New app outs illegal dumpers

BC Wildlife Federation along with UBCO and partner groups have an app to geolocate illegal forest dumpsites and the people who do it.

Andre Bohemier of ABC Recycling (left)

Much like the bears do in the forest, some people can’t help but leave their ‘stuff’ behind when they head in to the bush.

For people however it’s fridges, cars and bags of trash. Just about anything humans accumulate can end up in the forest. A small portion of Okanagan residents are avoiding a minimal dumping fee to head into the back country and dump their trash, spending as much time and possibly more money in gas and vehicle wear and tear to haul it up those backcountry roads.

“We have a small portion of the population that’s treating B.C.’s backcountry like a dump,” said BC Wildlife Federation’s Jesse Zeman.

“Poaching, polluting, illegal dumping, a whole bunch of issues.”

For the past year an app has been in development to curb that behaviour, and on Monday the BCWF Conservation app was launched at a recent illegal dump site off Postill Lake Road in Lake Country.

That recent mess was cleaned up by the Okanagan Forest Task Force, a group of people who spend their own time and resources to clean up the forests.

Early in November, 50 of them collected 10.5 tons of scrap metal with the help of Regional District of the Central Okanagan waste management, Winn Rentals, EnviroMetal towing, ABC Recycling and others.

Disincentives to litter are already in place. Josh Lockwood, a sergeant with the Conservation Office Services in Kelowna, said penalties go from a $280 littering ticket to commercial fines of $550 and more.

“There was just a case where they got a $20,000 fine on somebody who illegally dumped commercial waste and then burned it.”

This was an example of people reporting what they were seeing. “Somebody saw them doing it.”

Using the BCWF Conservation app people can pinpoint with GPS exactly where dumping occurs. While they warn confronting people while they are dumping trash is clearly not the thing to do, licence plates and other identifying features can be uploaded to the app.

After editing these will go up on the site and the people who are doing the dumping will soon know their activity has gone public.

The app was developed at UBCO, where Jon Corbett and Nick Blackwell said it took a year to get it just right.

“We’ve got 100,000 plus hunters, 400,000 anglers, we have campers, we have loggers, we have hydrologists — all kinds of professionals are out in the bush,” Zeman said. “We are able to increase the number of eyes and ears by an order of magnitude for the Conservation Office Service, natural resource officers, Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“We have all these citizen scientists out here, let’s put ’em to work.”

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