Course:CONS200/2020/Economic and ecological benefits of integrating non-timber forests products into forest management (planning and practices) in B. C.

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For centuries Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) have been a means of sustenance and revenue.  In many poorer regions of the world NTFPs are a vital part of the economy. In British Columbia NTFPs include all of the botanical (plant) and mycological (fungus) resources and associated services of the forest other than conventional timber products such as lumber, pulp, shakes, and firewood [1].  Other definitions of NTFPs include botanical (plant) and mycological (fungus) as well as fish and wildlife, as many of these species depend on forests for food and shelter.  For this report the later, broader definition will be used.  

It is important for politicians and forest professionals to recognize the socio-economic and environmental value of NTFPs benefits of NTFPs.  In British Columbia, many people have historically harvested NTFPs on public or Crown land for their personal use or for commercial purposes.   The economic benefits of NTFPs can be significant.  For example, in Canada, Maple products represent a $354 million dollar industry that creates many jobs in the eastern provinces [2].  Equally important yet more challenging to quantify, NTFPs play a large role in forest health.  Mushrooms for instance support nutrient cycling which in turn can increase the yield or other timber and NTFPs.

Over the past three decades, forest policy has changed.  Today management plans, harvesting practices and silviculture systems consider the relationship between timber and NTFPs.  This report will explore the economic and ecological benefits of integrating NTFPs into forest management planning and practices in British Columbia.  

Non-timber Forest Products in BC

There are a variety os uses for non timber forest products in British Columbia, the following are examples of common non-timber forest products:

Pine mushroom found in an interior forest of BC


  • Branches and Burls
  • Leaves and Needles
  • Sap
  • Bark and Roots
  • Cones, Seeds, and Berries


  • Stems and leaves
  • Berries, seeds, pollen, and flowers


  • Stems, leaves, and/or roots
  • Flowers, berries, seeds and/or pollen

Ferns, horsetails, mushrooms (fungi), mosses and lichens are all examples of Non-Timber Forest Products [3]

Ecological Benefits of Non-timber Forest Products

Sustainable forest management through specific types of harvesting methods can help maintain or conserve biodiversity.  Biodiversity is critical to overall forest health and ecosystem functioning.  A biologically diverse forest enhances productivity, functional diversity, nutrient cycling, among other elements [4].

British Columbia forest with instrumental value to both the timber industry and non timber forest products

Harvest systems, such as clearcutting, can have substantial negative impacts on local moisture and temperature levels which in turn affects the regenerating plant community.  For example, clear cutting can lead to a local loss of shade tolerant understory species such as chanterelles and pine mushrooms which are valuable NTFP’s in British Columbia for aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities [5]. Through alternative harvest systems, such a partial cutting, microclimate variation can be maintained to promote the regeneration of a variety of non-timber species such as blueberries and huckleberries, thus conserving biodiversity.

NTFP’s are also significant contributors to nutrient addition, retention, and cycling in ecosystems.  Early seral species such as morels, wild blueberries and huckleberries colonize sites after fire and are essential in the retention of nutrients that have the potential to be lost from such disturbances [5]. Prescribed burns are controlled disturbances that are commonly used to clear the understory of forest debris while preparing the forest floor for serotinous or semi-serotinous trees species, such as lodgepole pine.  These burns also create habitat for NTFP’s by releasing nutrients from decaying coarse woody debris into the soil and increasing light exposure.

In addition to prescribed burns, NTFP’s can be key nutrient sources to ecosystems. Many NTFP’s function as foundation species in ecosystems because of their large impact on ecosystems through nutrient cycling. For example, species such as salmon are a large nutrient stores that get released into the forest ecosystem through decomposition [6]. Predator species such a grizzly bears can move these nutrient rich prey significant distances from their spawning grounds to aid in the increasing forest productivity.

There’s a symbiotic like relationship between a number of plant and wildlife NTFP’s.  For instance, a portion of the black bears diet consists of a variety of forest berries.  After ingesting large amounts of berries, bears deposit seeds through their feces.  Where these seeds find suitable growing sites new patches of berry producing shrubs take root.  This is highly effective means of seed transporting.  As new patches of berries grow, other wildlife species like birds and squirrels find new sources of food [7].  

