TOUGH ON ECOLOGY
Myths don’t stand up to facts
Off-highway vehicles are destroying Cape Breton’s shorelines, says local man.
Last fall, I wrote a column in the Cape Breton Post about the human caused erosion along the coast from the port in Glace Bay to the end of South Street.
I am pleased to say that the Cape Breton Regional Munic-ipality carried out remediation at the end of South Street by installing riprap to protect the shore from further ero-sion.
But, the continuing erosion caused by Off-Highway Vehicles (so called quads and off-road motor bikes) along the top of the cliff at the shoreline continues. My con-cerns, along with those of residents in the area, about off-road motorized vehicle (OHV) use were not addressed by the municipality.
Professor Lorne Fitch, professional biologist in Al-berta, wrote a wonderful article published in the Alberta Wilderness Publication on the myths about OHV use. In his article he states a number of myths about OHV use and outlines the actual facts versus the myths. They include:
1. OHV operators state that they know how to use their vehicles and they don’t cause any long-standing damage to the environment, the uses try to state that only a small percentage of users don’t follow the ‘rules.’
In actual fact, unrelenting traffic on and off trails is the major contributor to erosion, wildlife disruption, and loss of quiet recreation. As Fitch states, “That includes everyone who operates an OHV.”
2. Users of OHVs state that they know how to operate their machines to minimize impacts and be “good stewards” of the environment.
In reality, OHVs create a large amount of damage and problem areas in the form of excessive erosion, ruts, mud holes, trail widening, and multiple-trail development which suggests anything but stewardship. Between South Street and the port in Glace Bay, the land along the shore-line is full of erosion, ruts, mud holes and trail widening caused by OHV use.
3. The argument stated by OHV users is that they ex-ert no more pressure on the soil surface than a hiker dis-appears under the higher OHV speed and their spinning tires. This linear traffic disrupts drainage patterns. The cause and effect is easily seen along the shoreline with new flows of running water following the tracks of the OHVs and cutting deep incisions into the underlying soil/ tills, loss of natural vegetation and loss of wildlife.
Prior to the damage by OHVs, water was captured by vegetation and was allowed to slowly filter into the soils and not into overland flows. The disruption of natural processes has caused the loss of a lot of shoreline over the past few years, not through the erosion of the underlying bedrock which has a much slower erosion rate.
Continued OHV use along the shoreline will, in the end, cost the municipality and landowners living near the shoreline a lot of money in the near future. I don’t know the cost for the protection of South Street, but there are plans in place to continue this protective process along the shore to protect infrastructure along the outlet of Big Glace Bay Lake.
In the very near future, unless mitigation is carried out, the municipality or province will be required to spend even more to either protect or reimburse landowners who are losing their property due to the effects of OHV use.
If any reader wants to discuss this column with me, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to discuss this with you no matter which side of the issue you are on.
“Continued OHV use along the shoreline will, in the end, cost the municipality and landowners living near the shoreline a lot of money in the near future.”