Alberta Fish and Wildlife is cracking down after receiving more than 100 complaints of people dumping appliances, vehicles and garbage on Crown lands.
More than 130 charges and 176 written warnings have been issued this summer. Ron Wiebe, an inspector with Alberta Fish and Wildlife, says the problem is provincewide.
"Anywhere that there's public lands, we tend to find some abuse of one form or another," Wiebe told the Calgary Eyeopener. "Whether it's someone dumping the television set and shooting it up … or leaving a refrigerator or appliance or some sort."
Along with household items, Wiebe said Alberta Fish and Wildlife routinely find abandoned vehicles in fields and rivers. There are also reoccurring environmental issues caused by garbage left behind by campers behaving badly.
"Problematic situations arise from people leaving food and garbage that animals can get into," Wiebe said. "Also, the absolute unsightly aspects of it."
Under the Public Lands Act, anyone caught dumping garbage on public lands can be ordered to remediate the land or face fines as high as $100,000.
Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips said enforcement officers are cracking down on offenders and anyone using public lands as "their personal dump."
"Respecting our wild spaces and leaving them in pristine shape is an Albertan thing to do," Phillips said in a statement.
Cleaning up the backcountry
Wiebe said volunteer groups have stepped up to help Fish and Wildlife keep the wilderness clean, like the Alberta Off-highway Vehicle Association, which performs a regular cleanup every May.
In June, a cleanup at Hilda Lake near Cold Lake led to the removal of two abandoned recreational vehicles and enough broken appliances, furniture and garbage to fill four industrial-sized dumpsters.
Volunteers from the Turning Point Society of Central Alberta helped clean up a small island in the Red Deer River this summer, removing several propane and fuel tanks.
Even though Albertans are pitching in to help, Wiebe said cleanup duties usually fall to the province despite a lack of funding for remediation.
"The Government of Alberta will potentially pick up the cost on some of that [remediation] but they don't have a budget for it," Wiebe said.
"So it makes it very difficult to finance the cleanup of vehicles, especially when they're a long way back."
Alberta Fish and Wildlife is asking Albertans to help fight illegal dumping by calling the Report a Poacher hotline at 1-800-642-3800.
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener