In 2018, the Castle Management Plan was released, saying off-highway vehicles (OHVs) were a threat to conservation in the Castle Provincial Parks.
“They could be the most responsible OHV users in the world, but they would still have an impact,” Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition board member Gordon Petersen said.
The NDP government of the day planned to phase out OHV use in the parks, but Petersen is concerned about the current UCP government following through on that plan.
“It’s a core area for wildlife, for fish — it’s a buffer for Waterton Lakes National Park,” he said.
According to the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), OHVs pose a risk to the habitat of species inside the park, like grizzly bears and westslope cutthroat trout.
Conservation specialist Devon Earl said it’s the dust kicked up by the machines that’s the problem.
“All that sediment, all that dust, when it rains, (it) gets washed into creeks and watersheds. It really affects fish species,” Earl said.
“It’s just such a more high-impact use than say hiking.”
When asked by Global News about OHV use in the parks, the province said it’s committed to sustainably managing outdoor recreation, but did not say whether the phaseout would proceed.
Government of Alberta seeks public input on conservation plan for Castle area
A statement from Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon reads, in part, “To support the diversity of motorized and non-motorized recreational use, we are looking at the broader landscape to ensure quality experiences are supported, and that responsible use minimize impacts to our headwaters.”
But both the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition and the AWA feel the plan doesn’t need any review.
“It was definitely a step in the right direction and we would like to see it implemented as written,” Earl said.
“People are really liking what we’re seeing in Castle, really liking the changes we’re seeing there,” Petersen said.
The minister added that the government is ensuring responsible recreational experiences are enabled, but not at the expense of the environment.
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