Opinion

Free pass across private lands

Private property such as this could become accessible with the agreement of the landowner through a new BCWF Outdoors Passport program—to the benefit of both owner and user.  - Judie Steeves/Capital News
Private property such as this could become accessible with the agreement of the landowner through a new BCWF Outdoors Passport program—to the benefit of both owner and user.
— image credit: Judie Steeves/Capital News

A new outdoor education program will help landowners and outdoor recreation enthusiasts work together to each others’ mutual benefit, providing access for hunting and angling across private land, and extra eyes and ears for the landowner.

Similar programs are operated by government in Alberta and some other provinces as well as in most U.S. states according to Mel Arnold, past president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which has organized the Outdoor Passport program.

In Alberta, it’s called the Recreation Access Management Plan.

It was developed in consultation with the B.C. Agriculture Council, the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association and the B.C. Grain Producers’ Association.

Many of their members would be glad to have hunters enter their property to hunt because it would reduce herds of wild elk or sheep or flocks of waterfowl that decimate their stores of feed.

BCWF members holding the passport would also serve as the landowner’s eyes and ears for trespassers who might be doing damage to rangelands or crops, fences or even animals.

They would also be able to report sightings of sick or injured animals, downed fences or anything else amiss far from the ranch house, noted Arnold.

“We really listened to what landowners had to say about issues accessing private land and looked for workable solutions.

This program ensures that our members understand that access to private land is a privilege and pledge to work in partnership with landowners,” he said.

Obtaining the passport would be of interest not only to hunters, but also anglers or even those looking for a spot to picnic or walk, said Arnold.

In order to receive the passport card, BCWF members would have to read through the online orientation, then pass a test on the program, which is based on common sense and understanding and respect of a landowner’s rights.

The first such passport would cost $30 and it would cost $15 in successive years.

Part of that goes toward paying for extra insurance which land owners can access free of charge through the BCWF if they participate in the passport program.

Passport holders would be provided with a passport identity card and a form where conditions for access can be detailed, to give to landowners whose land they wanted to access.

“No one would be forcing themselves on a landowner. The program is completely voluntary,” said Arnold, who has been working for the past four years to set up the program.

Ultimately, he said there will be an interactive website where land owners interested in the program could enquire, but at present those interested should call him at 250-833-1155.

Landowners may wish to post signs indicating that those holding the Outdoor Passport are welcome to come and ask about accessing the private land, noted Arnold.

“We see BCWF members with an Outdoor Passport assisting farmers and ranchers to mitigate crop

damage and loss of income due to wildlife issues,” said Greg Norton, chair of the Agriculture Environment Initiatives with the BC AgriculturaI Research and Development Corporation

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

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