Conservation officers will be patrolling backroads this long weekend to try and prevent damage to habitat from off-road vehicles and mud bogging, advises CO Jim Beck.
In particular, new regulations take affect this year that protect an area between Peachland and Summerland, between Highway 97 and the Garnet Valley from use by motor vehicles, except on designated roads.
Several large parcels of land in that area were purchased in the 1980s for protection of fish and wildlife, but no active management took place, said Beck.
Since then, the amount of habitat damage that’s occurred has worsened every year, but now there’s a move to put regulations in place to restrict activity causing damage, and enforce those restrictions, he said.
The area contains some of the Central Okanagan’s most valuable wildlife habitat, particularly as winter and early spring grazing land for mule deer, but also for other wildlife species, some of which are federally listed as ‘at risk,’ said Beck.
Illegal trail building and use, the erosion that results and the spread of invasive plants on that disturbed land have all resulted in a loss of habitat he said.
In the new regulation under the Wildlife Act, motorcycles and snowmobiles are restricted to a single north/south designated route between Jan. 1 and Apr. 30 when mule deer are at their most vulnerable and in need of this habitat.
In January of 2014, a second phase is set to be implemented which would define more trails for use from May 1 to Dec. 31.
Although the changes won’t impact the average user on most existing roads in that area, illegal trails and roads will be closed, said Beck.
He said officers will also be out during the weekend patrolling other areas where there are concerns about illegal outdoor activities and their impact on the environment.