Signs are posted at the entrance of the deactivated roads. (Photo Contributed)

Signs are posted at the entrance of the deactivated roads. (Photo Contributed)

Backcountry road deactivation results in public disappointment

Two highly trafficked forest service roads were closed prior to public consultation

Local outdoor enthusiasts are at a crossroads with the Elk Valley Cumulative Effects Management Framework (EV-CEMF), following two recent road deactivations on and around Teck land near the District of Elkford.

In response to the road closures, the Elkford ATV Club expressed concern over the lack of consultation with user groups prior to the road deactivations.

“Our club was dismayed to find out that recreational users were not given fair consideration to keep these roads open,” said President of the Elkford ATV Club, Murray Haight.

The EV-CEMF is made up of stakeholders such as Indigenous and provincial government bodies dedicated to ecosystem management by assessing human activities and natural processes that build to impact the environment, otherwise known as cumulative effects. Road rehabilitation was selected as a priority in addressing such effects, with the study area spanning the entire Elk Valley.

In a Skype call with representatives in charge of the EV-CEMF, the Elkford ATV Club mentioned the popularity of those roads.

“We also brought forward that the general public had no knowledge of these road closures and no chance to be consulted or to be allowed to comment on CEMF,” said Haight.

Of particular concern to Haight are the barriers road deactivation adds to those with mobility issues who are unable to hike large distances, thus using the roads for outdoor recreation.

“(We) understand the need for environmental protection and we all support road density management that brings industry and recreational users together for collaborative discussions that can benefit the recreational sector by saving roads with high recreational values while prioritizing lower value roads for rehabilitation,” said Haight.

Haight furthered that trail management overseen by clubs such as the Elkford Trails Alliance would benefit industry by reducing road deactivation costs.

With support from the Elkford Chamber of Commerce, the Elkford ATV Club is putting forth a delegation at the Elkford Council Meeting on Oct. 26. According to Haight, the Elkford ATV Club will be requesting that the district post maps and facilitate public consultation prior to rehabilitating future roads, in an effort to have recreational interests represented at all levels of government when it comes to forestry planning.

In response to road closures on their land, Teck Coal – a supporter of the Elk Valley CEMF – is seeking community input from outdoor recreationalists via a Road Deactivation and Access Management Workshop held on Oct. 28. The meeting will discuss priority areas for land access, road deactivation, and historical trail use on Teck land.

“Road rehabilitation can improve conditions for grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, old growth and mature forests, and aquatic ecosystems,” said Norman Fraser, Lead of Indigenous Initiatives for Teck.

“It is important for us to gain feedback and input from communities prior to initiating work in the region, recognizing that outdoor recreational access is also a core value for many residents of in the Elk Valley… Capturing this knowledge will help us to identify the right opportunities and develop well-informed plans.”

The workshop will take place at the Elkford Community Conference Centre. Social distancing protocols will be in place. Those interested in attending must email communicationsteckcoal@teck.com.

Another input opportunity will be held at Teck’s annual backcountry user and outdoor recreational meeting on Dec. 2.

For more information on the EV-CEMF, visit the Government of British Columbia’s website.

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