Wildlife Guidelines for Backcountry Tourism/Commercial Recreation


The guidelines were developed to ensure that backcountry recreation activities are conducted in a manner that does not compromise the current distribution of wildlife, the sustainability of their populations, or the integrity of their habitats. These guidelines define results, desired behaviours, indicators, and limits for backcountry activities in relation to wildlife and their habitats.

Guidelines Development

A joint government and Commercial Tourism (CT) / Commercial Recreation (CR) sector committee (the Tourism Wildlife Project Team) was tasked with developing a set of guidelines that are results based, informed by science and operational experience, and that meet the legislative and policy needs of government and the sustainability objectives of both government and tourism. The guidelines were developed over an 18 month period in 2004 and 2005, with extensive input from representatives of commercial and public recreation sectors and organizations. These guidelines are intended for use by commercial tourism operators tenured under the Land Act when conducting activities on Crown land, including water-based activities. However, it is anticipated that the guidelines will provide useful guidance for all backcountry recreational users.

These guidelines replace the first version which was published in 2002 as the Interim wildlife guidelines for commercial backcountry recreation in British Columbia (see changes from the 2002 draft).

The development of the current guidelines was framed by a strategy (Wilson and Hamilton 2004) that:

  • addressed concerns of stakeholders raised after the release of the Interim Guidelines;
  • provided a context for the guidelines in relation to other legal and policy tools; and
  • stressed a results-based approach based on precautionary defaults and/or the development of "alternative" operational strategies.

Key features of the 2006 guidelines

  • Guidelines are organized by categories of recreational activity and season, and secondarily by broad habitat (ecosystem) types. Operators need to consult all sections that apply to their operation (e.g., operators who offer heli-hiking activities should consult both the aerial-based and non-motorized activity sections - including seasonal sections).
  • Guidelines for individual species are included only where the species is at risk or of regional interest, is widely distributed, or requires additional guidelines beyond those specified for wildlife and habitats in general. Information links for specific species, species groups and plant communities is provided here.
  • Guidelines for different recreational activities are organized into 5 issues categories:
    • Degradation of soil, air and water quality
    • Integrity of vegetation communities
    • Direct disturbance of wildlife
    • Integrity of fisheries resources
    • Special management (for specific values of concern)
  • Concerns are ranked according to the potential risk to wildlife and their habitats, where potential is defined as the probability that the activity will result in either the alteration or destruction of habitat, or the temporary (on a scale of days or longer) or permanent abandonment of habitat, in the absence of guidelines or statutes
  • Guidelines are summarized by:
    • Results – What the guidelines are attempting to achieve
    • Desired Behaviours – Actions by users that are most likely to achieve the specified Results
    • Indicators – What should be measured to determine if Results are being achieved
    • Limits – Acceptable bounds related to the measured indicator
  • Low risk issues - Results and Desired Behaviours are identified.
  • High risk issues - Results, Desired Behaviours, Indicators and Limits are identified.

Safety – Despite any direction provided in the guidelines:

  • safety remains the first priority under all circumstances; and
  • operators must adhere to all relevant legislation and regulations

Commercial Recreation Policy

Commercial Recreation Policy (currently under review) requires that wildlife values (among other values) are addressed in management plans that form part of the tenure documents (see MCSA tenure information), which must be adhered to by CR operators. Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts (MCSA) staff (decision makers) are responsible for determining the adequacy/appropriateness of Management Plans including the measures that are incorporated to address wildlife values. Ministry of Environment (MoE) will provide necessary assistance / expertise when deemed necessary.

CR operators need to be aware of wildlife and habitat values within their area of operation and/or those that may be affected by their activities (see CR Management Plan template guide for more details).

Operators are responsible for understanding the guidelines relevant to their activities. The guidelines will form the foundation for addressing potential wildlife and habitat issues within operators’ management plans. Guidelines list the results that are to be achieved to address wildlife values, along with the associated desired behaviours that are designed to meet those results. The desired behaviours are precautionary “ defaults ” that operators are to follow, unless alternative strategies are proposed.

Alternative Strategies

To achieve the results stated in the guidelines, CR operators may decide to:

  1. adhere to all desired behaviours listed in the guidelines for the particular activity or activities that they are authorized to undertake or are applying for;
  2. propose alternative strategies within their management plans to achieve any of the listed results. Note: Alternative strategies must be included in the Management Plan submitted by the proponent. There must be a corresponding alternative strategy for all listed results if the operator decides not to adopt any of the desired behaviours for their activities.

The guidelines will be subject to change from time to time based on the results of compliance and effectiveness monitoring, new science and trial results. The guidelines are informed by science and the experience of users; however, there are knowledge gaps and, consequently, opportunities to "learn by doing". The guidelines allow for the development of innovative practices through management trials and alternative strategies. To ensure that the guidelines remain relevant and up to date, an adaptive management approach will be undertaken by agencies (led by MoE).

Link to PDF of 2006 Wildlife Guidelines for Backcountry Tourism/Commercial Recreation (944KB PDF)