Lake Koocanusa last summer.

Committee unveils strategy to control Koocanusa campers

On March 23, authorities announced the completion of the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy.

Authorities will be identifying acceptable off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails, camping areas and parking areas in a 127 square kilometre section of Lake Koocanusa this summer as part of a wider crackdown on out-of-control campers.

The goal is to have some trails, camping areas, and parking areas designated and established by summer 2018, said Jeff Zukiwsky, coordinator of the Koocanusa Recreation Steering Committee.

The area is called Dorr-Grasmere and is located between the Elk River, Highway 93 and the US border. It was chosen for specific management actions because random camping and off-highway vehicles have impacted the area to the point that it has become severely degraded, says the newly released Koocanusa Recreation Strategy

“[We] realized we couldn’t tackle the entire Koocanusa area at one time,” said Zukiwsky. “So we made a decision to start with a small chunk of it.”

Starting this summer, recreation trails for motorized and non-motorized users will be established in the previously unregulated area. Camping and parking areas will also be created.

Zukiwsky said Dorr-Grasmere would be a testing ground to see if authorities can stop the litter, random camping and general rowdiness that has been degrading the environment and annoying locals around Lake Koocanusa in recent years.

“Based on the results of that, we might look toward other areas that are having similar issues,” he said.

On March 23, authorities announced the completion of the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy, which aims to address Lake Koocanusa’s increasing popularity with disrespectful campers.

The overall goal of the strategy is to foster more sustainable and responsible recreation on Crown lands.

The actions outlined in the strategy will begin this spring, and will be funded in part by $750,000 over three to five years from Columbia Basin Trust.

The province is committing resources to implement the strategy including financial support for increased enforcement and improvements to recreation facilities.

“For the first time there is a commitment to begin implementing on-the-ground actions that will reduce the impacts of uncontrolled recreation on our natural resources,” said Yvonne Miller, a local rancher and member of the Koocanusa Recreation Public Advisory Group, in a statement.

Included in the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy is a commitment to educate recreation users about appropriate Crown land behaviour through signage and the distribution of guidelines and maps.

The strategy also calls on the Koocanusa Recreation Steward Program to provide two additional natural resource officers for the area and the completion of a recreation inventory of existing roads, trails, camping sites and staging areas.

The strategy was created after several years of consultation and engagement, which included a partnership with the local Koocanusa Recreation Public Advisory Group, four community open houses and a recreation management survey that received more than 1,100 responses.