Banning Animals From Nature Will Save Nature?

BC parks banning dogs from trails dismisses the real issue of overuse

Jarod Smart, Contributor

The list of dog-friendly parks recently became even shorter as the Metro Vancouver board unanimously approved a motion banning dogs from the Grouse Grind and British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) Trails in Grouse Mountain Regional Park on Oct. 26. Earlier in 2018, Joffre Lakes introduced the same restriction, joining the likes of Garibaldi Provincial Park, Bowron Lake, the Kokanee Glacier and trails in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.

When Joffre Lakes announced their new ban in April, BC Parks made a Facebook post claiming, “dogs on and off leash impact wildlife in the park. […] No longer allowing dogs or other domestic animals will help us protect the park, its wildlife, and the people who visit it.” The park cites potential human-dog conflict and environmental concerns as the reasoning behind the ban. But what has a greater impact on wildlife in the park: dogs, or the massive amounts of waste left behind by the people – not the dogs – visiting the park?

It’s clear that environmental damage to these parks and the threat to the wildlife that lives there is something that needs addressing, but this is not the solution to the problem. With multiple tour services offering private bus transportation from downtown Vancouver, Whistler or Pemberton up to Joffre Lakes, an excessive amount of foot traffic by tourists is the real issue.

In the past few years, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park has cleared a boulder field between the second and third lake. Doing so has made trail access exponentially easier for less experienced or entirely inexperienced hikers and has led to the issue of too many people accessing the area. Between 2015 and 2017, there was an increase of 840,100 day-users (not including campers) across all BC Provincial parks, with a grand total of 21,838,700 visitors. Promoting and encouraging tourism and exploration of these parks and trails, without implementing a cap on the number of visitors, or at least increasing maintenance funding in line with the money spent on promoting these parks, is the biggest cause of destruction and disruption to the natural ecosystem.

These natural areas are not able to handle an unlimited amount of foot traffic and remain in pristine condition – the attempts at curbing the destruction so far have targeted the wrong group of people, locals and hiking enthusiasts with dogs, and should instead be aimed at out-of-town visitors and hikers with little or no experience, who may be unknowingly and unintentionally damaging the area.

By following the lead of Joffre Lakes and banning dogs, Metro Vancouver has stated that it is one way of “[managing] the ecology of the park.” While it may be nothing more than a wild assumption, people who hike with their dogs are not the ones making the biggest negative impact to the ecology of the park. And without enough staffing to enforce hikers leashing and cleaning up after their dogs, an outright ban likely cannot be effectively enforced.

There’s no doubt that BC parks are dealing with a number of visitors that is unsustainable and damaging to the parks’ ecology. Banning locals from bringing their dogs on hikes in the name of “protecting the environment” whilst allowing these same parks to be advertised to an unlimited number of tourists, however, is not a solution.

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