OHV ban in southwest Alberta parks backed by scientists' group


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Oct 21, 2006
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Edmonton/Sherwood Park
[h=1]'The science is clear': OHV ban in southwest Alberta parks backed by scientists' group[/h]John Cotter, The Canadian Press, Calgary Herald 04.05.2017

Castle region OHV trails in June 2015.Courtesy CPAWS Southern Alberta / Calgary Herald

Demonstrators gather at McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary, on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Several hundred people were protesting provincial government plans to strongly regulate off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in the Castle area.Lyle Aspinall / Calgary Herald

Castle Provincial Park map / Calgary Herald

Scientists are joining the battle over a plan to phase out the use of off-highway vehicles in two ecologically sensitive parks in southwestern Alberta.
Last January, the province announced a draft plan for the Castle Wildland Provincial Park and Castle Provincial Park to preserve just over 1,000 square kilometres of mountains and foothills.
Since then, groups that represent people who drive ATVs, trucks and jeeps have protested against the plan that would ban them from these areas within five years.
On Tuesday, 57 scientists sent an open letter to Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips urging the province not to back down.

“The decision to remove off-highway vehicle use from the Castle and restore damaged areas will contribute to the conservation of native vegetation, fisheries, wildlife, soil and community water,” reads the letter.
“The science is clear that motorized use, even under controlled circumstances, has a negative impact on these natural features.”
The letter is signed by scientists at the universities of Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge and other schools in Canada and the United States.
For years the Castle region has been mined, logged and drilled for oil and natural gas.
It is home to more than 200 species of endangered plants and animals and is considered a key link for grizzly bears that move north and south.
David Schindler, an award-winning water expert at the University of Alberta, said he supports the ban even though he owns ATVs.
“I have had three hip replacements on two hips and own ATVs, yet I still support the removal of this land use as I understand the impact of even a small amount of noise and disturbance has on water and on sensitive wildlife,” he wrote.
The government has received the letter.
Phillips said the plan for the Castle area is guided by science-based decision making and reflects the increase in the Alberta’s population in recent years.
“We’re taking steps to ensure the Eastern Slopes are better managed to protect livelihoods, recreation and conservation,” she said in an email.
“We will invest in infrastructure so off-highway vehicle users can still enjoy less sensitive areas. And we will work to protect biodiversity, drinking water and the natural beauty of the Castle area for future generations.”
When the Alberta government announced its draft management plan for the parks on Jan. 20, it gave people 60 days to respond, including through an online survey. The deadline has been extended to April 19.
Since then off-highway vehicle groups have held protests, including at the Alberta legislature and in the town of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass.
These groups estimate that up to 1,000 off-highway riders and random campers use the Castle area on a summer long weekend.
In March, the government revised the plan. The changes include not putting it into effect in the upcoming season and to allow hunters to use trail networks to recover game.
A group of riders known as the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad said they continue to oppose the proposed ban.
“We still feel that we can protect the environment by maintaining proper trails,” said Gary Clark, the group’s president. “We are frustrated and angry.”
Clark noted that more than $2 million has already been spent in the Castle wilderness over the years to build bridges and move trails away from streams.


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Feb 8, 2009
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Nice slanted journalism! What's infuriated me is that readers of this article that don't know any better see this letter as scientific proof that the closures are necessary. What infuriates me even further is that they keep scaring people into thinking that OHV users will otherwise be ultimately be responsible for a future without clean drinking water in Alberta.

Meanwhile, the government's own water quality data shows that the water quality in the Oldman River has actually been steadily improving over the past 20 or 30 years. With the number of OHV users skyrocketing during that same period, how could anyone possibly suggest that OHV use has a detrimental impact?
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Feb 15, 2008
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What a coincidence, just as the government is about to introduce legislation allow these overpaid hacks the right to strike.


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Nov 28, 2008
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Amazing how in both this instance and the climate change debate the phrase "the science is clear" is used very often without any of the clear science coming forward.

In the climate change debate I have seen more evidence against man made climate change than I have for it but the left wing always says the science is clear and if we do not believe what they say we must be stopped. The topic of this ban seems eerily similar and unfortunately the left will not be stopped as long as they have the power.

2019 cannot come soon enough.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


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Jun 20, 2013
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Alberta bound

" I understand the impact of even a small amount of noise and disturbance has on water and on sensitive wildlife."

small amount of Noise...(and Disturbance has on ) Water..... ? thats got to be really scientific stuff here, small amount of sound wave disturbance on water

Sorry DON,T get it,.... Unless of course I need to read between the lines like the obvious ambiguous NDP Biased survey !


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Feb 8, 2009
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HEre's a link to the Quad Squad's response: Pincher Creek Voice: CNP Quad Squad responds to scientists' open letter to Environment Minister

It would be nice to this article in the Journal.

[h=3]CNP Quad Squad responds to scientists' open letter to Environment Minister[/h]

Gary Clark, President CNP Quad Squad - Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad appreciates the concerns voiced by scientists who have written an open letter to the Minister of Environment. This letter argues for a ban on an activity enjoyed by thousands of ordinary Albertans who use purpose built ATV trails in the Castle Area. While the letter does add to our debate, it is very one-sided.

