(Note: The Land Conservancy has corrected its initial statement regarding the opening date of Fort Shepherd as July 15. That date is not correct, the day is still “TBA” or to be announced.)
After hearing local perspectives on the re-opening of Fort Shepherd, tight restrictions to conservancy lands remain in place.
Sixteen people attended a public session held by The Land Conservancy (TLC) in Trail on Monday, including four TLC staff members and one representative from Teck Metals.
“TLC’s priority, in accordance with the organization’s constitution and support from its membership, is to protect plants, animals and natural communities,” began Cathy Armstrong, executive director. “When appropriate, TLC encourages compatible recreation on its properties,” she explained.
“Unfortunately, at this point in time motorized vehicle use is a detriment to the success of plants and animals on the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area, and access for vehicles has therefore been revoked.”
Off-road vehicle users were in attendance at the meeting. Armstrong says they were able to share their displeasure that motorized vehicle users previously accessing the site had caused damage to such an extent that is was necessary to restrict access in 2016.
“Experts in attendance were able to comment on the improvement and re-growth witnessed since motorized vehicle access has been restricted,” said Armstrong.
“In addition, the enhanced ability of the land to foster game, particularly elk, was noted.”
Further restrictions include no bikes, no dogs and no hunting.
While the Trail Times July 11 story, “Fort Shepherd area to re-open for limited public use,” stirred up ire online, specifically the hunting and dog restrictions, it appears the informational session on Monday was fairly tame.
Armstrong says the common theme from attendees was their passion for the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area.
“Many had ties to the land that extended generations,” she said. “Those who attended were concerned about the health of the landscape and the animals that rely on the Conservancy’s 2,300 acres.”
One permissible use, horse-back riding, did come up during the two-hour session that was held in Selkirk College.
“Attendees at the meeting suggested that horses could also be a detriment to the ecosystems; controlling invasive plants that out-compete and displace native plants is a management priority,” Armstrong said. “And anyone entering Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area should be aware of this potential threat.”
Equestrians can do their part by inspecting clothing, gear, and horses for invasive plant fragments and seeds, and grooming and cleaning horses, including their feet, before and after rides, she added.
“Should evidence of invasive species be linked to equestrian use in the future, TLC will evaluate restricting access further.”
The Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area is B.C.’s largest intact area of a rare ecological zone. The very dry, warm Interior Cedar-Hemlock zone is also known as the “ICHxw subzone”.
“Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area is an important north/south migratory corridor for ungulates,” Armstrong said. “Which in this time of decreasing populations and habitat fragmentation, is of extreme importance.”
To support TLC’s Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area and protect further areas at risk in across the province, visit www.conservancy.bc.ca to donate and get involved.