Benefits of Preservation

*NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

A Place to Connect with Nature

Residents and visitors treasure the Cariboo Heights forest as a special place to connect with nature and wildlife. Here, people enjoy walking, running, cycling, geocaching, birding, photography, walking their dogs and spending time with family and friends. We need natural spaces to enhance our mental and physical health and sense of well being.

A 2020 Park People National Survey on Covid-19 and Parks surveyed Canadians and found:

  • 70% said their appreciation for parks and green space has increased
  • 82% said that parks have become more important to their mental health
  • 64% said that visiting parks is important for their connection to nature
  • 42% report that they use parks several times a week, 25% use parks daily
  • 62% were concerned about overcrowding in parks

Dog walkersStudies show that people who live near and use forested areas are healthier, less stressed, less likely to develop chronic illness and have better mental health. A 2019 literature review on “The Effects of Forest Bathing on Human Health” found time spent in nature:

  • reduces blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones
  • Increases anti-cancer proteins and cells
  • Reduces anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion
  • Increases vigour and focus

As the City of Burnaby continues to grow and increase population density, more pressure will be placed on the existing well-used and well-loved parks. Protecting the Cariboo Heights forest will provide another natural area for people to enjoy.


Part of Burnaby’s Heritage

Logging and the Burnaby Lake Interurban line of the BC Electric Railway influenced settlement in the central valley—for detailed information visit History.


Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat

More than 250 species of plants and animals, including 4 endangered species, live in the Cariboo Heights forest and the Brunette River Conservation Area—visit Biodiversity for detailed information.


200 Year-Old Trees

Veteran spruce tree beside the Perched Pond
Veteran spruce tree beside the Perched Pond

In the Cariboo Heights forest, only a small pocket of veteran trees survived logging in the early 1900’s. They are located near an old oxbow of the Brunette River and are protected from winter storms by the forest upslope of them. Some of these trees are now estimated to be more than 200 years old.

The veteran trees are a mix of western red cedar, western hemlock and Sitka spruce. Some of the trees are well over 46 m (150 feet) in height. A 1990 consultant’s report to the City of Burnaby describes this small group of old trees. They “were found to constitute a forest community that may be unique within Burnaby and the lower mainland… they constitute individual specimens which are rare at the low elevations in the lower mainland. Other low elevation sites where hemlock and cedar of comparable age may be present are probably limited to Stanley Park and Lighthouse Park.”

These old trees depend on the year round seepage of water and nutrients from the upslope forest. Consultants said these trees could be expected to survive for at least another 100 years if they are not subjected to undue disturbance.


Climate Change Mitigation

Forest Refuge in the Urban Heat Island

Urban neighbourhoods experience higher daytime and night time temperatures than forests because buildings and roads absorb and then re-emit the sun’s heat. So, urban forests are places of refuge during high heat events. On a hot summer day when the temperature is 34 degrees in the Cariboo Heights neighbourhood, the temperature in the Cariboo Heights forest is 4-5 degrees cooler. The urban forest is a refuge for both wildlife and people on hot days which will become more important as the effects of climate change increase.

Coyote resting in the Cariboo Heights forest on a hot day


Carbon Sequestration and Storage

The City of Burnaby declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set an ambitious target to become carbon neutral by 2050. Conserving urban forests such as the Cariboo Heights forest, which sequester and store carbon, will help the city of Burnaby meet its goal. As a reference, a 2020 BCIT student study of the Brunette River Conservation area estimated that 29 hectares (72 acres) of forest in the Brunette River Conservation Area sequesters and stores about 51 tons of carbon a year. The amount of carbon that is sequestered and stored by the 30 hectares (74 acres) of the Cariboo Heights forest outside of the conservation area is not yet known.


Burnaby’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy

The Environmental Sustainability Strategy was approved by Burnaby City Council in 2016. It is a framework to guide future decisions by the City of Burnaby to become a more vibrant, resilient and sustainable community, integrated with healthy ecosystems and watersheds.

Healthy and Resilient Watersheds

In the 1950’s, the Brunette River was “dead”. It once had abundant runs of coho, pink, chinook and steelhead salmon. In the late 1890’s, the Brunette River was straightened by the logging industry to allow the easier flow of logs down to the mills along the Fraser River. Boulders, fallen logs and gravel bars were removed without understanding that these were important habitat features for fish and aquatic insects. A logging company built a dam at the end of Burnaby Lake which allowed them to control the water level in the Brunette River.