If one agrees to the tone and conclusions of the letter, we would not need elected officials who strive to balance conservation, economic development and recreation.

Let’s remind all Albertans that this is not the first Open Letter.

In June of 2015, over 100 scientists wrote an Open Letter calling for a moratorium on oil sands development because the “science is clear.” In March of 2016, over 60 scientists penned another Open Letter calling on the Prime Minster to reject the proposed Trans-Mountain pipeline.

In May 2016, 90 scientists again wrote a letter to the government of British Columbia to stop the approval of a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas project.

There are many Open Letters and many share some of the same signatories.

There are fewer than 600 km of usable trails in the Castle area. We have always agreed that the government needs a designated trail system, not only in the Castle, but throughout the province.

Other provinces in Canada, and areas in the US, have shown how properly constructed trails can be environmentally integrated into the system. Trails that lead nowhere, or trails in high biodiverse areas should be closed to allow for natural regeneration.

The trail system we have urged the government to adopt in the Castle area covers less than 200 km. This is two-thirds less than the trails we have today.

Millions of dollars were invested and thousands of volunteer hours were spent building trails and bridges in the Castle area. Our aim is to protect the water and fish habitat, restore riparian areas and move trails where required to accomplish this.

The Letter states, “It is important for the public to understand that there are very real impacts to natural areas from motorized trails and use.”

It is also important to understand the government plans to turn these same trails over to non-motorized use. A trail is a trail, regardless of who uses it. There will still be the same compaction, and run off issues, as evidenced in other Parks with non-motorized trail use.

The letter also argues for the protection of large carnivores. It is interesting to note our own provincial scientists have noticed a large increase in the bear, wolverine, and wolf population in the Castle area, despite present OHV use. This also indicates an increase in their food sources.

Some of the science is based on displacement of wildlife impacted by roads, not small trails.

This is significant because the government has just announced million dollar expenditures on waterlines and paving roads to Castle Mountain Resort. It seems they are ready to disturb the environment to accommodate some groups of users at the expense of others.

The letter also notes the displacement of wildlife due to OHV noise. What they fail to mention is that this short displacement is quickly recovered once the OHV’S have passed.

As environmentalists, and their friends in academia, attack every activity which makes life possible in Alberta, we need to pause and consider for a moment what would happened if our government were to agree to every “the science is clear” Open Letter. Alberta would come to a stop.

Our economy is still dependent on resource development, and our environment provides employment and recreation.

We live in wooden houses from the forest industry, use steelmaking coal to produce bridges, wind turbines and high rises. We extract oil and gas to fuel cars, planes and our considerable exports.

Like it or not, the world needs our resources and is it not better for us to produce them, with our strict environmental standards, then in other countries with lower standards?

Yes, the environment is important, but we must find a balance.

The Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad has worked hard to develop this balance. We were the first to physically do something to protect our headwaters. We were the first to protect our fish habitat and, sadly, we are the first to get kicked out of the Castle.

Except for our partners, Cows and Fish and the Oldman Watershed Council, never have we witnessed any of these scientists come help restore the riparian areas, or build bridges across the water.

The Government of Alberta must listen to Albertans and bring balance to the Castle area by sustaining proper trails on a designated system, and allow OHV use on a smaller scale. All Albertans have the right to enjoy our heritage.

Gary Clark,
President CNP Quad Squad.

Lem Lamb

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Apr 5, 2010
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Lacombe AB
The above post by Gary is spot on.

Us humans need resources weather or not too survive the planet. With out them we would return to the old days of burning wood and living in caves too survive,,, this my friends is the only two options in the puzzle.

The Quad Squad built a awesome trail network for all users in mind so it allows us too stay free and clear of the creeks and rivers, and it's well maintained by volunteers that offer their time for nothing to keep them up.

Why remove a system that is in place that does what it is supposed to do.

There will be many that never see how the picture comes together in the over all grand plan,,, up to us too share on this with others that OHV'S, sleds, and all out door activities have this balance already in place threw out our province.

Up too us on where we travel and how we go about it with respect too these lands.

This info is in every owners manual, and has been the practice of the majority of us from day one. Yes there is 0.001% that go too far, but they are far and few between the majority of us that truly enjoy the nature and habitat we have in Alberta, Canada and around the world.

Keep up the good work as Alberta and BC are both trying too hold access to our crown lands for all user groups.

If the National Park idea in Southern BC happens, it will remove recreation sports and Hunting for them... First Nations have an agreement with the BC government too have hunting access for them selves only in this new Southern BC provincial park.

So far it's on hold due to conflict of interest of government officials and the 5 lobby groups that support the new Park.

Ranchers, Hunters, fishing, OHV, Snowmobilers, have all been blocked from meetings and input,,, this has caused the plan too be put on hold for now.

Don at looking at the big picture of our "for now a-possed too the later on down the road of what could happen to these lands as we humans get pushed back away from the lands that belong too us in the first place.


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Jun 18, 2010
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Hinton Alberta
These changes that are going on right now are not legit by any means. I've never seen snything so shady in all my life.

What's happening with the Castle these days. Things have been pretty quiet. I hope people arent backing down....
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