One of the greatest ecological benefits that NTFPs have on the ecosystem is that of changing forest policy. When governments view forests not simply as tree farms but as living ecosystems that produce economic benefits from a wide range of timber and NTFP’s values it provides forest managers and professionals both the economic incentive and regulatory requirement to manage forests in a more sustainable manner for all values.

However, creating forest policy that does not consider the ecological balance between timber and NTFP’s may create issues of over harvesting a particular resource.  Similarly, by not factoring in the direct and indirect impacts of overharvesting a timber or NTFP may tip the scale to a point that the forest can no longer function properly.  For example, policy focused on controlling wolf populations can result in a significant increase in the rabbit population.  Rabbits that feed on branches of immature spruce can cause significant damage to immature spruce stands.  This damage, if severe enough, can alter future habit of other flora and fauna [8].

Economical Benefits of Non-timber Forest Products

Pine mushrooms which could be used as non timber forest products in forests with dense canopy coverage.

Non timber forest products have many economic benefits to different cultures and communities alike.  Non-timber forest products produce large amounts of business and provincial profits annually ranging from 280 million for direct business profit to 680 million for provincial profits[9]. There are also huge economic benefits to non timber forest products in that they employ upwards of 30 000 people a year that would otherwise be unemployed[10]. Many of those jobs that are created are in communities that do not offer many other types of employment other than forestry as can be seen in parts of British Columbia and other highly forested areas around the globe. The economic benefits that non timber forest products offer, help many communities and populations and allow for the ability to sustain life and live a comfortable livelihood.

In certain areas of different provinces and countries, different non timber forest products can be a necessity to a healthy community. Non timber forest products can be a terrific plan for communities that have recently been clear cut from their timber or are recovering from environmental disasters such as flooding. Many sources of non timber forest products such as mushrooms, fungi, shrubs and different berries thrive in areas of high sunlight that do not necessarily need a large dense canopy[11].This lends a hand for economic hope in places that have lost the dense canopy coverage of timber due to many reasons that may be applicable. Since being clearcut, deforested or otherwise harmed, these lands can still produce many highly profitable non timber forest products that would otherwise be unattainable with dense canopy coverage. The economic benefits of non timber forest products can be substantial to areas that have been deforested or are recovering from natural disasters such as forest fires, as it can create an option for a whole new economy for communities that would otherwise be in a economic deficit.

Another tremendous benefit of non timber forest products is that they are not only good economically in clear cut and deforested areas but also for locations that have dense canopy coverage and populous tree stands. Many non timber forest products such as the pine mushroom rely on mature dense forests with a thick canopy for growth[12]. By non timber forest products being economically sound for many different communities and land types, its has tremendous benefits and potential in the economic world at both a small household scale to a provincial and national level where all are given the opportunity to succeed economically.

Non timber forest products are an extremely underrated and extremely beneficial product for the economy where many populations of people are able to be the beneficiaries from such an economically profitable resource.

Current integration of non-timber forest products in forest management practices

Overexploitation of NTFP's need to be monitored in order to have use in the future by future generations.

