rick Coles

or -

mail to

British Columbia Speleolgical Federation
P.O. Box 8124,
Station Central PO,
Victoria , B.C.,

Rick Coles and Paul Griffiths

This site created Sept '95,
Updated .

Material from this web site may be used with permission from the editors.

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