A new, homegrown Saskatchewan project is looking to simplify the process of hunters and recreational users requesting, and getting access to a private land owner's property for recreational use.
The brainchild of Sauvelm McClean and Aldo Scribante, the Sask Lander App is in early access and is looking for Saskatchewan Land Owners for its testing process.
As McClean explained, the project began as a response to the changes made to the Trespassing Act in the province back in 2019, but quickly grew from there as the two men realized its potential.
"So we got started in 2019 after Innovation Sask put on a contest, or a request for proposals called the "rural property access challenge. They put that on with a $10,000 prize and at the time, our parent company, Western Heritage, put in a proposal for that and we ended up winning that and that's how we got our start on this project."
For lack of a better analogy, the project is starting out as a kind of dating app for landowners and hunters, with a heavy focus on giving the landowners control over as much or as little information as they choose to share.
A participating landowner can input their land into the database and choose who can have recreational access to their property, and for what purpose, from hunting to ATVs to other uses, a landowner can easily let recreational users know what is and is not allowed on their property and what would be considered trespassing.
They quickly realized however that what began as a simple app to streamline a landowner's ability to grant access to their land, could be extensible in a number of different ways.
McClean stresses however that while the project began as a response to a government initiative, the Sask Lander app is private and independent of the Trespass Act that motivated its creation.
"It should be noted, and this is the point of confusion that we've heard come up for many people. We are not associated with the government. We ended up winning the competition. We've had a great relationship working with Innovation Saskatchewan and we work very closely with SARM, but we are an independent small company and are not funded by them beyond that prize."
For the two men from Saskatoon, that privacy is an important distinction in dealing with the handling of landowners' information. Privacy is critical to their business plan, and the security of any member's personal information is key to that.
"That's definitely our vision. This isn't a government-controlled thing. We're running this independently. The data is all hosted on Sasktel Servers, so the data is staying in the province. But we're running it independently; crowdsourcing this in the sense that we want landowners to have control over what's being shown to people with their parcels and who is getting access for recreation."
The transaction between landowner and user, who looks at the map and knows where they can or can't go, is handled anonymously through the use of unique tracking numbers that can also be used as a paper trail of sorts, as Scribante described:
"We've started some conversations but we hope to continue the conversations with law enforcement and conservation because this could also be a useful way for them too. If they're out in the field and they see someone, that person can pull up the SaskLander app and show that they have permission to be here, complete with a verification number that shows the parcel. So all of the information that would be needed to count as written consent."
McClean points out that the paper trail doesn't include location tracking, and stresses the fact that at no point does the app use GPS to track a user's location.
"When we say tracking, we just mean that when a landowner says you can have permission to be on there, we obviously have in our database that permission, and then when you accessed or checked in. So we're not talking about location tracking. Just a yes you were allowed, or no, you weren't allowed.
Still in early access, the app is available on the desktop for now with a mobile web view available for smartphones. At these early stages, McClean and Scribante have plans for more advanced value-added features, like useful utilities for farmers and land operators.
For now, the app does not allow the transaction between the landowner and recreational user to go in the other direction, although that is a part of the plan down the road, potentially in the fall, when users can select a parcel of land and request access, which the landowner can then accept or reject, all without either party having to arrange to meet.
Anyone who wants to get more information on the program, or landowners interested in signing up can visit sasklander.ca.