An undeveloped camping area at Colvalli in the Koocanusa. Photo courtesy KRSC.

Koocanusa Recreation Strategy eases crown land camping restrictions

The provincial government is easing up on restrictions that had previously banned overnight camping on Crown land in the Koocanusa region.

The Section 58 order, issued by the provincial government and implemented a year ago right as the coronavirus pandemic took off globally, restricted motorized vehicle access to designated roads and banned camping on Crown land.

That order was amended on May 14, 2021 to align with the release of the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy, which has resulted in more public access to designated, but undeveloped camping areas. The strategy, developed by the Koocanusa Recreation Steering Committee, is focused maintaining the ecological integrity, cultural values, recreation experience and economic value of the Koocausa region.

A draft of the plan was presented in March, and public feedback was solicited through a survey that generated 244 respondents. In addition to the survey and public engagement process, First Nations and affected stakeholders were contacted directly for their input.

Extensive work, research and public engagement over the last five years has gone into developing the strategy, which will be implemented and enforced immediately, according to a news release.

“While the majority supported the draft Strategy [55 per cent] there were a number of people who had concerns over specific aspects,” said Jeff Zukiwsky, Coordinator of the KRSC. “The majority of people opposed to the Strategy did not like the camping restrictions, and some wanted to see additional areas designated for motorized recreation. However, some people were opposed because they wanted more enforcement of the restrictions and expressed concerns the restrictions did not do enough to protect the environment.”

The amended order permits camping in undeveloped areas identified in the Koocausa Recreation Strategy, which can accommodate over 200 camping units covering approximately 95 hectares of Crown land. However, those sites are user-maintained, with no facilities and limited access.

Those undeveloped sites in Crown land backcountry can be found in areas that include Sharptail, Strauss, Linklater, Rocky Road, Colvalli, Rock Creek, Kikomun Creek, Blue Bottom and Fussee.

Additionally, there are over 300 camping sites in places that include Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, and several recreation sites in the region such as Wapiti Lake, North Star Lake, Suzanne Lake, Kikomun Creek, Loon Lake, Edwards Lake, Gold Creek Bay, Gold Creek and Englishman Creek, and more in the Grasmere area – Western Pine and Grasmere.

Public feedback will guide further discussions and potential revisions of the Koocanusa Strategy, which is considered a living document and subject to change.

Maps of the designated motorized roads and trails, as well as designated camping areas, can be found on the Koocanusa Recreation Steering Committee website. Feedback on the amended order can be submitted to the province through email.