The Forests of British Columbia


192 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920620-58-2





Photos by Bob Herger and Gunter Marx
Reviewed by Ron Goldsmith

Ron Goldsmith is a professor of Geography at the Ryerson Polytechnical


Occasionally, the more fortunate of reviewers may experience the pleasure of assessing a book whose contents spring from the shadow of a mundane title and an innocuous dust-jacket introduction to inform, entertain, and stimulate on an unanticipated scale. Such a book is The Forests of British Columbia, which may comfortably assume a place among the best of the recent wave of Canadian books that combine photographic and textual essays on myriad subjects, regions, and themes.

When compared with other outstanding books of its genre, such as Kraulis and Engel’s The Islands of Canada (Hurtig, 1981) or Monk’s Ontario: A Loving Look (McClelland & Stewart, 1983), The Forests of British Columbia is particularly notable for its success in presenting a very large quantity of information without becoming pedestrian and schoolish. Author Cameron Young, principal photographers Bob Herger and Gunter Marx, and designer Ken Seabrook have combined their talents to offer the reader a first-rate intellectual and visual experience.

The book’s extensive text is noteworthy in many respects, chief among which is Young’s ability to find the appropriate balance between detail and generality, between emotional and academic approaches toward his subject, and between the demands of technical accuracy and those of readability. The text provides a wealth of information about various aspects of B.C’s forests, but it is seldom ponderous and never tedious. Of the book’s eight chapters, the first three provide background on the region’s ecology and natural history while four subsequent chapters deal with individual bio-geoclimatic zones of British Columbia. The final chapter puts forward a commentary on the current status of, and future prospects for, B.C. forests. While Young has chosen not to make a highly politicized statement on the province’s current forest controversies, this chapter sounds a clear and effective warning to those who would still regard forests as infinite resources. The only chapter this reviewer has found unsatisfactory is, regrettably, the opening one, which is severely fragmented and does not properly introduce the tone and spirit of what is to follow.

More than 200 colour photographs, mainly the work of Herger and Marx, are included within The Forests of British Columbia. While these photos provide the reader with a visual feast of major proportions, they add far more than variety to the text. With only a few exceptions, the photographic images are well integrated into the text and make a significant contribution to the book’s information base. Further, many of the images have a great deal of merit as examples of the art and craft of photography.

A word is in order concerning Ken Seabrook’s design work. This reviewer is usually blind to the intricacies of design in printed works, but this book is so exceptionally well crafted that design has become one of its most attractive features.

Many readers are likely to be deterred by this book’s uninspiring title, and more is the pity, since The Forests of British Columbia largely transcends both geographical and topical constraints. It should be of interest to many audiences — ranging from those who will regard it simply as an enjoyable visual experience to students of environmental studies, who will benefit from the information it presents. Photographers, environmentalists, and lovers of natural history will all find much to admire between its covers, as will those who may have a special interest in the natural environments of Canada’s westernmost province.


Young, Cameron, “The Forests of British Columbia,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,