Citizen scientists armed with a new weapon against polluters and poachers: the BCWF Conservation App and Website

Millions of British Columbians recreate and work in the backcountry

Millions of British Columbians recreate and work in the backcountry who are passionate about conserving and protecting our natural resources.

BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) President Jim Glaicar says, “We created the BCWF Conservation App to give all British Columbians a tool to allow us to fulfill our individual responsibility as citizens in changing the way we see, use, conserve, protect and value our natural landscape.”

Available to iPhone users, the new Conservation App makes it easy for users to take geo-referenced, time-stamped photos or videos and to report issues related to illegal use, or abuse, of natural resources. The app works both in and out of service areas using the phone’s GPS.  Reports are sent to a secure server and then forwarded automatically to the appropriate enforcement agency.

The mobile app and website was created by the Spatial Information for Community Engagement (SpICE) Lab at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

Download the app and visit the BCWF mapping website, which is a public site that will display environmental abuses submitted by users, increasing awareness about the threats facing fish and wildlife around the province.

When a user sends a report, they will have the ability to make the report public or confidential. The goal of making these reports public is to raise awareness to these issues and help prevent further violations. If the user chooses “public”, a moderator will then review the report to determine if it should be placed on the public website. Personal information of the app user who reported the violation will not be disclosed on the public website. Registered users may also report violations via the website.

“As researchers interested in collaborative science with real-world applications, we are pleased to be part of this important conservation effort,” said SpICE director Jon Corbett. “We look forward to seeing how an app developed in our lab is able to help the efforts of the 50,000 BCWF members, interested members of the public, and the enforcement agencies they assist.”

“We are very pleased to support this initiative,” said Corinne Jackson, OBWB’s Communications Director. “We have seen an increasing number of issues in our backcountry, but also in the valley bottom, from ATVs and dirt-bikes being driven on dams and through wetlands, to dumping of household garbage in and near creeks, damage to riparian and fish habitat, and more. These types of activities are hurting aquatic habitat and sensitive ecosystems. They are also happening in what are often sources of drinking water to local residents. We see this app and website as important tools in raising awareness and helping protect these areas.”

Rick Simpson, from the BCWF Region 8 Okanagan, encourages everyone to download the free app and to provide feedback to the development team. Simpson said, “By using the app to text your observations you are helping, in a big way, our thinly stretched enforcement people to avoid wasting valuable follow-up response time, by pinpointing the specific geo-location, time, date, and capturing an image of your observed infractions. This is an exciting time for conservation.”

Violation Types:

For ease of reporting and ensuring the reports go to the appropriate   enforcement agency, a number of standard violation types have been identified. If a user is unsure what category to choose, they can select the “Other” option.

• Water

Examples include: suspicious or illegal pumps in creeks, illegal water withdrawal/use, or reporting a watercraft (motorized or not) travelling into B.C. which has not been inspected for invasive zebra or quagga mussels.

• Environmental

Pollution

Examples include: illegal dumping of household materials, dumping a foreign substance such as waste water into a water body, or burning outside of permitted times or without a permit.

• Environmental

Damage

Examples include: destruction of fish or riparian habitat, illegal road/trail construction, illegal off-road vehicle use, mud-bogging, dumping contaminated waste, or operating a motorized vehicle above elevation restrictions.

• Wildlife

Examples include: hunting out of season, hunting in a closed area, discharging a firearm in a no-shooting area, hunting at night with the aid of a light. It could also be used to report activities such as attracting bears, or interfering with a lawful hunt.

• Fish

Examples include: exceeding the daily quota of fish, angling during closure, fishing with prohibited gear.

• Salmon/Saltwater

This option is for reporting anyone engaged in salmon or saltwater poaching or infractions

• Blocking public

access

Examples include: illegally fencing or gating public roads, illegally fencing Crown land, or blocking access to a public road by a vehicle.

• Grazing

Examples include: livestock on land that does not have a grazing tenure or after the take home date when livestock must be removed based on B.C. Range Use Plans.

• All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

Examples include: users operating in areas where snowmobiling or ATV use is closed (i.e. access management or caribou recovery areas) and ATVs without license plates or users not wearing helmets.

• Forestry

Examples include: unlawful harvest of timber, unauthorized destruction of a forest service road, log theft, illegal use/damage of a recreation site, and unauthorized construction of a permanent structure.

Please note, this app is designed to report infractions related to natural resource use/abuse. It is not designed to report problem wildlife or human-wildlife conflict.

A version of the app will be created for android-based mobile operating systems at a later date.