Someone recently shared concerns about the potential spread of the spruce beetle outbreak in the northern Omineca region. The argument is that forestry contributes $12 billion a year to the provincial economy, and we should be protecting “productive land” – which I think means keeping it available to those who want to harvest something from it.

In this argument, parks like the proposed one for the Ancient Forest are not seen as truly shared use, because no one is allowed to harvest, and the fact that thousands of people from around the province, country and world might get to “use” and enjoy it is not seen as valuable.

I agree about concerns that the spruce beetle could impact all of BC, especially after the stress our forests have been through because of the pine beetle outbreak, and because of changing climate. It is not only worrisome for the forestry sector; it’s worrying for the tourism sector too.

Tourism generated $13.9 billion for BC in 2013, even more than forestry, and it is a global industry that shows no signs of slowing.

I attended a workshop on economic development this weekend, and among the many interesting points shared were some short videos on the value of tourism. It’s not just for what tourists spend; it is also what they potentially bring back to us – like small businesses, their families and their kids.

I can think of half a dozen recent local businesses off the top of my head that were started by people who came to the Robson Valley for one reason or another, and have been figuring out how to come back or how to stay here. They started small businesses which support other local businesses, and as they expand, they hire more local people which also support other local businesses. And actually, I don’t think that is any different from what people were doing 20 or 40 or 100 years ago when they came here. They traveled through here and some decided to try to stay and build a life and a living. That is who we are in this valley.

Someone recently said the only true production is the combination of earth and sun, and tourists are merely transferring production (which is supposed to be a bad thing?). I haven’t wrapped my head around this argument yet – partly because I believe we all come from the earth and sun, and also because I believe in a new type of tourism, something that is very different from the traditional idea of a bunch of people on a bus rushing around to see tourist traps. That type of tourism does have value to some – both some tourists and some operators and spin-off businesses when these tourists spend their money.

But some tourism – and I think it is a growing segment – is not a race to take pictures to prove something to the folks back home, but a real desire to experience other things in the world. People travel for a lot of reasons, and one point brought up at the economic development workshop this weekend is that people are often looking for a great place to come and start a business and a new life.

I have often been told that Christians are called to love and protect that which God gave them dominion over, not to exploit and destroy it. Our planet, our ecosystems are very complex, and require a lot of knowledge and special skills for us to properly maintain them while still using what we need. Forests, when properly managed, can be a good example to everyone, because there is much we can use while encouraging growth and renewal. In fact, our harvesting can sometimes help nature renew itself, because that is exactly what wildfires have done over thousands of years.

But certain ecosystems have different needs, and the Ancient Forest is a good example. It has survived on the west side of the Rocky Mountain Trench since the time of Christ without the cleansing regeneration of forest fire. I believe it deserves to be thought of as more than simply productive land that you can harvest trees from, and it deserves to be explored and understood by people around the world, so that we can see the real impacts we have on our planet, and why we need to protect it. That is another value of tourism.