Conservation Officers in the Elk Valley say a one-of-its-kind initiative to protect the back country from off-road vehicles is a growing success.
The Access Management Compliance and Enforcement Program (AMCEP) was initiated in 2009 and, for six of the last seven years, it has educated the public and enforced vehicle prohibitions in Access Management Areas (AMA) in the RDEK’s Electoral Area A.
“Every year, I do a full report on the numbers of contacts, people educated, enforcement actions – such as tickets, warning tickets, violation tickets – all within the Access Management Areas,” explains Conservation Officer Patricia Burley. “It’s a nice review and people can see where there’s high compliance and what areas may be improving.”
Area A encompasses approximately 464,000 hectares of land, not including municipalities and contains 14 AMA’s, 19 BC recreation sites and trails and four Motor Vehicle Hunting Closed areas.
CO’s spent nearly 500 hours patrolling AMA’s and engaging the public last year, laying 10 access charges in the process.
That’s down from a total of 22 charges in 2015 and 24 in 2014 – the highest number since 2011.
Burley believes they are seeing improvements in certain areas.
“One in particular is Grave Prairie, northeast of Sparwood,” she points out. “It was kind of a mudbogging pit for people to go to in the spring and early summer and then it was overrun with campers and quaders. Now people are obeying the signs, they following the main routes they’re suppose to stay on.”
However, the total number complaints made to the Report All Polluters and Poachers (RAPP) line regarding AMA violations has increased since the introduction of the AMCEP in 2011.
The report indicates ongoing issues include: easy access for Albertans to cross the border into isolated AMA’s, people cutting locks and chains attached to road closure signs, and ATV’s causing environmental damage.
One of the main issues CO’s face with enforcement is simply covering extensive area of the AMA’s in the Elk Valley.
CO’s say a new concern is the use of pedal assisted mountain bikes which are illegal in a closed non-motorized area.
Burley says they will continue to use the best tool: education.
“An Access Management Area isn’t a fully non-motorized area. It’s just an area that you need to know what roads not to go on. Not to go on the grasslands. Not to go into the gray shaded areas.”
2017 also presented different challenges to the members of the Conservation Officers Service as it was one of the hottest and driest summers in BC’s history, and only the second time in 33 years the East Kootenay/Elk Valley back country was closed due to wildfire hazards.
The report suggests the AMA outreach and education will continue throughout 2018 with presentations to Elkford, Sparwood, and Fernie Secondary Schools before the May long weekend.
– Conservation Officer Patricia Burley