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 U.S., 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 happen 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 steel-making 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, than 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