Monday, September 19, 2016

More enforcement needed on public lands - AWA

W. Howse photo

Alberta Wilderness Association - As of August 6, 2016, enforcement officials have been able to issue tickets for some violations of the Public Lands Administration Regulation. While this is a step toward providing much-needed enforcement to protect Alberta’s public land and waters, the fines are too low and the tickets only apply to a minority of public lands. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes the Government of Alberta needs to take the next step and increase fines for serious offenses and apply violation tickets to all public lands. Specified penalties allow enforcement officials to issue on-the-spot fines.

The specified penalty tickets instated are only applicable to Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ’s, formerly FLUZ’s), Public Land Recreation Areas (PLRA’s), and Public Land Recreation Trails (PLRT’s). PLRA’s and PLUZ’s only cover a small percentage of public lands; for example, PLUZ’s make up about 2.8% of public lands in Alberta.

"Reinstating penalty tickets is an encouraging step, but unfortunately these tickets currently can only be handed out in a small portion of all of Alberta's public lands," says Andrea Johancsik, AWA Conservation Specialist. “For the vast majority of public lands, officers don’t have the ability to issue on-the-spot fines for certain offenses such as riding a vehicle through a river.”

AWA believes ticket amounts for some offenses should be increased, such as failing to properly dispose of waste. “For example, failure to keep a PLUZ or PLRA in a satisfactory condition may warrant a $172 fine. If a site is significantly damaged, the fine amount doesn’t cover the cost to restore the area. Low fines give little incentive for stewardship behaviours,” Johancsik says.

In order for the PLAR specified penalties to be added to vacant public lands, amendments need to be made to the Provincial Offenses and Procedures Regulation and to the Public Lands Administration Regulation. Public lands make up about 60% of Alberta’s total provincial land base. Some offenses on lands with agricultural dispositions, which cover about 8 million acres (32,375km2), or 8% of Alberta’s public lands, are currently enforced under the Recreational Access Regulation.

Under the current specified penalties for offenses under the Public Lands Administration Regulation, an individual may be issued a $172 fine for failing to dispose of waste when they are vacating a PLUZ or PLRA. An offense like this pictured above, west of Nordegg, is not only costly to land managers and the public, but wildlife as well.

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