Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill entitled Bill M223 — Right to Roam Act. This Bill reestablishes the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.
Increasingly, British Columbians are being fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. One particularly high profile example involves public access to Minnie, Stoney and other lakes surrounded by Douglas Lake Ranch spread out over more than 500,000 acres. Approximately 365,000 acres are already crown land with full public access. But concern over access to several lakes was raised when Stoney Lake Road was suddenly gated in the late 1970s and subsequently locked in the early 1980s.
Below I reproduce the text and video of the speech I gave as I introduced the bill. I also include the accompanying media release.
A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.
A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017.
The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it. This bill will re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams and lakes and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.
Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are a pivotal part of British Columbia’s heritage and form an important part of the fabric of present-day life in British Columbia. They are also vital to the understanding, conservation and management of fish and wildlife in our province.
Increasingly, however, British Columbians are being fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations.
One particularly high profile example involved public access to Minnie, Stoney and other lakes surrounded by Douglas Lake Ranch, spread out over more than 500,000 acres. Public access was prevented when Stoney Lake Road was suddenly gated in the 1970s and subsequently locked in the 1980s. This bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act, aims to address and prevent such conflicts.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M223, Right to Roam Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Weaver introduces Right to Roam Act
For immediate release
February 27th, 2017
VICTORIA B.C. – Locked gates on back roads are increasingly restricting access to wild lands in the province, making it harder for outdoors people to go hunting, fishing or hiking. A new bill tabled Monday by Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, would put a stop to that practice.
“British Columbians are increasingly being fenced out of the province’s wild lands. The ability to access and experience nature is a public right, and we must protect it,” says Weaver, who is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “Free public access to the outdoors is vital to people’s health and well-being, but it is also vital to the health and well-being of our environment. People protect what they know and love. If we become disconnected from our environment we risk disengaging with the fight for its future.”
In many regions of the province, the only way to access wild Crown lands is via logging roads, public back roads, or across privately owned forests and uncultivated areas. While casual public use of these accessways has not been an issue in the past, there is a growing trend of neighbouring landowners and forestry companies locking people out. Some are building fences and installing locked gates to block access altogether, others are implementing strict schedules or access fees. In extreme cases, British Columbians are getting arrested for trespassing while walking to public lakes they have been fishing for generations.
The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, a non-profit association dedicated to the local preservation and management of habitat and wildlife, for example, has spent years in a legal battle with the owner of the Douglas Lake Ranch over the public right to fish in public lakes..
“The Right to Roam Act aims to address and prevent conflicts like the Douglas Lake Ranch case. Nature in British Columbia should be open to all, not to just the privileged few,” says Weaver.
This Act was built off the existing BC Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and the Nova Scotia Angling Act. It includes a few additional amendments, made with reference to a UVic Environmental Law Clinic report about enhancing public access to wild lands.
“By allowing people to cross uncultivated wild land to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, the Right to Roam Act aims to re-establish the rights of British Columbians and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.”
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Mat Wright, Press Secretary
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