By Stephanie Weizenbach
Edmonton and Area Land Trust
It is nearing the end of autumn, and with this year’s late harvest, many of the crops have only just been removed. This is the best time of year for those who love to ride free on the countryside on their quad. And snowmobilers are just itching for the right amount of snow for their chance to head out.
With such a short riding season, and limited space, it is tempting to spill into natural areas where you aren’t allowed to ride, and where environmental protection is important. Whether on a quad, snowmobile, dirt bike, or other off-highway vehicle (OHV), it is important to know where you can and cannot ride.
The Edmonton and Area Land Trust frequently deals with trespassing on our natural areas, which tends to come in from neighbouring trails. We sign our protected areas at all entrances and boundaries, but sometimes even these clearly marked signs aren’t enough to stop that thrill-seeker from riding in.
Why should you care? EALT doesn’t just make up rules to ruin your fun; in fact, many local municipalities have similar rules. There are numerous reasons why you should care, and help us conserve these protected areas.
One very expensive reason for only entering on foot is that some of our conservation areas have been planted with thousands of tree seedlings. These young trees are meant to regenerate the forest in areas where trees were previously damaged or removed; this renewed forest will benefit everyone. Driving over these seedlings damages or kills the trees and hinders our future forests.
Another reason to stay off with OHVs is to prevent erosion and damage to fish habitat. Deep ruts scar steep slopes, leaving soil exposed and increasing erosion as rain and spring runoff slowly wash the soil down into the creek. Not only does this type of damage increase the chance of floods downstream, but it also impairs the movement of fish, and negatively affects their reproductive success. Not to mention the eyesore it creates on an otherwise scenic area.
Of course there are many other reasons for respecting the rules for using natural areas, but here’s another reason which we particularly hope will persuade everyone to stop, read, and respect our signs. Our local volunteers spend over 100 hours each year removing invasive weeds to protect biodiversity in these sensitive areas. Your OHV can carry and spread seeds, after driving over weeds in other areas. So please stay off to protect nature and to give our volunteers a well-deserved break!
There are many designated riding trails in Alberta, and neighbours who will happily allow you to ride freely on their fields in the crisp autumn air. So before you head out, have a look at a map, be respectful and ask for permission, and figure out where you can ride responsibly.
If you’d like to find out how to avoid our natural areas on your quad or snowmobile, and help keep them natural, visit our website at www.ealt.ca to see where our lands are located. And if you’re passing by, take a moment to hop off your machine and go for a walk on our conservation lands to connect with nature!