There can be little argument that the year we’ve just endured has been like none other. Travel restrictions, closed borders and event cancellations have forced the public to entertain themselves on their home turf. For the most part, when British Columbians were asked to play in their own backyard and do so responsibly, they did! The number of people recreating in the out of doors dramatically increased, as corralled residents explored the inner sanctums of this beautiful province. Now, I’ll take a couple of steps backwards and clarify that when I suggest people behaved responsibly, I was largely referring to the manner in which they dealt with the pandemic.
In the early stages of this aforementioned nightmare, most provincial parks were closed. As a result, stir-crazy residents were forced to set up camps in areas that lacked facilities like outhouses and firepits. Those familiar with camp etiquette realize that poop belongs in a hole and is not something that one should deposit about the moss in an upwind location.
Unfortunately, those not so aware were out in numbers. I can only imagine how many times a mule deer raised up its rear hoof only to think, “Ew.” I get the fact that provincial officials were trying to curtail travel. What I don’t understand is why campsites with safely positioned fire pits and sanitary facilities remained closed when it became very clear that a significant number of campers were utilizing alternative locations, in many instances the wagons being circled just outside park boundaries. I’m certain that every provincial campground I’ve had the pleasure of visiting has its sites arranged in a manner that would meet the B.C. social distancing standards. In my opinion, officials failed to consider the impacts of park-related decisions. I think this may have occurred because developing problems have largely taken place on real estate outside park boundaries and not directly involving fish or wildlife. We need a defender of the middle zone. I’m thinking it’s time to introduce Ranger Smith, a six-foot-four, buzz-cut-sporting ex-athlete armed with the tools of defence, who exudes an attitude of compliance expectation. Smith could intervene when stupid dominates common sense. I can hear it now: “Sir, pitching the family tent four metres from a main gravel thoroughfare exhibits gross disregard for the safety of your children. If you don’t move it to a safe location, I will write you a citation.” There are so many instances when the presence of an empowered constable could overt what’s likely to occur. The recording of vehicle licence plates might persuade persons camping within a re-created Trailer Park Boys set to leave a pristine outdoor environment in the condition it was found. Outdoor liaison Officer Smith could help avoid confrontation by mediating a relocation plan with the 87-year-old, nudism-practicing Sneebler sisters who’ve inadvertently set up camp a tree grove away from Joshua’s bird watching Bible camp retreat. At present, hundreds upon hundreds of these kinds of issues are left to sort themselves out. Maybe we need a battalion of Ranger Smiths, an order recognized as Woodland Rangers. Woodland Rangers could help those new to the outdoors both survive and enjoy their wilderness experience, and more importantly it would ensure that Mother Nature survives us.
At this point, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “We already have a Conservation Officer Service,” while others are mindful of the miniscule contingent of BC park rangers scattered about this province’s 944,735 square kilometres. The men and women working in the field for both these organizations need support. The park rangers patrol our parks, while the personnel-challenged COS struggles to work within a budget that assumes the bad guys perform illegal activities between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. over the course of the standard the work week.
Environmental protection goes well beyond our bark boundaries and relates to a myriad of activities that don’t involve fish and wildlife. With so many people engaging BC’s wilderness this year, we can only anticipate that next year will be busier. I won’t for a minute suggest that the year 2020 has taught our government anything, that’s yet to be seen. What the past year has done is provide those with a brain an insightful highlighting of our shortfalls and, in doing so, given us the opportunity to adjust accordingly. Boy, doesn’t that phase, “Adjust accordingly,” have a nice ring to it? In their naked-ness, these two words exude an air of betterment. We need access to our hinterland; at the same time, it needs to be protected from those who don’t yet appreciate the treasures it yields. Wake up, government, and adjust accordingly! You don’t want the Sneebler sisters camped in your front yard.