Saturday, June 11, 2011

Irresponsible ATV users ruining habitat and privileges for others

SOURCE: Calgary Herald
May 27, 2011
Responsible ATV users encourage people to stay off wet trails and out of streams and rivers. Given the explosion of ATV use in Alberta, a knowledge test would not be unreasonable, says the Herald editorial board.

The first long weekend of the summer season had barely begun when the first recalcitrant quadders were spotted ripping through sensitive riparian habitat. Aerial footage aired by Global Television on Monday showed an all-terrain vehicle riding up and down a shallow portion of Clearwater River.

The practice churns up sediment that is harmful to fish, degrades water quality, causes erosion and leaves tracks leading into the water that can remain for years.

The Alberta government’s ministry of Sustainable Resource Development tells quadders on its website to “avoid rivers, shore lands, streams, lakes and wetlands.” It urges ATV users not to cross rivers and streams unless unavoidable.

“ ‘Just getting to the other side’ or ‘seeing what the machine will do’ are not legitimate reasons for damaging stream banks or wetlands. If crossing is necessary, seek out established bridges or high-ground detours first,” the agency says.

Responsible ATV users, led by members of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, encourage people to stay off wet trails and out of streams and rivers. They know that the actions of a few can bring down the heavy hand of regulation on all, just as obnoxiously loud motorcycles can result in bans and stringent noise bylaws.

“Please do not give them ammunition for their cause. If we use respect, we will be able to pass these privileges on to our children,” says a tourism website for the Rocky Mountain House region.
Properly used, an ATV is a great way for people with physical limitations to enjoy Alberta’s wilderness. Unfortunately, some aren’t getting the message. Quadders have gotten so out of hand in the Caroline area, that at least one acreage owner is considering moving.
“They’ve totally destroyed the muskeg, the bush. They’re in the river every chance they get. It’s just disgusting,” Lorna Guyori told Global. The area reeve is calling for more education, enforcement and more designated areas for quadders.

Alberta requires that ATVs be registered and insured. The only requirements are proof of age, insurance and personal and vehicle identity. Given the explosion of ATV use in Alberta, a knowledge test would not be unreasonable. Improper ATV use can cause fire, soil contamination, the spread of invasive weeds, water degradation and disruption of wildlife. There are safety regulations related to mufflers, headlamps and issues of landowner rights.
We ask it of boaters, so why not ATV users? If quadders can’t comply voluntarily — courses are available through the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association — mandatory licence testing may become inevitable.