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Coastal British Columbia

Contact Information

  • *Robert Prescott-Allen
    627 Aquarius Road
    Victoria, BC
    V9C 4G5 Canada

Project Team and Institutions

The assessment was conducted by the Coast Information Team (CIT), consisting of a management committee of representatives of the British Columbia Provincial Government (David Johns, Ken Baker [Co-Chair], Gary Reay), First Nations (Art Sterritt [Co-Chair], Dallas Smith), environmental NGOs (Dr. Jody Holmes, Ivan Thompson, Tom Green), forest products companies (Rick Jeffery, Corby Lamb, Patrick Armstrong, Linda Coady, Hans Granander), and the community at-large (GraemWells, Bill Beldessi), a secretariat (executive director Robert Prescott-Allen, program manager Melissa Hadley), and ten project teams: Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Framework (led by Alex Grzybowski), EBM Planning Handbook (Dan Cardinall), Hydroriparian Planning Guide (Dr. Mike Church, Karen Price), Scientific Basis of EBM (Dr. Andy MacKinnon), Ecosystem Spatial Analysis (Dr. Reed Noss and Chuck Rumsey), Ecosystem Trends Risk Assessment (Dr. Rachel Holt), Cultural Spatial Analysis (Dr. Bob Lee), Economic Gains Spatial Analysis (Dr. Doug Williams, David Hall), Well-being Assessment (Robert Prescott-Allen), and Policy and Institutional Analysis (Dr. George Hoberg). The peer review chair was Dr. Rod Dobell, Emeritus Professor of Public Policy, University of Victoria.

Intended Users

Provincial and First Nations governments.


The total cost of the assessment was CA$3.3 million, funded by the Province of British Columbia (58%), environmental groups (18%), forest products companies (18%), and the Federal Government of Canada (6%).

Main Findings

Ecosystem services and human well-being: The region’s ecosystems provide supporting and regulating services that are essential for human well-being. In rural societies, major provisioning and cultural services-notably those required for sustenance-are identical. However, the assessment distinguished economic services (sources of income and employment with a direct monetary value) and cultural services (all other material and nonmaterial contributions to human well-being, including the provision of food). The main economic services are provision of resources for fisheries and food production, logging and wood production, and tourism, contributing from 17% to 56% of employment income (depending on sub-region)—lower than it was in 1990, except in Upper Mid Coast, where the contribution to employment income has risen. The largest source of employment income is logging and wood production, apart from fisheries and food production in the Outer Central Coast. The main cultural services are provision of land for First Nations and non-aboriginal communities (fishing, hunting, and plant gathering have both nutritional and cultural value in local cuisines and as activities that express and affirm aboriginal and rural lifestyles); raw materials for traditional arts, crafts, and medicines; the sites of origin stories, crests, dances, legends, and names, as well as traditional fishing, hunting, gathering, and dwelling places; and places of artistic heritage and aesthetic and recreational value.

Conditions and Trends

Ecological integrity and ecosystem services: The supply of ecosystem services depends on maintaining the ecological integrity of land, fresh water, and marine ecosystems and the atmosphere. Ecological integrity is medium poor, based on scores for ecosystem diversity, species and genetic diversity, environmental quality, and provisioning and cultural services. Declining populations of resource species and increasing risk to rare ecosystems and species are the main signs of impaired ecological integrity. Although the protected area system is already substantial, it does a poor job of representing the region’s land and marine diversity, and in two subregions is entirely inadequate. Declines in resource species have a direct impact on economic and cultural services. Increasing risk to rare ecosystems and species is evidence of damage to ecological integrity that may not affect economic and cultural services but could impair supporting and regulating services.

Human well-being: Human well-being is medium, based on scores for population and health, wealth, knowledge and culture, and community. The main reasons are: excessive population fluctuations, inadequate employment income, high proportions of low-income households, weak economic foundations (poor access to resources and limited business diversity), mediocre knowledge and education, insecure access to cultural places, lack of power over decisions that affect local livelihoods, low expectations of local governance, and social problems manifested by a high proportion of deaths from self-destructive behavior (drugs, alcohol, suicide) and high rates of domestic violence. Over the past decade, most of these factors have worsened (notably population fluctuations, employment income, low-income households, economic foundations), although other conditions have improved (education levels and crime rates).

Drivers of change

The main human impacts on the ecosystem are uses of provisioning and cultural services through harvest pressure and the introduction of exotic species. These are driven by needs for sustenance and to earn a living, a desire to make money, provincial revenue demands, and the pursuit of recreational enjoyment—or, in general terms, people’s needs and wants. In turn, the needs and wants which count the most depend on market powers and access to local resources. Metropolitan populations dominate access to, and decisions on, local resources. Local populations have a small share of the benefits from local resources compared with the large share flowing to corporations outside the region. Local populations do not drive change; change drives populations into or out of the region, depending on whether the change is for good or bad. The impacts of human drivers on the ecosystem may be dampened or intensified by ecosystem drivers—the dynamics of populations and species, biogeoclimatic processes, and disturbance regimes.


Six sets of responses are proposed:

  • Increased ecological protection;
  • Assured cultural security by guaranteeing access to places needed for sustenance and protecting places needed for other values (such as heritage and non-consumptive recreation);
  • Improved economic development by concentrating on areas with the highest potential for economic gain from timber, tourism, nonwood forest products, fisheries, and minerals;
  • Combined ecosystem and cultural conservation and economic development through ecosystem-based management planning;
  • Regular monitoring and periodic assessment of plan implementation, together with a research program to fill major knowledge gaps and reduce uncertainty;
  • Better governance through new institutions and policy instruments, including sub-regional decision-making bodies, an independent regional science body, making EBM objectives legally binding, public and private conservation financing, and an independent dispute resolution body.


The CIT produced four EBM guides and six regional ands sub-regional analyses. The former consisted of EBM Framework, EBM Planning Handbook, Hydroriparian Planning Guide, and Scientific Basis of EBM; the latter included Ecosystem Spatial Analysis, Ecosystem Trends Risk Assessment, Cultural Spatial Analysis, Economic Gains Spatial Analysis, Well-being Assessment, and Policy and Institutional Analysis.


© 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment