Crown land issues in the Kootenays

The issue surrounding what people are doing and leaving behind on Crown land is becoming a more serious issue for those people who work at protecting the areas.

  • May. 17, 2011 5:00 p.m.

The issue surrounding what people are doing and leaving behind on Crown land is becoming a more serious issue for those people who work at protecting the areas.

Illegal dumping on Crown land is becoming increasingly more serious throughout the Province and the East Kootenay is no exception, according to Lise A. Levesque, Compliance Supervisor, Rocky Mountain Field Unit.

“The issue involves dumping everything from household garbage, old furniture, mattresses, appliances, building material waste and yard waste, to abandoning derelict cars and recreational vehicles along our forest roads and on Crown land.  Not only a nuisance and an eyesore, garbage presents risks to wildlife, piled brush and building material waste creates a fire hazard along forest roads, and vehicles are usually vandalized and burnt and release toxins into the environment.  We have even found large amounts of industrial cleaners, oils and other hazardous wastes dumped on Crown land,” Levesque said. “With the increase in the numbers of people using Crown land for recreational purposes, comes increasing pressure on the land.  Irresponsible off-road vehicle use (dirtbikes, ATVs 4x4s) is extensively damaging sensitive grassland and wetland habitats in some areas.”

She went on to explain that people build cabins and other structures on Crown land for personal use.  Structures such as cabins, wharfs, and mountain bike stunts generally do not meet any form of building standards and are seldom maintained, which presents safety risks to the public that may come across them, according to Levesque.

“Every summer people are laying claim to Crown land along Koocanusa Lake by parking recreational vehicles for the summer, even sometimes leaving older ones over the winter to secure the sites the following spring, probably with no intention to ever move them.  Along with this, these people are constructing decks, pit toilets, fire pits, lean-tos, as well as installing waterlines, and in one case, even a zip line. ”

Natural Resource Compliance Officers and Ministry of Environment Conservation Officers are conducting public awareness and education campaigns.  Weekend enforcement patrols are also being organized to try to promote compliance.

Penalties may range from violation tickets to administrative penalties and criminal prosecutions.  Costs of clean-up and restoration can be charged to the violator under the Land Act.

As for why she feels people are leaving garbage or items on Crown land, Levesque said the dumping is probably for convenience.

“Don’t build structures or damage trees, know the fire regulations and use fire responsibly.  Never leave a campfire unattended and always have a hand-tool (shovel or rake) and bucket of water available to extinguish the fire. Pack in your own firewood so that the site can be retained in a natural state. Cabins and other structures built on Crown land without proper authority are illegal.  If found responsible, you will be charged with the removal of the structure at your expense and could face additional administrative penalties.”

If you observe someone littering, dumping garbage or waste, or abusing the land, you can contact Compliance & Enforcement at 250-426-1700 in Cranbrook or call the “Report all Poachers/Polluters” (RAPP) at 1-877-952-7277.