February 24th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
Quad squad calls for collaboration with conservationists
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
As conservationists look to restrict the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies, a local organization is preaching collaboration between quadders and environmentalists.

A Jan. 25 news release co-signed by seven individuals representing a coalition of conservation groups asked the provincial government to limit the use of OHVs from protected areas on the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

The groups asked that OHVs be banned from the Castle Wilderness Area, which the province announced in September would be designated a provincial park and provincial wildland area.

They recommend permanently closing trails near westslope cutthroat trout habitat, which received an emergency federal habitat protection order in November. The critical habitat order prohibits the destruction of the native trout’s habitat.

The groups who issued the statement include the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, the Ghost Valley Community and the West Athabasca Bioregional Society.

In a Feb. 19 reply, Gary Clark, president of the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad, acknowledged the need for greater protection of sensitive lands but fears conservationists are pushing for a total ban of OHVs from the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies, which he called “an unfortunate and unnecessary solution.”

Clark acknowledged that many existing trails were built without consideration for the environment.

“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,” said Clark “We, along with Environment and Parks, are working on fixing those problems.”

In an October 2015 interview, Clark said there are approximately 500 kilometres of trail and roughly 30 quad bridges in the Castle area alone.
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Clark called for collaboration between conservationists and OHV users.
“We are all working together in a common goal to improve what we are already doing, to protect and enhance our back country,” he said.

He pointed to the Quad Squad’s decades of bridge building to keep OHVs out of sensitive areas, a campaign started by the groups founding members.

“They had the foresight to realize that OHVs were causing damage to the environment when they went through waterways, so they came up with a plan,” said Clark. “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.”

The Quad Squad has applied for permission to add two new bridges in the Lille Valley area this spring, which will cross pure strain westslope cutthroat trout streams.

Clark emphasized the economic importance of the province’s recreational vehicle industry and said the over 114,000 OHVs registered in Alberta contribute $2 billion in equipment, camping accessories and related spending.

He ended his statement with a call for OHV users to stay out of streams and sensitive areas.
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“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 affects 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,” he said.

“When you cross a waterway, you are also causing damage to the riparian health of the banks. (The riparian area helps control erosion and traps 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.”

The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) applauded the Quad Squad for the statement.

“The OWC is thrilled that the off-highway community has become engaged with, and vocal about, watershed protection,” said the council in a statement. “Speaking out against destructive behaviour - BY off-highway riders TO off-highway riders - is essential.”
February 24th ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
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