A common goal found in the exploration of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) associate with developing importance and an economical market for the goods that can be collected throughout forest environments. By doing this, conservationists hope to redefine how valuable forests can be and save the land from timber exploitation. The current and potential value of NTFPs for local communities is being utilized in integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs). But despite the continuing dependence of many rural people and industries on NTFPs, most products are overexploited. Destructive harvesting is rather common, thus casting some doubt on the possibility of promoting the use of NTFPs in ICDPs.[13] ICDPs can be summarized as a conservation method that revolves around the ideology of improving biodiversity while attending to the needs of social development. This method of conservation can be looked upon as a middle ground between green growth and Agrowth in the sense that the main visions for ICDPs pursue a better quality of life for all participating members and factors in the environment and they look to do this by conserving the forests. Green growth can be tied in due to the viewpoint of growing, but understanding that for growth to happen it requires taking care and using our environments in appropriate ways. A lot of the time ICDPs externally funded through Payment for ecosystem services (PES) because there still needs to be an incentive for this type of work. Despite the quest for defining the importance of forests through NTFPs, many people and companies rely on NTFPs for their wellbeing and livelihoods which has led to overexploitation of some goods. Industries have been partaking in destructive harvesting which has led to the debate on continuing the promotion aspect of NTFPs to ensure the safety of these forests or to put a halt to the promotions and try to save the quantities of these NTFPs. Alongside NTFPs just about any other type of resources, we have to realize we have a limited supply and don't have the ability to overuse them. We must ensure the continuation of our resources for future generations. Slowing down the exploitation and harvesting NTFPS doesn't always have to be looked upon poorly, with rich biodiversity in our environment can come tourism and a capitalistic market in other aspects. The government with help from the public has realized the importance of conservation, therefore, has come up with acts to secure the safety of our resources.The Forest Act enables government to issue tenures, licences, and permits such as tree farm licences, forest licences, and timber sales to harvest timber. The community forest tenure is the first tenure in British Columbia that also can convey the rights to harvest NTFPs.[14]. Currently there are very little laws and tenures besides the just mentioned in this field and because of the lack of regulation and rights, or tenure, to harvest NTFPs makes it difficult to develop the sector in a sustainable manner. The lack of regulation also means there is no mechanism to enforce sustainable management of the resource, and the current free reign to gather these products from public and private lands in turn creates little incentive for regulation or tenure arrangements.[15]. Still in a lot of places the harvest of NTFPs is currently unregulated in BC and this creates a whole range of issues, from lack of government revenue, to potential over-harvesting of the resource, to infringement of aboriginal rights and First Nations’ traditional use of NTFPs. [16].

Indigenous Views and Historical uses of Non timber forest products

Indigenous people in British Columbia have used non-timber forest products (NTFP's) for food, materials, medicines and for their cultural values since the beginning of their time. The sustainable use of NTFP's is embedded in their way of life, and continues to be used the same way as the ancestors of the Indigenous people today.


Huckleberries have been used by the Indigenous People of British Columbia as a valuable food source for generations.

Indigenous people view non-timber forest products as part of their everyday lives, from the food they eat, to products they make, to the medicines they use to cure illness, NTFP's play a crucial role in their well being. The use of these products outside of the Indigenous population for economic benefit has been controversial due to the overexploitation of some of these products and also the loss of cultural values that happens when Indigenous knowledge is shared with the outside world. The economic benefits that could be reaped from the Indigenous knowledge and sale of these products is often lessened because of this. The unregulated harvesting of crucial NTDP's for economic benefit can lead to the harm of other species dependent on them and for the people who rely on them for their everyday lives. One example is the bark of the Cascara tree. Used for thousands of years as a laxative and tonic by Indigenous people in British Columbia, they shared their knowledge with settlers who had come to BC from Europe and Spain [17]. It was soon adopted by these settlers and soon the overexploitation of this bark was apparent. The bark was stripped wastefully from the trees, virtually decimating populations from certain area's. At a NTFP's conference in Creston, BC, the Ktunaxa nation elders of the Kootenay region in British Columbia spoke of the overexploitation of huckleberries on their traditional picking grounds by commercial marketers who then sold the berries to Alberta and the United States [18]. Not only did the overexploitation affect the Ktunaxa people's personal share and ancestral rights, but led to bears native to the region losing a valuable food source and in turn venturing closer to humans in search for food resulting in many being shot [19] . The loss of cultural values is most apparent with medicines derived from plants used by Indigenous people long before it came to market for the rest of the world. Natural medicines derived from NTFP's are considered a sacred gift by many Indigenous people, and they fear the loss of their cultural values could be apparent with the mass production of these remedies. Many medicinal products that came into being from Indigenous knowledge were marketed without consultation or compensation for the original holders of the knowledge. Although NTDP's are crucial for the conservation of forests in British Columbia as a tool to sustainably grow economic profits, the Indigenous population of British Columbia must be fully onboard with the idea of the mass production of these products for economic growth. One way to solve this crisis is the regulation of these products. The sustainable practice of harvesting selectively, diversifying the harvest and maintaining the ability of these resources to renew themselves [20] will ensure Indigenous people that the products their ancestors used can be a tool for economic development while allowing these resources to flourish for the rest of time.


The "$1,000 Birch Tree" as described by Gitxsan chief negotiator Don Ryan can provide a $1,000 profit to Indigenous people who make a variety of items from it including containers, baskets, carving spoons, dishes, and masks. However, to an industrial forester, the same tree may only be worth a few dollars in pulp or chips.

