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Thursday, 25 January 2018 05:29

OHV debate has environmentalists Castle royalty; food for thought for all park goers

Written by  Ryan Dahlman
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Parents often teach their children to behave so as to not ruin an experience or a location for others. Children are taught to ensure they clean up after themselves and to leave things better than what they found it.


Apparently this message was lost with some of those who enjoy parks and is certainly applicable to the Castle Wildland Provincial Park and Castle Province Park and those who enjoy Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV)-driving in the area.
This over year-long battle is a good reminder for anyone who frequents parks or any area which is environmentally sensitive.
After the Alberta provincial government announced early last year they were creating 103,00 hectares of new parks/protected areas in the Castle's area which is at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains, they quickly announced their plan was to restrict access of OHVs in that area, much to the delight of scientists and local and provincial environmental groups who have complained it was damaging ecology and subsequently hurting the ability for animals to survive.
This was met with anger by those who have enjoyed relatively open access to the area. There was a two-month period where the public could submit their thoughts and opinions and a report was to be done.
In late December 2017, without a lot of fanfare, the Alberta provincial government released an 88-page synopsis study from 150 other studies which indicated OHVs have become a negative source for the landscape, the 180 species of plants and those animals which are considered endangered. The study includes the "human footprint" included a reported 1,700 km of trails, crossings on streams (i.e. 1,600 in a 1,000 sq. km area; ) which scientists point out compact and then ultimately cause soil erosion as plants are ripped away.
The numbers don't look good for OHV enthusiasts but then again, scientists will have the data to back what they are advocating.
It is a blow to many OHV enthusiasts who are still mindful of the region and unquestionably, themselves have done a lot of work to maintain the area for not just themselves but for the wildlife and plant systems.
One such local OHV group is the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad which has over 500 members. In a Jan. 12 Prairie Post West story about the Quad Squad, they list "three of the most exciting trails users can ride include the 1946 Dakota Plane Crash Site, a fishing pool and waterfall on the Daisy Creek ride and an eleven-hour ride along the Lille Castle Loop."
They have done a lot of painstaking hard work on maintaining trails and ensuring they are looking after it... on their own. The trouble is, they can't look after all of it, that’s a massive task — that isn't their job; it's the government's.
After years where environment hadn't been on the top of the provincial government's priority list, now the NDP-led government has swung the pendulum the other way.
While it may be unfair to call this a knee-jerk reaction to raising environmental concerns, there is little doubt the provincial government's strong feelings on environmental protection, species conservation (see: sage grouse) is evident. It should not be surprising then, the NDP would have the ear of local conservation groups.
Is it heavy handed to just ultimately ban all OHV vehicles? Probably and one would hope that there is some sort of comprise where there is restricted areas, but that OHV enthusiasts such as the Quad Squad can still go in some of their favorite designated areas. They should not be punished because of previous government's neglect of the issue or the perceived overzealousness to ban and over-regulate everything by the current administration.
Ultimately, parks are meant to be enjoyed by all visitors, no matter (within reason) what they treasure doing, but they are still home to animals and species of plants. At some point ,there has to be some sort of middleground.
The Castle area is some of the most beautiful area and scenery anywhere as the southern tip of the Rockies provide some beautiful backdrops.
It is too bad the vast majority of both nature and outdoor enthusiasts' pure enjoyment has to be dictated to just because by the actions of ignorant, immature, callous and selfish people who can't find it within themselves to not cause undo damage or by previous administrations which didn't put an immediate stop to it.
The Quad Squad aren’t the ones who should be looked at as anti-environment: it’s those OHV who were reckless as well as those tourists who didn’t show the area any respect with their actions and not maintaining the area.
It ultimately hurts those OHV enthusiasts who just wanted to enjoy majestic Canadian landscape that region.
This is a good lesson for those who use any parks or environmentally-sensitive regions such as the Sandhills. Remember those parental lessons:look after it; clean up after yourself and leave it in better shape than when you found it.
(Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West. Any comments or letters can be emailed : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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