By Keith McNeill - Clearwater Times
It seems that more and more people are using all-terrain vehicles and 4x4s to explore the North Thompson backwoods. Unfortunately, there is a small minority who do so without adequate care or concern about the environment.
"So far we've been lucky," said Clearwater ATV Club spokesperson John Marlow. "We don't have the kind of big messes you can see nearer Kamloops ... yet."
Concern about preventing possible future damage caused the club to invite resource compliance technologist Lisa Hudema from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and conservation officer Mitch Kendall to make a public presentation on the topic June 28 at Wells Gray Inn.
"I counted 55 people there," said Marlow. "We were very pleased with the turnout."
Those attending included members of the ATV club, 4x4 users and snowmobilers, he pointed out.
"It was very positive," said Hudema after the meeting. "We got some good feedback. We were happy not only to share our concerns, but to hear their concerns as well."
Topics covered included how damage to the environment occurs, responsible and irresponsible use, as well as the different laws and regulations that apply.
Hudema and Kendall showed a presentation that included several slides of extreme damage done by ATVs and 4x4s near Kamloops. One slide showed a 4x4 truck driving through a trench possibly a meter deep that had been carved by repeated trips through a wetland. Others showed vehicles being driven into a lake to clean off after mud-bogging. Ironically, some of the most photogenic shots were taken during a commercial shoot.
"The photos were quite dramatic," said Hudema. "They showed the worst case scenarios."
The government is looking for places that could possibly be designated for ATV use in perpetuity, said Kendall.
"You don't want to cut people out without giving them an alternative," he said.
He noted that some of the most sensitive areas here are in the alpine. Damage there might not heal for thousands of years, the conservation officer said.
"People think: `Oh, it's just an ATV track,'" he said. "Actually, it's very serious."
The two government officials outlined what the present regulations and penalties are. They also told the meeting that new rules are in the works and will come into force soon.
Although not part of the program, conservation officer Kevin VanDamme spoke about ATV closures on Skull Mountain (Skull / Gormon) during the fall to reduce pressure put on the deer population during hunting season.
Another topic that was brought up was respecting private property. Apparently there have been some issues regarding ATV activity on ranch land in the Barriere, Clearwater and surrounding areas.