SAGE Calls for Headwaters Restoration fo Benefit Majority of Citizens in Southern Alberta

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) together with others in the conservation community is calling for reduced linear footprint, strict limits on off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on public lands, and a ban on OHVs in parks and protected areas.  A communiqué was sent to the Government of Alberta on January 13, 2016.  The Southern Alberta Group for Environment (SAGE), established in 1984, works to protect and restore the health of our environment—water, air, and land—in Lethbridge and region.

The headwaters of the Oldman River are important to the more than one hundred thousand residents of Lethbridge and surrounding communities not only because most of our water supply originates in the mountains and foothills, but also because they provide places for amazing outdoor recreation experiences, including wildlife viewing.

The Poll Haven, Castle River, Crowsnest Pass, Dutch and Racehorse Creeks, Upper Oldman, Livingstone Range and Porcupine Hills evoke images of scenic forested wildlands and clear running water. The reality is that these areas are severely damaged and streams are sullied from the combined effects of high-intensity industrial development and unrestricted recreational use including off-highway vehicles (OHVs).

“I am well aware that the density of roads, trails and cutlines, most accessed by motorized vehicles, exceeds levels for sustaining native fish and grizzly bears in a large portion of the forested areas of the Oldman headwaters” says Cheryl Fujikawa, SAGE director. “The motorized activity also pushes hikers out of these areas”.

According to the recent survey on wilderness and recreation there is a preference among southern Albertans for non-motorized outdoor recreation, such as hiking and camping in established campgrounds. Only 2% to 3% of residents in the South Saskatchewan Region participate in off-road motorcycling, OHV use or snowmobiling.  “It is unreasonable to continue to retain linear footprint from past logging and other industrial developments and to accommodate OHV use in our headwaters given the risks posed to our source waters and to the use and enjoyment of Eastern Slopes wildlands by the majority of Oldman basin residents” says Braum Barber, SAGE Chair.  “It’s time we started to place strict limits on linear footprint and OHV use and restore the damage”. 

Unregulated OHV use in the headwaters of the Oldman River threatens aspects of the watershed most valued by the large majority of its residents.  Over the last decade, five separate surveys and consultation processes have clearly shown watershed protection and sustaining biodiversity are priority values among southern Albertans. Results also show strong support for reducing linear footprint, restricting motorized access and regulating off-highway vehicles.  “There is overwhelming public support for a principled approach to planning for the new Castle Park and for linear footprint and recreation plans being developed for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone area” says Cheryl Bradley, SAGE director.  “A principled approach would restore disturbances to native condition, restrict and regulate off-highway vehicles, and provide non-motorized outdoor recreation opportunities“. 

Media Contacts:

Cheryl Bradley            (403)328-1245          [email protected]
Braum Barber             (403)381-3606          [email protected]
Cheryl Fujikawa          (403)327-6605          [email protected]