The Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) is fielding hundreds of calls from local hunters and recreational motorists since the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources released its proposal to limit motorized entry to the Pend d’Oreille valley.
The TWA is expecting opposition but is backing the plan that will be further discussed with interested stakeholders at a Monday meeting.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Trail Wildlife Association president Terry Hanik. “If we don’t do something, we’re not going to be helping the animals out because the traffic up there, the parties, mud bogging, people going on every single road; it’s not much of a life for the animals to live or to survive.”
Changes to Kootenay Boundary’s regional access management program are an attempt to conserve habitat that are in distress and being pushed out by motorists. An increase in off-road vehicle use and illegal trail building have damaged conservation properties and promoted the spread of invasive plants throughout the valley. Also, decreasing numbers of mule and whitetail deer have prompted the government to propose this action.
The hope is that closing spur roads to motorists will reduce the impacts of motorized vehicle access on wildlife populations, their habitats, and sensitive ecosystems.
The proposal maps out that motorized vehicles won’t have entry to the watersheds of all creeks flowing into the Pend d’Oreille River on the north shore, from the Waneta Dam to the confluence of the Salmo River, and the watersheds of Pete Creek, Wallack Creek, Grouse Creek and McCormick Creek in the lower Salmo River. Main roads will remain open.
“I don’t see any other way out of it,” added Hanik. “I mean, I’ve tried to tell people, but a lot of them don’t understand.”
The valley contains a high concentration of species at risk and their habitats, including yellow-breasted chat, western racer, rubber boa and western skink, which are all sensitive to ground disturbance and compaction.
TWA member Rob Frew is spearheading the conversation “by default” and clarifies this is not a done deal but simply an opportunity to start the conversation. In the end, the public will have its say.
The graduate of the fish, wildlife and forestry program at Selkirk College worked most of his career at Teck on the environmental side. He has lived in the area for over 60 years, in which time he frequented the Pend d’Oreille, and he said so much has changed since then.
The old growth winter grounds are critical for animals but are also a major attractant for motorists.
“Everybody seems to want to be out there,” he said. “And it’s a significant south-facing slope that gets very little snow in the winter and so the animals are under pressure more and more when the people are riding out there year round.”
Driving the increase is the logging, he added.
An extensive trail network and rough roads already cross through this entire area, and BC Timber Sales intends to start logging in the Limpid and Wallach drainages in the fall of 2015.
“It’s a combination of creating a whole new system of roads and then hunters showing up on their quads, so there is one less spot for animals to hide,” said Frew. “That’s what we’re losing, we’re losing wilderness, and it’s huge.”
The conversation starts with a couple representatives from interested stakeholder groups looking over the first draft and providing input Monday at the Muriel Griffiths room at 7 p.m. TWA will be hosting another meeting for the general public to comment on the maps and the proposed access restrictions afterward.
The second draft will later be sent to Victoria headquarters, which then posts all proposed regulation changes for the next Hunting and Trapping Synopsis onto its engagement website. That’s when the public can pipe in. This consultation period is likely to occur in November or December on the Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website at http://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/.
Frew points to the East Kootenay, which is well ahead on its access management area program.
“We’re trying to create an area where when people walk in it’s not going to make the same kind of impact as a quad going in,” added Frew. “When I first started hunting there was virtually no four-wheel drives out here but then they came, and that’s when fish and wildlife started putting road closures all over.
“This is a new improved method.”