Best Management Practices for Recreational Activities on Grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan Basins

This is a summary about the Best Management Practices for Recreational Activities on Grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan Basins (2004), elaborated by the British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia.

Despite the fact that grasslands only constitute 0.8 per cent of British Columbia’s surface, they involve a vast variety of different ecosystems, wildlife habitats and sceneries. These unique environments are very delicate and react sensitively to alteration of any kind. However, due to their diversity and easy access, grassland areas attract a large amount of recreationists every year. They may strain the environment because of poor understanding concerning their impact.

In order to maintain the quality of grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan region, stewardship guidelines for recreational activities have been created. They serve as a tool of education and address the public and recreation clubs, commercial operators and land managers, motivating them to learn about a sustainable interactions with nature.

Even though the document was initially focused on BC’s threatened grasslands, the guidelines may be applied to other regions, different ecosystems and further recreational activities.

A large variety of recreational activities were listed, providing information about them, their impacts on the environment and what recreationists can do to avoid those impacts. Mentioned activities include motorized recreation, horseback riding, mountain biking and cycle touring, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, camping, picnicking and nature study, as well as back-country skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding.

Reasons for the conservation of grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan basins include that jointly, they comprise 23% of BC’s grasslands and provide habitat for over 30% of British Columbia’s species at risk. Further, they are visually appealing sceneries, provide precious forage for livestock and wildlife and are an essential part of First Nations cultural heritage and way of life.

Grasslands’ ecosystems that may be damaged by unthoughtful recreational use include wetlands and riparian habitats, silt cliffs, hoodoos, and rock and talus habitats. Livestock industry on native grasslands require herding, trail building, salting practices, fences and gates, as well as the development of water sources.

Eight objectives have been developed to minimize human impact on grasslands. Every objective is described thoroughly and both general and activity specific measures are provided, giving advice on improvements in order to achieve mentioned objectives.

The eight objectives include:

  • Minimizing soil disturbance
  • Avoiding the introduction and spread of invasive plants
  • Respecting native plants and wildlife
  • Respecting sensitive environments and landscape features
  • Avoiding disturbing livestock and damaging forage
  • Respecting property and livelihoods
  • Respecting First Nations lands, spiritual sites, cultural heritage, and traditional land use
  • Respecting heritage features

Most recreationists are concerned about a healthy cooperation between mankind and nature. With this tool, they can be motivated to contribute easily and voluntarily to BC’s grasslands’ conservancy by using Best Management Practices. Further, they get a thorough understanding of the environment, which makes spending time in nature even more recreative.

  • Source Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Grassland Conservation Counsil of British Columbia. January 2004. Best Management Practices for Recreational Activities on Grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan Basins. Available at : [Accessed 03/2021].