© By Othmar Vohringer
A friend phoned me up a few days ago to tell me about a new program offered by the BC Wildlife Federation. The program is called “Outdoor Passport” and its intended to provide hunters easy access to private land provided the landowner participates in the program. Naturally, I wanted to learn more about it and asked my friend how it works. “Well, Othmar, it’s easy,” he said. “You take a course, and when you successfully graduate the exams, you get the Outdoor Passport.”
“How much does it cost?” I asked.
“Thirty dollars,” replied my friend.
That sounds like a good idea, I thought, and I checked the BCWF website for more information. After reading through all the information however, it didn’t sound like a good idea anymore. The BCWF Outdoor Passport program is basically a course that will cost you $30, and after the completion of the exam, you’re given an outdoor passport card. While everyone can take the course, only BCWF members are privileged to receive the card. The idea is that, as a hunter, you can take this card and show it to a participating landowner and you may get lucky and be able to hunt on his property. I say “may get lucky” because the landowner is not bound to any agreement and quite rightly so. Just because somebody takes a two-hour course does not guarantee that the cardholder is a respectful person.
After reading all the information about this program, I came to the conclusion that it is nothing more then a money-generating scheme, and I don’t like that for several reasons.
The initial course costs $30, and if for some reason the exam can’t be taken within a month’s time, you have to take the course again and pay the full amount again. The card is only valued for one year and then it needs to be renewed to the tune of $15.
This program does not entitle the cardholder to anything: you still have to knock on the landowner’s doors to ask for permission and risk being turned down. In short, you spend $30 for virtually nothing in return.
The bigger problem I see is that the BCWF eventually might get the bright idea to lobby the government to make this a mandatory course for every hunter, especially if there are not enough hunters enrolling in the program and, therefore, the hoped-for cash doesn’t roll in. I saw this happen in America years ago where organizations offered similar private land access programs on a volunteer basis, and after a few years it became mandatory for every hunter. After thinking it over, I have decided to stick to my way of gaining hunting access to private land, which I achieve by knocking on doors and politely asking the landowner(s) for permission to hunt. Once I gain access, I obey the landowner’s rules and behave in a responsible manner as his guest. This has worked very well for me in the past without having to show an “Outdoor Passport” as proof of some dubious course that doesn’t prove anything about my character.