Landowners really appreciate it when guests on their land treat them and their property with respect.

Public response and attendance at the June 8th PRRD Committee of the Whole meeting in Fort St. John on the topic of land sharing was overwhelming to say the least. I showed up five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start and immediately realized there was no hope of getting in. With the limited information that was available beforehand combined with a touchy private property issue, it is understandable that many people had a little work up and felt it was important to be there to both learn more and make their opinions known. It seems that this matter was not handled well initially, and hopefully that improves.

Without wading into the details of this specific proposal, here are a few of my thoughts on land sharing in general. For starters, it is very understandable that rural land owners often have very different views on land sharing than say urban folks or others who do not own land in the country. Many land owners have had extensive experience with the public on their land by means of two methods; by actively “land sharing” by giving people permission to come on their land, and by dealing with unwelcome trespassers and poachers. For this article we will deal with the former.

Obviously, landowners really appreciate it when guests on their land treat them and their property with respect. Often landowners choose to only allow certain activities on their property, while not allowing others. Berry picking, hiking, snowshoeing, bird watching and other non-intrusive activities are at one end of the scale, while the use of ATV’s and hunting are at the other end of things.

Every land owner has their own criteria for what will be permissible, and it is very important for guests to honor their wishes. In addition, landowners often choose to only let a limited number of people on while turning away the rest who ask.

Having hosted the annual Paddle for the Peace event and by operating a public campground on private property, we have had our share of land sharing experience with the general public and First Nations. Generally, we have found the experience to be good with some notable bad exceptions. Fortunately, most people seem to respect private property and the wishes of landowners. I think everyone who embarks on land sharing should expect the same results. The good is good, and often rewarding everyone, while the bad can be very frustrating to say the least.

So, while overall we have been happy with our land sharing experiences, land sharing is definitely not for everyone, and that is where private property rights need trump other interests. For various reasons, some landowners simply choose not to give permission for any access to their property, and that is fine and needs to be respected and upheld. In fact, the response given by landowners to requests for access is often shaped by their previous experience with the public, so please remember that if you are ever granted permission onto someone’s property.

Ken Boon

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