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Posted: January 30, 2020

Wildsight concerned about dirt biking trail application

Conservationists are concerned about a proposal to formalize 65 kilometres of dirt biking trails in a rural area outside Kimberley.

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The Kootenay Dirt Riders’ Association wants to turn unsanctioned trails in Ta Ta Creek into an official dirt bike trail system.

“Formalizing more than 60 kilometres of dirt biking trails could increase cumulative impacts, users, and further increase off-road impacts on sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and grasslands,” said Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight Conservation Coordinator. “Given the current size and scope of the current proposal, we have serious concerns about impacts on wildlife, connectivity, and grassland ecosystems.”

Continued high-impact human use such as dirt biking results in more destruction to the land and the animals that depend on it, Petryshen reported. By formalizing trails, it will bring even more riders to the region who can inadvertently rip up soil, scare off wildlife, and negatively impact the environment, he explained.

The proposed trails run through a stunning natural setting filled with beautiful open grasslands mixed with sparsely forested areas and dense stands of Interior Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Wetlands and riparian features complete the habitat in a space perfectly suited for birds, badgers, mule deer, elk, and bears. The unique dry grasslands are particularly important for ungulates, both for their foraging and security cover.

A study done in 2006 noted 18 wetlands in the Ta Ta / Skookumchuck range were already negatively impacted by recreational users. And use has only gone up in the past 14 years, leading to more disturbance in the area.

Elk, mule deer, and grizzly bears will certainly be affected. Research consistently confirms that increased human access into their habitat puts wildlife on the run, forcing them into less-suitable habitat. This can lead to overall population declines.

On top of wetland damage and animal disturbance, the proponents have not offered any measures to mitigate the spread of invasive species, a growing concern in the East Kootenay, added Petryshen.

“Invasive weeds such as hawkweed, sulphur cinquefoill, and knapweed are known to exist in this landscape and in close proximity to the proposed tenure. Soil disturbance associated with recreational vehicles increases the opportunity and spread of invasive species.”

Kootenay Dirt Riders Association also plans to build infrastructure on the site including camping, staging areas, and toilets.

“Our preference would be to limit motorized activity and rehabilitate roads and trails. If intensive motorized recreation is going to take place, it should be concentrated into a much smaller area like the heavily utilized area near the existing motocross jumps,” said Petryshen. “Regardless of the outcome, increased control and enforcement of motorized recreation is necessary in order to support responsible users ability to recreate with minimal impact.”

BC Rec Sites and Trails is responsible for making the final decision on whether to allow this proposal to move forward.

Wildsight urges residents to write an email to Lisa Cox, Recreation Officer for the Rocky Mountain South Recreation District, ([email protected]) citing concerns.

The Regional District of East Kootenay board of directors Jan. 10 unanimously agreed to support a Crown Land Licence of Occupation application by the Kootenay Dirt Riders for a trails and staging area recreation site in the Ta Ta Creek area.

Images from RDEK information package

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