Defuse a sometimes over-heated debate

What can sometimes be a heated, controversial situation could be resolved peacefully with a little respect, co-operation and understanding, such as that encouraged by the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s new Outdoor Passport program.

What can sometimes be a heated, controversial situation could be resolved peacefully with a little respect, co-operation and understanding, such as that encouraged by the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s new Outdoor Passport program.

All too frequently, owners of large parcels of land face the mess left by trespassers who vandalize outbuildings, devastate valuable grasslands, destroy fencing and access roads and sometimes maim, kill or steal livestock.

Such vandals and thieves could be stopped in their tracks by a legitimate, permitted outdoors person using that property with the landowner’s permission, on the understanding that a certain code of ethics and a set of conditions will be followed.

Those people who carry the Outdoors Passport and access the private property with the written consent of the owner, could act as the owner’s eyes and ears on parts of the property far from the owner’s home, reporting such incidents immediately.

At the same time, if the landowner is raising or storing crops with which to feed livestock or to sell, and finding constant losses due to feeding by wildlife, then a cull of the herd or the flock by a hunter could save the land owner his investment, while providing a new opportunity for the hunter.

Or, it could be an angler unable to access a creek, river, pond or lake without crossing private property, who gains that access by taking the online orientation for the Outdoor Passport, then writing a test to achieve the identity card.

That card can then be taken to a landowner, along with a form detailing access conditions which both the landowner and passport holder would agree to and sign.

The landowner then becomes eligible for free additional insurance coverage through the BCWF.

Passport fees paid by the users help pay for that extra liability coverage.

Whether or not this new initiative of the BCWF works will depend entirely on how sincerely both passport holders and landowners embrace the idea.

However, it’s not a new idea. Other provinces, including Alberta have already instituted similar programs, except elsewhere it’s government that’s taken the initiative rather than a non-profit society.

The idea certainly has great potential to defuse what is currently sometimes a pretty heated issue between outdoors enthusiasts and landowners.

I can see the possibility of such a system being implemented too where traditional hiking trails (or historic rail lines) cross private land, or even where private property abuts such public linear hiking or cycling trails.

If the users had to take a quick course to gain an understanding of the issues, commit to being respectful and are given permission to cross certain lands, perhaps the landowners would find less vandalism and would be more accepting of such use of their land.

In Alberta, they call it an access management partnership and they’ve found that it’s mutually beneficial.

And, it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Can we make it work? Let’s give it a chance.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com