By Steve Hubrecht

Pioneer Staff

The Windermere Valley Rural Range Resource Patrol recently marked its status as the longest continually serving range patrol in the province by recently celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The range patrol is a co-operative effort involving the Columbia Valley RCMP, Invermere conservation officers, local ranchers and farmers, hunters, loggers, miners, and concerned citizens.

We started it because things were getting so bad with cattle rustling, poaching, and logging and mining equipment getting vandalized and stolen, said patrol president Franz Feldmann.

The local patrol held a barbecue (it regularly holds an annual picnic) at Mr. Feldmanns ranch two weeks ago to mark its three-decade milestone.

As part of the patrol, ranchers, hunters, loggers and other local resource industry workers act as the RCMP and conservations officers eyes and ears in the backcountry, and, when an incident does occur, help the RCMP and conservation officer identify the quickest and easiest way to reach the physical location of the incident.

Although other range patrols began in B.C. before the Windermere Valley patrol started, all of those have since shut down (if only for a period of a few years), making the Windermere Valley patrol the longest continually running in the province.

The local area knowledge that the ranchers and loggers provide to the RCMP is crucial, said Columbia Valley Corporal Brent Ayers, the detachments primary liaison with the patrol.

In search and rescue situations, the local farmers can help us pinpoint dirt road and backcountry tracks we didnt even know existed, said Cpl. Ayers. And whats unique in this area is that the range patrol here includes hunters, logger and miners. In other parts of B.C., its just ranchers or farmers.

For conservation officer services, (the range patrol) has been really beneficial, said local conservation officer Greg Kruger. We really feel that we work hand-in-hand with the patrol to bring illegal activities to a stop.

The problems that initially inspired the creation of the Windermere Valley range patrol have largely disappeared, which patrol members take as a sign of their programs success.We are currently looking for younger generation ranchers and hunters to join, said Cpl. Ayers.

The Windermere Valley range patrol began with 90 members and is currently at about 40 members, according to Mr. Feldmann, who has served as president of the local range patrol for 27 years.