Three years after the BC Wildlife Federation Conservation App was first introduced, it now has more than 10,000 users.
Users of the app can take geo-referenced, time-stamped photos or videos to report illegal use or abuse of natural resources. Reports are sent to a secure server and then forwarded to the appropriate enforcement agency.
Jesse Zeman, BCWF director of fish and wildlife restoration, who had the original idea for the app said it started with issues around blocking access to public land.
“That’s a big issue in the Central Interior and all over the province, but especially where there are a lot of people,” Zeman told Black Press Media. “That’s how it started as a way to show the public what was going on. We started having conversations about environmental abuse and wanted to have a way to make reporting easy and help conservation officers and natural resource officers do their jobs, handle cases and identify potential offenders.”
It also works in and out of service using the phone’s GPS.
“It’s easier for users, instead of having to call when they get back into town, they can download it and once they are back in cell service it sends immediately to the call centre and then to the BC Conservation Officer Service or Natural Resource Operations.
Examples of things that get reported are poaching and fishing out of season, not following hunting regulations, forestry infractions, ATV use infractions, construction in riparian areas, putting in of gates on public land that block access to lakes and rivers, erection of buildings or storage of vehicles on public lands, salmon habit being destroyed and wetlands being disturbed.
“The list goes on,” Zeman said.
In developing the app, the BCWF worked with the BC Conservation Officer Service and Natural Resources Operations to integrate the app with their reporting centre for gathering centre.
Zeman encourages more people to download the app because it is free and available for Apple and Android phones.
“You may not use it every day, but you might be out in the woods or in town and see something that might look like environmental destruction and you can pull your phone out, take a picture, and send it very easily. It’s pretty seamless.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated from the original with the latest statistics indicating 10,600 smartphone users as provided by Jesse Zeman of BCWF on Feb. 6.