Editorial: We need more wilderness watchdogs

We hear about it on local Facebook groups, events are planned around cleaning it up, and for pretty much all of us, nothing ruins a beautiful day in in the backcountry like encountering a big pile of garbage. And it’s not just trash, it’s everything – couches and car parts, building materials, and earlier this month, even a washer and dryer was found during a cleanup in the Princeton area. If someone is going to take all that trouble to haul something like that deep into the forest, why not head the other direction and dispose of it properly?

It’s maddening. And earlier this week, I had a chance to see some of it for myself. Brady Ives called the View office after someone decided to have a living room-like gathering just off Trepanier Road. A pair of burgundy couches, a TV stand, construction material and other junk was carelessly left by someone out to have what they consider a good time. I haven’t been out past Maxwell Road, so Brady and I each took our trucks, heading under the Connector and driving a few kilometres, passing a couple of No Dumping signs along the way. When we got to the site, it was a pleasant surprise to see the mess gone – an email sent later that afternoon to the RDCO advised me that contractors, responding to a Peachland resident’s complaint to the District, cleaned it up.

“By the time our contractor arrived a few days later to tackle the mess, it had all been burnt to the ground, so they took away what they were able,” says Rae Stewart, with the RDCO’s waste reduction office.

Before and after: It seems like a constant cycle – someone makes a mess, someone else cleans it up….and it happens again.

The land certainly isn’t pristine again by any means – and as it turned out, Brady and I only needed to drive a little further, to a clearing where we found a fresh reason to shake our heads. It’s a spot some locals use as a gun range, and right in front, the remnants of a large fire, still smoking. While Brady went to his truck to grab a shovel to cover the fire pit in dirt, I counted about 20 beer cans littering the area. Handily enough, a plastic bag was also left, and I also happened to have a ton of recycling in my truck (which is where one keeps their recycling when intentions of weekend chores go by the wayside), so in the back it went. That was easy.

“When I was a kid, I remember driving to BC and seeing road signs. There was a $1,000 fine for littering,” says Brady. 

“You don’t see that anymore. I don’t get it. We live in this spectacular, beautiful part of the world and people have the audacity to throw their stuff away here.”

Whether you’re a resident or the waste reduction manager for the RDCO, taking people to task for the trash they leave is a never-ending thing. Stewart says illegal dumping within municipal boundaries should be reported locally. If it’s on crown land, you can call the Regional Waste Reduction Office at 250-469-6250 or report online at www.regionaldistrict.com/reportillegaldumping. 

“We assist the Crown where feasible in removing the offending material, as garbage begets garbage,” she says.

“That said, some dumps are too large in scope for our contractor to tackle solo, then we try to do a larger-scale operation, which is typically volunteer-led and driven.” 

Volunteers and residents alike have a huge role to play, as they’re the eyes and ears the authorities rely on to prosecute these litterbugs. Within the RDCO, illegal dumping carries a $2,000 fine. It’s extremely difficult to get those eyewitness accounts and the data required to back up a prosecution in court, says Stewart.

“Public awareness, environmental stewardship, and informal guardians of the bush have had more traction.”

Over at the clearing, the smoke is out, and Brady is heading further up the hill to see what’s what. I had to head back to the office, and as I drove away (recycling clanking around in the back of the truck), I thought it was appropriate to thank those who do the right thing – leave nothing behind, leave it in better shape than how you find it, and report to authorities when possible. Kudos to those Peachlanders who like, Brady, keep an eye out on our wilderness and watershed areas.

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