New legislation to protect sensitive alpine areas in the Okanagan comes into effect July 1, and will prohibit motor vehicles above 1,700 metres in elevation, except on existing roads or trails.
Snowmobiles are excluded from the regulation.
Rapid growth in the popularity of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and some of the highest density of roads in the province with easy access to alpine areas are given as reasons for the new legislation, which will apply to 11 per cent of the region’s alpine terrain.
Similar legislation prohibiting motor vehicles from high elevation areas is already in place in parts of the Thompson, Kootenay, Caribou, Skeena, Omenica and Peace Regions of the province.
Bans on motor vehicles in alpine elevations in the Omenica and Peace are larger in area than the Okanagan regulation, but they don’t have the same high levels of access, road and trail density, or off-road recreational use that the Okanagan does.
It’s the first time such a ban has covered an entire region in B.C.
It’s being considered a pilot for determining whether such a move will work to reduce off-road damage to vulnerable alpine vegetation in areas of higher access and recreational use.
Because of the very short season for plants to grow at high elevations, between snowmelt in spring or early summer, and snowfall in autumn, they are especially susceptible to death rather than just damage from tires.
The new rules were approved by the provincial legislature during the spring sitting and have been included in this year’s hunting and trapping regulation synopsis.
They received general support from such stakeholder groups as the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the Guide Outfitters’ Association of B.C., the B.C. Trappers’ Association, the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, the Quad Riders’ ATV Association of B.C., the Southern Interior Stockmen’s Association and B.C. Parks.
The definition of road includes those with a paved surface, marked ski trails, those used for logging or mining, those used to access fences, power lines, wind generators or communication towers or “a trail on which there is no vegetation except on a strip that, if present, can be straddled by a four-wheel vehicle.”