Agassiz resident Debra Key was set to have a relaxing day with her husband up one of Harrison Lake’s scenic roads. They drove up the West Harrison Road, camp chairs in the back of the truck, ready to enjoy the outdoors.
They found to a spot close to 20 Mile Bay with a view of the lake. It looked pristine. Perfect.
But then Key looked around.
“I walked over to the edge of the camping spot and discovered an incredible amount of garbage strewn everywhere as far as I could see,” shares Key. “Plastic, bags, bottles, cans, old camp chairs, computer parts, Styrofoam, propane bottles, tent poles, Hibachi BBQ and the worst of all, metal flashing or tin and a large white container full of Gyprock.”
Horrified, the Keys spent the next three hours dragging the garbage up the bank and fitting what they could into their truck.
“I couldn’t consciously leave without doing something,” says Key.
Conservation officer Steve Jacobi says the problem of garbage in remote areas is “almost systemic.”
“I know they’re battling this across British Columbia,” says Jacobi. “It’s extremely prevalent across the Lower Mainland, especially in the Fraser Valley.”
The land on the west side of Harrison Lake is operated under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which doesn’t do cleanup operations. Enforcement falls under Jacobi’s jurisdiction within the Ministry of Environment.
Conservation officers can do enforcement with the aid of camera surveillance and patrols of “hot spots” as well as following up on complaints. Currently, the Fraser Valley zone office is getting about a dozen calls a week on illegal dumping.
Jacobi explains that sometimes, there is information left behind or an indication of who the offender may be. The day before he spoke with The Observer, Jacobi saw a court prosecution where an offender received a $345 fine for littering.
“That was the result of us finding the dump material and following up,” Jacobi explains.
So while they don’t have the manpower for cleanup duty, they can do investigating and enforcing. But they need the public’s help in being the eyes and ears at the hot spots.
“We want it reported to us,” says Jacobi, explaining they go to where the biggest concerns are so if they get repeated calls about one location, they will focus more attention there.
The mess Key came upon is in an area with “ongoing issues,” says Jacobi.
So, what should citizens do if they find garbage out in the wilderness?
“Take responsibility,” says Jacobi. “If you can, clean it up. If it’s something that looks like it has potential for information in the garbage we can follow up on, notify us immediately.”
Residents can notify conservation officers through the R.A.P.P. line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) at 1-877-952-RAPP or cellular dial #7277. You can also submit a report online at www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/rapp/form.htm
If you do find garbage, Jacobi reminds residents to not to burn it, but pick it up and dispose of it properly, if possible.
As for Key, this won’t stop her from going into the backcountry. But she does hope that her reporting spurs action by officials to do “whatever it takes to stop or alleviate this type of bad behaviour.”
When to use RAPP:
If you have just witnessed a serious violation, call 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network. If the situation is not an emergency , report the incident online. For fisheries violations related to salmon, contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) at 1-800-465-4336. The RAPP hotline should also be used to report wildlife-human interactions where public safety may be at risk.