Alberta off-road vehicle use unsustainable: environmental group
EDMONTON— Nearly a decade’s worth of data and observation from an environmental group suggests Alberta’s fragile backcountry is being damaged by unsustainable off-highway vehicle use. Ruts deep enough to swallow a man and erosion that has relocated streambeds shows that some areas can’t handle motorized traffic even if users do their best to be responsible, says the Alberta Wilderness Association. “We have photographs of trenches that are so bad that a person is standing at the bottom of it and it’s over their head,” said Sean Nichols, who runs the association’s trail-monitoring project. “There are some areas where there are three or even four trails parallel because all but the most recent are essentially impassable.” Since 2003, the association has buried traffic sensors at three trailheads connecting about 70 kilometres of designated off-highway vehicle trails in the Bighorn region in the Alberta foothills southwest of Edmonton. The group has also sent teams up the trails to photograph changes. Its numbers show use has grown significantly. Although traffic dropped in flood years, the number of vehicles on those trails grew from 3,226 in 2007 to 5,544 in 2014.