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BCAL satisfied order brought to commercial backcountry operations



14-month transition period has reduced conflicts, put process in place

There's a new enforcer in the backcountry.

He's the first one of his kind in the province with a history as a park ranger and 14 years under his belt as a safety manager at Cypress Mountain.

His name is Bob Cunneyworth and he's the B.C.'s Assets and Land Corporation's (BCAL) compliance officer in the corridor.

"Having Bob walking the front line is kind of like having the neighbourhood cop walking the beat," said BCAL's David Reilley.

Cunneyworth began patrolling the backcountry after BCAL announced over a year ago that all commercial recreational users in the area must have tenure to operate on Crown land.

Prior to that time only a handful of operations had tenure.

"The (commercial recreational) industry grew up in the corridor faster than the government grew up," said Reilley, comparing the former situation to the Wild West.

To gain control over the amount of commercial recreational users in the area, BCAL gave all existing operators a 14-month transition period, at the end of which, each one had to be licensed.

Since that transition period ended in November this year, BCAL has looked at over 53 different commercial backcountry recreation applications. Some have been approved. Others have been disallowed.

"We are satisfied that what we set out to do 14 months ago has been achieved," said Reilley. "We are not aware of any significant illegal activity out there that we haven't been able to nip in the bud."

Cunneyworth's role throughout this period has been to enforce the Land Act and make sure that commercial recreational users are compliant.

He patrols the backcountry about three days a week on his snowmobile and over the course of the last 14 months he said many operators have had a change of opinion about land tenure and BCAL's role.

"It has evolved in the fact that there are quite a few more legal operators out there who are willing to talk," he said.

He added that many licensed users now see him, and consequently BCAL, as a way of protecting them from unlicensed competition.

"I'm part of their fee for service. I'm a by-product of what they're paying for," he said.

Crown land is an asset that belongs to everyone in B.C. but the Land Act did not anticipate the boom of commercial recreational activity in this area throughout the past decade.

"We reached the point that we had to come to terms with the fact that the resource isn't infinite," said Reilley.