Old Brunette Dam 1925
Old Brunette River dam, 1925, City of Burnaby Archives, 204-324.


The dam was rebuilt in 1931 to prevent flooding downstream. Salmon couldn’t get over the new dam to spawn in the many small creeks that drained into Burnaby Lake.

Industries built up along the lower Brunette and discharged their waste water and pollutants directly into the river. Residents used the Brunette River as a dump for unwanted appliances, and garbage. The number of spawning fish declined every year until there were none.

Brunette River Dam
Brunette River dam construction, 1931, City of Burnaby Archives, 204-322


In 1969 the Sapperton Fish and Game Club began their efforts to control pollution and restore fish habitat to bring salmon back to the river. It took more than 20 years of work before the first coho salmon returned to the Brunette River in 1984.



Today, the Brunette River has self-sustaining runs of chum salmon. A small fish hatchery built by the Sapperton Fish and Game Club, operates in the Cariboo Heights forest. They raise and release about 20,000 coho fry into the Brunette each year. The Brunette River is also habitat for rainbow trout and two threatened species of fish—coastal cutthroat trout and the tiny endangered Nooksack dace. The restoration of the Brunette River has been an inspiration for streamkeeper groups all over North America.

Brunette River
Brunette River


Five small creeks run year round from the Cariboo Heights forest, supplying clean, cool, oxygenated water to the river. Two of these creeks (Ancient Grove and Kingfisher) drain into an old river oxbow.

Creeks in the Cariboo Heights Forest
Creeks in the Cariboo Heights Forest


This oxbow, called the Perched Pond, was part of a salmon enhancement project, completed in 2011 to increase off-channel habitat for overwintering coho fry. It is also an important amphibian habitat for northwestern salamanders and endangered red-legged frogs.

A healthy and resilient Brunette River continues to depend on maintaining water quality. It is the only salmon supporting river in the province whose watershed is entirely within an urbanized and industrialized area. More than 80% of the watershed is covered by homes, roads and businesses. Developing the Cariboo Heights forest would reduce the small remaining natural area left in the Brunette River watershed.

Healthy and Resilient Ecosystems

Healthy ecosystems are needed for our survival, health and well-being. Preserving the Cariboo Heights forest would protect important habitat for the species at risk that live here. This is habitat that connects to existing parks and conservation areas and is an important wildlife corridor.

Cariboo Heights Forest
Cariboo Heights Forest


A community resilient to climate change, with clean air and low carbon emissions

This accessible forest provides a refuge for people and wildlife during uncomfortably hot weather. The forest absorbs and stores carbon to help the City of Burnaby meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. It offers opportunities for education and interpretation to promote community engagement in conservation and climate awareness.


A walkable, bikeable and transit-supported city

Cyclist on the Interurban railbed trail
Cyclist on the Interurban rail bed trail

Another principle of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy is to ‘create accessible outstanding outdoor public spaces that encourage active transportation, socializing and interacting with nature.’ The Interurban railway trail is very accessible and provides great nature experiences through a beautiful 100 year old forest. It is used by walkers and cyclists as a direct link between Cariboo Road and Holmes Avenue.



Valuable Environmental Services

The Cariboo Heights forest performs vital environmental services. The forest filters pollutants from the rain and air. It acts like a giant sponge, absorbing water during heavy rainfall events and reduces stormwater runoff and erosion in the local creeks.

Rain in Trolley creek
Rain in Trolley Creek


The 2020 BCIT student study of the Brunette River Conservation Area estimated that this part of the forest removes approximately 800 kg of pollutants each year. It also absorbs about 4,000 cubic metres of precipitation that would otherwise run straight into the river.

The total value of the ecosystem system services is estimated to be $30,000 a year and the value will increase over time as the forest ages and climate change progresses. Over the next century, the total value of the ecological services provided solely by the forest in the Brunette River Conservation area will be greater than $3,000,000. The value of environmental services contributed by the area of forest that is zoned for development has not yet been studied.

Map of Brunette Conservation Area
Map of the Cariboo Heights forest showing the Brunette River Conservation Area, Millview parksite and the area zoned for development.