Illegal cutting of mature hemlock and fir trees from local BC Parks has officials and community leadership concerned.
Last week, on the eve of the historic signing of the Shuswap Regional Trails Strategy, others in the Shuswap had a very different intent when they drove a truck onto pedestrian trails in the Eagle River Nature Reserve, managed by BC Parks, and downed mature hemlock and fir trees, presumably as firewood.
BC Parks officials have been notified, confirming unauthorized removal of trees is an offence under the Park Act.
Under current provincial legislation, illegal damage to critical habitat and protected areas is punishable with fines of up to $1 million and jail time up to a year.
Individuals considering cutting firewood can legally do so by first contacting the provincial Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“It’s just so unacceptable,” said Lori Schneider Wood, who oversees the Shuswap Trail Alliance stewardship program. “Many of us have invested long hours and funds to ensure natural spaces like the Eagle River Nature reserve remain very special places for people to experience. “There is absolutely zero tolerance for this kind of destruction. Every time one person does something selfish like this, it adds to the cumulative destruction of our parks and natural spaces. I can’t even start to suggest the long-term cost for the ecology, recreation and tourism.”
Evidence showed truck tracks driven into the nature reserve along dedicated foot trails and two mature trees fallen and bucked.
“There was probably about $1,000 of firewood there,” said local trail steward Derrick Kucheran.
Kucheran runs Cedars Campground which, like many tourism businesses in the Malakwa area, realizes direct benefits from the attraction natural areas like those at Eagle River provide.
BC Parks and Shuswap Trail Alliance leadership have issued a region-wide call for increased vigilance by residents, trail users and stewards.
“If you see any activity that seems unusual, report it,” says Schneider Wood, “especially tree cutting by unauthorized personnel within protected parks.”
BC Parks officials recommend taking a cell phone photograph and sending it in with as much detail as you can, including licence plate numbers.
Report concerns, questions, and suspicious activity to RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-7277 (1-877-952-RAPP), and sending a note to the Shuswap Trail Report at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We monitor all trail report submissions and send them on to the appropriate authorities,” says Schneider Wood, “and we can also mobilize local stewards and community leadership to assist.”
Individuals wanting to remain anonymous can use the Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-800-222-8477.