People not getting the message: Don't trash Kamloops grasslands - InfoNews

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People not getting the message: Don't trash Kamloops grasslands

Tire tracks through the grasslands can be seen in this photo provided by Frank Ritcey from his time in the Dewdrop area the weekend of March 17, 2018.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Frank Ritcey
March 23, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A local wildlife expert is sounding off over trash and vandalism in a protected area in Kamloops.

Frank Ritcey is vice president of the Kamloops Naturalist Club. He was in the Lac Du Bois Grasslands in the Dewdrop area last weekend, where he found a number of troubling things.

From shotgun shells and broken shooting targets, to a chopped down Ponderosa pine, Ritcey says some people are blatantly disrespecting the protected area.

"Well there was evidence of people out having bonfires, cutting down trees, leaving garbage behind, shooting stuff up with shotguns, as evidenced by the shotgun shells left behind and the broken targets all over the place," Ritcey says. "Most distressing is the fact that people are driving off road in that area.”

There is plenty of signage in the grasslands warning people where vehicles are restricted, but as shown by tire marks throughout the restricted area, some people aren't heeding those warnings.

A downed Ponderosa pine.
A downed Ponderosa pine.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Frank Ritcey

"People are openly defying the signs and don’t seem to care," Ritcey says. "It's incredibly frustrating."

He says grasslands represent a very small percentage of B.C.'s land base, which makes it important to preserve that ecosystem. He points out that a lot of grassland areas in Kamloops and the Okanagan have now been taken up by residential expansions, and there are very few places in the region that still have grasslands.

"More work needs to be done, more enforcement out there and we need more people," Ritcey says.

Another concerning thing Ritcey saw in the range was a downed Ponderosa pine, few of which are left unharmed by the pine beetle infestation, he says.

"The sad part is… someone went and cut down a tree and they didn’t even burn it or use it, they just appeared to cut it down for the sake of cutting it down."

Ritcey says conservation officers can't be everywhere at once, and he encourages people to take pictures and call the 24-hour RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 if they see people defying regulations outdoors.

Over the past two years, 40,000 lbs. of garbage have been taken out of the grasslands, Ritcey says, and a lot of the weight comes from cement. He says it's common for people to discard building supplies in the area.

"Unfortunately a lot of people see it as wasteland, they don’t understand that special animal species live there and require that habitat," Ritcey says.

Species like the northern Pacific rattlesnake, the yellow belly racer, rubber boas, big horn sheep, a variety of small birds, bats, and amphibians all call the grasslands home.

To try and clean their home, a third annual clean up will be held in the Dewdrop area on April 8 at 9 a.m. The public is welcome to come and the Kamloops Fish and Game Club will be serving up food and beverages.

Clean up will be held until noon and a nature hike across the grasslands will be held afterward.

If you'd like to attend, you're encouraged to bring boots and gloves.

Beer cans and shotgun shells in the Lac du Bois Grasslands.
Beer cans and shotgun shells in the Lac du Bois Grasslands.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Frank Ritcey

— This story was updated at 9:20 a.m. on Monday, March 26, 2018 to correct Frank Ritcey's title from Wildsafe B.C. provincial coordinator to vice president of the Kamloops Naturalist Club.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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