Nature lovers don't want more trails for off-road vehicles

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Nature enthusiasts don't want more off-road vehicle trails

Alberta has about 20 off-road vehicle enthusiast clubs.

Provincial funding of $8 million to maintain and build off-road vehicle (ORV) trails does not sit well with everyone in the province. Some find that the flora and fauna are disturbed enough by the presence of motorized and non-motorized visitors.

The province has awarded $8 million over four years to two organizations, the x27;Alberta Snowmobile Association and Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle, for maintaining trails used by snowmobilers and other off-road vehicle enthusiasts.

The maintenance and expansion [of the network] of ORV trails is in total contradiction with the efforts to preserve biodiversity and water quality carried out on the majority of public lands that these vehicles use, Judge Lance Fitch, a retired fish and wildlife biologist and former associate professor at the University of Calgary.

Our government understands that investing in a network of ORV trails helps protect nature, while boosting tourism and supporting local economies, said Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry, Parks and Tourism Friday.

Lance Fitch says that several scientific studies have shown that the ecosystem cannot support a volume of linear disturbance, such as roads or trails, without the wildlife is disturbed.

According to him, the density of trails in Alberta is already very high on the eastern flank of the Rockies and its foothills, and many wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, caribou and birds, will be more at risk if the number of trails is increasing.

Garett Schmidt, president of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, says that so far, off-highway vehicle club members have maintained the trails through donations and volunteers.

He adds that thanks to the money received, which is $1 million a year for four years, the association will also be able to improve signage, but also build bridges over rivers so that ORVs stay out of the water. .

These bridges will also help the environment, if they are well managed, assures Lance Fitch. He acknowledges, however, that no study has proven that bridges improve the water quality of rivers near OHV trails.

On the other hand, some feel that the provincial government gives too many favors to off-road vehicle enthusiasts, especially those who use Kananaskis Park.

Shaun Peter, owner of a tourism business adventure and outdoor parks in Bragg Creek and Kananaskis, notes that hikers, cyclists and rock climbers pay $90 per year per vehicle to park their vehicle in Kananaskis Park, while OHV enthusiasts only pay $54 for theirs.

He believes that hikers pay more, but cause less damage to the environment: Somehow, some order in the management of the park, before starting to spend more and create a larger network of trails.

The province, however, says that there is no had no favoritism and that its goal is to preserve the fauna and flora of the region so that all the population can enjoy.

With information from Janet French

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