What rights do the public have to access private and crown lands? What rights do the public have to use publicly funded roads to access crown lands?
The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC has had long-standing concerns about the public’s ability to access land for backcountry recreation. In February 2017, Andrew Weaver, leader of the Green Party of BC, introduced a bill in the BC Legislature: Bill M 223 – 2017 – Right to Roam Act. This bill sought to ensure the right of citizens “to access public lands, rivers streams and lakes and to use these spaces to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”
Introducing Right to Roam legislation in British Columbia
Reintroducing Right to Roam Legislation in British Columbia
Although extinguished when the May 2017 election was called, the proposed legislation fit with the long-held concerns of the Federation. Public access to public lands has steadily eroded under agreements endorsed by the previous provincial government according to the Federation’s research. Some government agreements allow private parties to restrict the public from accessing Crown lands. The Federation’s members have also noticed increasing numbers of gates across publicly funded resource access roads. These curtail the public’s rights to provincial Crown lands—including provincial parks. The Federation believes that it would be valuable for everyone to understand the public rights and provincial obligations as they relate to access to, and over, public and private lands.
Therefore, as an apolitical body, the Federation will collaborate with all political parties in BC to address this. As almost 95%—or ~880,000 square kilometers—of the province of BC is designated Crown land. It is a significant area. Establishing the legal right to access Crown lands by accessing and crossing private lands or by traveling on publicly funded resource roads is what is sought.