Calgary

Alberta has sold more than 40,000 passes for camping on public land since June

More than 40,000 passes have been sold for camping on public land since the province implemented the fee in June — but some wonder if the pass has achieved its intended benefits.

But some wonder if the pass has achieved its intended benefits

A camp set up too close to Waiparous Creek during the summer of 2020, when interest in Crown land camping was increasing in Alberta. This June, the province introduced fees for those camping on public land. (Ghost Watershed Alliance Society)

More than 40,000 passes have been sold for camping on public land since the province implemented the fee in June — but some observers say people are skirting the pass.

The pass applies to random camping along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

The province says funds from the pass are intended to be reinvested in the region to improve "recreation experiences and help conserve these beautiful landscapes so they can be enjoyed now and for generations to come."

But some observers worry there is potential that campers could skirt the pass system.

"I think there's going to be a lot of folks who are still going to behave in ways that are contrary to the environment and to the people around them," said Joe Pavelka, a professor of eco-tourism at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Ryan Epp is the curator of the Crown Land Camping Alberta page on Facebook. So far, changes have been minimal, he says.

"The No. 1 issue is people want to see where that money is going, and if they can show that people don't have a problem paying it," Epp said.

Alberta Environment and Parks hasn't issued any tickets to people for camping without a pass, and the ministry says compliance is between 50 and 80 per cent.

"As the pass is new this summer, Environment and Parks staff have been out educating campers about the requirement to have a pass, where it applies and how revenue supports conservation and recreation services," said Morgan Cameron, a spokesperson with the ministry.

"To this point, the focus of compliance efforts has been on implementation and education."

Alberta's Opposition NDP has voiced concern that the fee could lead to further costs down the line, such as fees for activities like hiking.

Each pass is $30 per person, per year.

With files from Elise von Scheel.

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