The historical use of non-timber forest products have played a crucial role in allowing Indigenous people to sustain themselves physically, culturally and spiritually since the beginning of their time. The use of NTFP's have a plethora of possibilities as resources, food and medicine for Indigenous people. Gitxsan chief negotiator Don Ryan spoke to students at the University of British Columbia in 1998 about the "$1,000 Birch Tree" [21]. For the Gitxsan people of interior British Columbia and other Indigenous people's of BC the birch tree can be used to make baskets, containers, carving spoons, dishes and masks, which in turn can create a profit of $1,000, however to a industrial forester the birch tree might only be worth a few dollars in pulp and chips [22]. Over 500 plant and fungus species are known to have specific cultural applications among Indigenous people in north western North America [23]. Traditional foods in the region include approximately 135 plant species [24]including, various root vegetables, green vegetables and fruits. The use of NTFP's as a medicine include cold medicines made from plants like yarrow-leaves and alders bark, laxatives made from cascara bark and arthritis medicine made from devils-club-inner-bark are a few examples. Not only do NTFP's create food and medicines but their products can be made into various types of goods like baskets, woven art and botanical cosmetics. The goods have been traded and exchanged as a way of currency for generations and were used to trade products made from Indigenous knowledge to the first settlers who arrived in British Columbia for European goods. Wild cranberries and huckleberries were sold in large quantities to the first settlers who valued their health benefits and exceptional taste. The historical use of non timber forest products shows how important these products are to the Indigenous people of British Columbia's and show how valuable these NTFP's can be for future generations to come.


Non-timber forest products can be a promising topic and solution to moving in the right direction of conservation. Not only can NTFPs help with conservational viewpoints but learning how to maintain methods of extraction and use of these goods can lead to economical benefits. Through conservation of not only NTFPs but all resources in our environments, we promote ecological advances in the happiness of preserving our planet and can share these benefits with people looking to travel and view all the beauties of nature and what it has to offer. Through the promotion of the conservation of our environment, we can still create jobs using our resources but we must learn how to do it correctly. Understanding the needs of our environment and what it takes to keep it striving will ensure us of this. Having knowledge of the past tells us that people have inhabited these lands before us and we must respect the fact that they have uses for the land as well so we must keep that in mind and respect their values and the way they also use the land. To conclude, today's interest in NTFPs is based on the argument that in order to conserve the world's forests we have to find new products, develop markets and improve marketing systems for NTFPs, so that the forests will become far too valuable to destroy. [25] Through our studies we have shown all types of benefits from NTFP's with ecological and economical viewpoints proving the importance of these goods. The contribution they have to indigenous people and small rural living farmers is enormous and is why NTFP's should be researched and developed further. With the importance they have, we need to control overexploitation and integrate rules and laws of extraction. Learning to love the benefits of our forests and NTFP's is key for keeping the health of the forests and mankind.


  1. Hamilton, E. 2012. Non-timber forest products in British Columbia: Policies, practices, opportunities, and recommendations. Journal of Ecosystems and Management 13(2):1–24. Published by FORREX Forum for Research and Extension in Natural Resources.
  2. "Non-timber forest products". Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  3. Hamilton, Evelyn (2012). "Non-timber forest products in British Columbia: Policies, practices, opportunities, and recommendations" (PDF).
  4. Tilman, David; Isbell, Forest; Cowles, Jane M. (2014). "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 45: 471–493 – via Annual Reviews.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gagne, Janet (2004). Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia. Forest Practices Board. pp. 2, 14. line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  6. Shackleton, Charlie M.; Ticktin, Tamara; Cunningham, Anthony B. (2018). "Nontimber forest products as ecological and biocultural keystone species". Ecology and Society. 23 (4).
  7. Shakeri, Yasaman N.; White, Kevin S.; Levi, Taal (2018). "Salmon‐supported bears, seed dispersal, and extensive resource subsidies to granivores". Ecosphere. 9 (6) – via WileyLibrary.
  8. Ripple, William J.; Beschta, Robert L. (2012). "Trophic cascades in Yellowstone: The first 15 years after wolf reintroduction". Biological Conservation. 145: 205–213 – via ScienceDirect.
  9. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  10. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  11. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  12. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  14. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  15. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  16. "Integrating Non-Timber Forest Products into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia" (PDF). line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)