Tweedsmuir Park staff are shocked after local residents cleaned up a large amount of garbage from the roadside between the 27 kilometre boundaries of the west and east end of the Park through the highway corridor.
The trash was collected between November and April and included 16 bags of cans. The majority of these were beer and alcohol cans, and this presents a special concern for Parks staff and the RCMP.
“This amount of beer can litter in the ditch, along the associated drinking and driving, puts park visitors and other Valley residents at risk. BC Parks’ concerns focus on the increased risk of front country park users being struck by impaired drivers on Hwy 20 and backcountry hikers encountering bears that, due to the litter, may be food conditioned,” said Mattias Morrison, Acting Area Supervisor for Tweedsmuir Park South. “For example, last year, a bear in the Rainbow Range area demonstrated behaviour associated with human food conditioning because it tried to claim two backpackers’ bags. In this case the backcountry users’ food was properly secured and bear spray was effective. Rangers had previously investigated reports of a bear being hand-fed from a vehicle near Heckman Pass. This is not evidence of a “problem bear,” but rather problematic human behaviour that results in food conditioning, and this increases the risks for all park users.”
Morrison said that BC Parks goal is to contribute to the well-being of British Columbians by “protecting the incredible natural and cultural values present within Tweedsmuir Provincial Park,” the issue of littering works directly against these goals and that “BC Parks Rangers will be working closely with other enforcement agencies to manage this issue, and we encourage the public to work with us in helping stop the problem.”
Local RCMP are also concerned.
“RCMP are disappointed with the amount of cans that have been found around our community. Fines for littering in the province of British Columbia can be as high as $2000,” said Sgt. Andrew Mills. “Also of concern is that a large portion were beer cans which suggests motorists are drinking and driving. Impaired driving is a priority for the Bella Coola RCMP and we encourage the public to help police keep our roads safe by reporting any drivers they suspect to be impaired.”
Littering is not just bad manners for us as humans; it can cause serious problems for wildlife. As Conservation Specialist Lori Homstol explains, exposing animals to garbage is never a good practice.
“Having this amount of garbage discarded along the roadside is not just unsightly. Wildlife are often attracted to roadside garbage, and it teaches them to associate roads with food, which can lead to increases in traffic mortalities. This has effects on large animals like bears, but even small animals such as voles and mice can be attracted to roadside garbage, and then anything that preys on those smaller animals, from eagles to lynx and foxes, is at an increased risk of vehicle collisions, as are animals that find the carcasses,” Homstol said. “Sometimes animals get their heads inside jugs or bottles, or ingest plastic that gets lodged in their throats so they can’t eat or drink. In high enough quantities, or in the wrong location, garbage can seep into the waterways and pollute fish habitat.”
If members of the public are concerned about impaired driving they are encouraged to contact the RCMP at 250 799 5363. For Parks related matters people can call the Parks office at 250 982 2701.