Critics say $1M in upgrades for Alberta’s heavily used backcountry is inadequate

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Facilities are few.

A provincial committee that oversees the region has called the level of usage “insane” and has said people are being forced to camp in ditches.

Local groups say they have had to put out dumpsters to keep campers’ garbage off lawns. Trees have been felled for campsites. Human waste dots the landscape. Search-and-rescue groups report large increases in calls for help.

First Nations say there are so many people in the bush — traditional Stoney band territory — that members are afraid to hunt.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon acknowledged the problem in a July 31 Twitter message.

“We’ve seen an increase in unsafe and irresponsible behaviour,” he said.

“This includes garbage left behind, parking on roadways, blocking emergency vehicle access, illegal campfires, criminal behaviour and completely dangerous and harmful activities.”

Late Wednesday, Nixon announced trail upgrades, 10 new outhouses, safety signage and a ring road around one particularly popular area.

“This is a perfect time to invest in outdoor recreational infrastructure, since we’re seeing a record number of visitors to public lands,” Nixon said on Facebook.

Nixon has promised more “boots on the ground” to enforce laws and said a July 27 ministerial order provides them. But that order deals mostly with hunting regulations and it isn’t clear how it would improve backcountry enforcement.

Nixon’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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