Calgary

Castle-area ATV ban consultation extended after pushback

After pushback from some users of the Castle area provincial parks, the Alberta government says plans for an off-highway vehicle ban will be pushed back to allow additional public consultation, while enforcement of illegal trail use is ramped up.

'Timeline for concerned Albertans to provide their feedback is far too short,' opposition says

Lorne Fitch, a retired biologist, shared this photo, saying he's often seen damage like this in the Castle area from off-highway vehicle users. (Submitted by Lorne Fitch)

After pushback from some users of the Castle area provincial parks, the Alberta government says plans for a recently announced off-highway vehicle ban will be pushed back to allow additional public consultation, while enforcement of illegal trail use is ramped up.

"There is a process to make sure that we are doing trail planning in a way that is science based, that is environmentally responsible," Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told reporters in Calgary on Wednesday.

"I think that is something that all Albertans want and that is a value we all share."

In January, the province announced about 1,000 square kilometres of mountains and foothills in the Castle area near Pincher Creek would be protected from off-highway vehicle use, angering some recreational users.

The ban was to take effect in three to five years.

Environmental groups have said damage in some areas is affecting the land, watershed and wildlife habitats.

But thousands of users pushed back, arguing the ban wasn't needed as most people treat the area with respect.

The province says it will extend the consultation process until April 19 and there will be no changes in 2017.

Illegal trail use, enforcement focus

Instead, there will be focus on illegal trail use and enforcement.

"There has to be something to fish, there has to something to hunt and we need to make sure that where we go, has the right ways that we can dispose of our garbage or make sure that our ever-larger recreational vehicles are properly supported with the right kind of campgrounds," Phillips said.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the public consultation period for an ATV ban in the Castle area has been extended after pushback from recreational users. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

"All of that takes a plan and a vision."

The Wildrose Party said the extended consultation isn't enough.

"Even with 30 more days, the timeline for concerned Albertans to provide their feedback is far too short for adequate consultation to be done," the party said in a release.

Another rally opposing the proposed ban is planned for Calgary this weekend.

With files from Scott Dippel

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