Monday, February 22, 2016

CNP Quad Squad against total ban of OHVs in Eastern Slopes

Joe Lumley photo
Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad

Recent news releases regarding use of Off Highway Vehicles in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains suggesting a total ban is an unfortunate and unnecessary solution.

The Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad was formed about 18 years ago by a group of persons who wanted to form a social club for the enjoyment of the back country in a safe and responsible manner. Fortunately the founding fathers were able to accomplish that. They also had the foresight to realize that off highway vehicles were causing damage to the environment when they went through waterways, so they came up with a plan. Raise money, and use the clubs membership on a volunteer basis to build bridges over the waterways so that they were not crossing streams and adding sediments to the water. They did this not because they did not wish to get their feet wet, but because of environmental and fish habitat issues. They were proactive and giving back to the environment.

That tradition of the Quad Squad stands true to this day. Our goal is to continue to responsibly enjoy Off Highway Vehicle recreation in our beautiful back country at the same time protecting our waters and fish habitat.

The CNP Quad Squad over the years has spent millions of dollars raised through Government Grants (Provincial and Federal), Corporate and private memberships and various fundraising initiatives, such as our annual raffle. This has been possible only through thousands of hours of volunteer time, and mileage on our personal vehicles. Grant and raffle income can only be spent on trail maintenance, which includes placing and maintaining bridges across waterways. Our expenses to keep our office open are raised through corporate and private donations/memberships.

The recreational industry including the sales and service of Off Highway Vehicles, Quads, Snowmobiles, RV’s etc is a 2 billion dollar industry in Alberta with over 114,000 registered Off Highway Vehicles in the Province of Alberta, bringing large amounts of income to not only dealers but also to both Federal and Provincial Governments, and creating employment. ($6,182,352.00 on registration income for the Provincial Government).

The Quad Squad realizes the potential of working with all interested parties for the back country and we have teamed up with such groups as the Oldman Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, Crowsnow Riders, Cows and Fish and welcome all user groups to work with us. We are all working together in a common goal to improve what we are already doing, to protect and enhance our back country. At a recent meeting with the Oldman Watershed Council, it was brought to our attention that sediment was being washed into the streams when trails ran parallel to streams.

This is an issue that we have identified and are working on. Trans Canada Piplelines have also recently contacted us about controlling erosion next to the Atlas road that is causing sediment into Allison Creek and replacing collapsed bridges that are placing a barrier to fish migration and reclamation of the creek banks. We will also be working with Environment and Parks Flood Rehabilitation Program to help in bank stabilization of the creek by the south shelter, and working with Cows and Fish to add bridges over critical habitat in the Lille Valley creek areas.

The Quad Squad has applied for permission to the government to add two new bridges in the Lille Valley area this spring, which will cross pure westslope cutthroat trout streams. It is unfortunate that the majority of the trails were built years ago, most of them because they were old logging or mining roads which have been incorporated into the present trail systems without concerns to the environment. We, along with Environment and Parks, are working on fixing those problems.
Environment and Parks has done an amazing job of reconstructing trails and bridges in the south through the flood rehabilitation program. They will be continuing their work on the north section on Highway 3 this spring, repairing bridges and approaches so that it is not possible for Off Highway Vehicles to ford waterways, but must take bridges. Environment and Parks have closed or rerouted trails to allow natural rehabilitation of the forest, and rerouted trails from environmentally sensitive areas such as cutthroat trout and sheep areas. They have installed, repaired and replaced over 20 bridges in the south in the last two years.

There is a misconception that Off Highway Vehicle users make their own trails. This is not true. Any new trails, bridges or trail maintenance must be approved by Environment and Parks, after they have done environmental, fish and other studies, before any work can be done.

It is extremely important that anyone who uses the waterways knows, that every time they enter, ford, run up and down streams, or wash quads in the streams they stir up sediment. Sediment effects the survival of fish and their habitat by filling in the gravel bed, which create problems during hatching for the young fish to get through the sediment, it covers the food the fish eat, it covers sunlight so plants cannot grow, and it fills in the ponds making the water run faster taking away rest areas for the fish.

These are just a few reasons what sediment does. When you cross a waterway, you are also causing damage to the riparian health of the banks. (The riparian helps control erosion and trap incoming sediment from run off.) It is also an offence under the Public Land Use Act to go through waters when there is a bridge, or to run up and down, or repeatedly cross waterways. Please stay out of the waters, use and tell others to use the bridge.

For everyone that uses the present trail systems, from environmentalists, hikers, mountain bikers, cross country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, off highway vehicle users, 4 X 4’s, logging, mining, everyone else and yes, wildlife, let’s work together to make a difference. There is more than one solution to sustainable trails and protecting the environment."

Gary Clark President, Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad

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