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Sustainable Land Use

Off-highway vehicles have been around for barely half a century but they’ve revolutionized rural life.  Tasks like fence maintenance, moving salt blocks and maintaining off-stream watering sites can be a lot easier with these powerful, maneuvrable machines.  The wide-tired little machines can also leave a light footprint — if used frugally and responsibly.

As with any new technology, however, there can be too much of a good thing.  OHVs are not just working machines — they have become popular with growing number of Albertans for recreation.  Most of the recreational use of OHVs is on forest reserve land that is also important for groundwater recharge, summer cattle grazing, fish and wildlife habitat and wood supply.  Many recreational users are responsible, trying to stay on trails and to minimize their impacts.  Many are not responsible.  It’s an open question which are the majority but one thing has become clear:  the sheer numbers of users and the behaviour of many is causing damage to land and water, and creating increasing nuisances for area residents.

Recently, the Alberta government has finally started taking action to reduce the damage.  Currently (2017) sub-regional planning is underway for the Porcupine Hills and the upper Oldman/Livingstone areas under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act.  Once completed, the Disturbance Footprint Management Plan and Recreational Plan will have carry regulatory weight, so the plans are an important opportunity and it’s essential to get them right.  The LLG has been a voice for responsible and conservative land use that protects vegetation, soils, groundwater processes and streams.  Our position has not been to oppose OHVs, which many of our members own and use responsibly, but to insist that, just like any other land use, the recreational use of OHV has to be managed and regulated in ways that put the health of land and waters first.  The question isn’t whether people should have the option to use OHVs for recreation: it’s to what degree, under what conditions, and with what kind of consideration to other land uses and land users.  Recreational use is always optional; what isn’t optional is the need to keep the land and streams that sustain us healthy.