Enforcement a concern at Koocanusa

RDEK board director reports that authorities are running into non-compliance on issues such as campfire bans.

Adhering to campfire bans and confrontation between provincial authorities and campers came up at the Regional District of East Kootenay board meeting on Friday.

Area B director Stan Doehle reported situations where Natural Resource Officers (NRO’s) and conservation officers were dealing with tense situations as campers in the Koocanusa region have been lighting campfires without any regard for consequences.

Even if authorities issue a fine, there’s no way to compel out-of-province campers to pay it, Doehle added.

“Campfires are major—from the information I get back, they’re [NRO’s] picking up a campfire every second night, even after all the information out there,” Doehle said.

“They’re going into there and getting into confrontation with people who say they don’t know anything about it, but it’s well advertised, there’s highway signs flashing out there and people are aware of it.”

The Southeast Fire Centre has issued a region-wide campfire ban in response to hot and dry wildfire conditions and have not rescinded the order since it went into effect in the beginning of July.

Doehle notes that NRO’s are mainly used for education and as a liaison to the public, but lack the tools and the mandate to enforce rules.

“Right now it’s mostly public information, they’re getting a lot of flak from the public at different times and they’re not trained for confrontation, while the CO’s are,” Doehle said.

“…The CO’s know how to deal with it, they’re armed and they’re prepared to deal with the public in that matter. An NRO is not armed and they have a hard time dealing with some of the confrontation that’s put forward to them.”

Doehle said he has had conversations with authorities and is hoping to see some enforcement tools put into effect, such as vehicle impoundment or making fines due upon the renewal of drivers licenses.

“The impounding of it would have to come from there [the province], it’s legislation or putting it onto a drivers license—the fine—taking a license number off a vehicle and then that person goes to renew his or her drivers license, whether it’s in both provinces, it should be, because both people in Alberta and B.C. have major play in this,” Doehle said.