5.4 Recreation Management



Controlled and limited access to sensitive habitats in the backcountry is the most effective way to reduce disturbance from recreational activities. Public and stakeholder education is vital to raise awareness, to boost a stewardship culture, and encourage desired behaviour in recreational user groups.

Controlling access to caribou areas

While backcountry recreational activity has less impact on habitats than resource development uses, it could disturb or displace caribou from their preferred habitat.

To date, the Province has focused on restricting snowmobile and heli-ski operations in specific areas. We will continue to review regions where removing recreational access will decrease human and predator access, and reduce the disturbances to caribou habitat. We will use existing laws and policies to reduce access to sensitive areas, especially in situations where roads are not managed under tenures or other permits.

Working with the Conservation Officer Service, we will build a motor vehicle compliance strategy that will be applied across the province.

Education

Educating the public on the potential impacts of their activities on caribou herds and their habitats is essential, especially as more and more people want to visit the backcountry.

We will work with groups like the B.C. Snowmobile Federation, HeliCat Canada, guide outfitters, local recreational clubs, land tenure holders and others to help get the word out to their clients and members.

42 responses to “5.4 Recreation Management

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    [-] Rachel

    I think that it is important to keep all human activity and development out of significant habitat areas for Mountain Caribou. If recovery of mountain caribou is to be taken seriously, then ALL human activities (including non-motorized rec, forestry, mining) should be removed from core habitat regardless of the economic backlash or public outcry from commercial recreation/forestry/mining sectors.

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    [-] Katie

    As a snowmobiler I worry that if a riding area is removed or shrunk, that an alternative riding area won't open. Also an increase in signage for the snowmobiles who are not from the area so there is no confusion as to where we should be riding.

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    [-] Dale

    There are caribou snowmobile closures where caribou do not frequent. Blue River area has an excessive amount of caribou closures where these animals just do not seem to travel.

    Should re-visit closed snowmobile areas utilizing telemetry from collared caribou and dial in closure zones with the intent to potentially open more terrain for sledders. This of coarse should not detrimentally impact caribou.

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    [-] Margaret

    Thanks for all of the work that has gone into protecting caribou and making a plan that might work. I believe the province needs to take a stronger stance to stop recreational activities of all kinds within caribou habitat IF they want to see the recovery of caribou across the province. Recreation by humans leads to easy access by predators, not to mention other disturbances to caribou. This is a case where the species is sensitive enough that we have to make a choice between saving them and stopping human activity. New laws need to be made to make areas of zero human use. Zero use is the easiest regulation to enforce though additional conservation officers are needed. Additional funds need to put towards manpower to enforce strict regulations that protect caribou habitat. So long as the habitat is not protected, caribou will not recover regardless of any other measures taken.

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    [-] Rachel

    I just read a quote from the B.C. Snowmobile Federation, where "80 per cent of caribou habitat is off limits to sledders and almost all snowmobilers stick to that." For a subspecies that is facing such high risks of extinction, this is simply not acceptable. If BC is truly trying their best to recover Mountain Caribou populations, habitat protection measures should include that 100% of caribou habitat is off limits to sledders and with serious enforcement over all closures.

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    [-] Alexander

    I don't agree entirely with the post above. Zero human access is not the answer. I strongly believe that foot access should be maintained so that people can maintain a sense of connection with the area and its wildlife, while all motorized access to sensitive areas should be closed. Motorized access and the roads that go with it are detrimental to not only caribou, but also grizzly bears, moose, and elk. Humans on foot have little impact.

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    [-] Alexander

    Roads and motorized access have been shown to have detrimental impacts on wildlife. These studies can be found by searching for road density BC studies on google. When road density and motorized access increases beyond a point, wildlife retreat. The noise and disturbance is hugely detrimental. Non-motorized access has little impact. If you don't agree, do some research and read the published studies.

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    [-] Bryce

    Non motorized access should be the limit of access into the caribou's habitat. Sorry, but we are at a stage where desperate measures are needed. De-activating roads will help, but i believe they need to be replanted to help restore these highways back to bush.

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    [-] Bryce

    Backcountry access should be limited to access by foot only. Period.

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    [-] Bryce

    We need to understand that just because caribou aren't using a particular area within their core habitat at any given time, doesn't mean they no longer use it, or for that matter could use it "tomorrow". We cannot simply open areas up on the basis of a herd not having used an area for a particular amount of time. Opening up an area to snow mobiling, or any other form of motorized access for that matter, will only ensure the caribou won't use it.

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    [-] Bryce

    If we are serious about the issue of compliance with motorized access closures, maybe we need to enforce these closures with some real penalties. Maybe first time offenders can be fined. Repeat offenders should loose their sled, or quad & any vehicle they used to tow those machines in too!

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    [-] Bryce

    I'm all for education. The more educated people are about these issues, the more likely they will be to comply with rules set up to protect the caribou.

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    [-] Bryce

    Maybe as part of licencing there should be a test given for these groups & individuals outside of these groups to inform them of the regulations.

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    [-] TJ

    I agree with the interest in working with other stakeholders to help deliver the message; I personally agree with the measures, but I don't feel the message is very clear to the majority of British Columbians. "What is the problem, why are there closures, and how will the closures address the issue. I feel it's as much a moral debate as it is an ecological debate, based on facts. As the Provincial Government, don't be afraid to say the closures are for ethical reasons as well as ecological ones – we need to take responsibility for our actions. Perhaps that will help gain the support of those in opposition.

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    [-] TJ

    I abide by the volunteer closures and I choose to ski and sled in other areas because aside from any unfounded and non-scientific opinion I may have, I recognize I am not a wildlife-ecosystems expert. I also recognize that there is plenty of other areas to recreate in. I support the controlled and limited access measures. It seems that the opposition is based on unfounded opinions and a feeling of entitlement to the land, above other values.

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    [-] Clinton

    The only way that motorized and non motorized use can be regulated is through communication and collaboration with recreation clubs. The volunteers who run these clubs have knowledge of the situation and will regulate the user group and set expectations for respecting closures and other good land stewardship principles. Complete closure of motorized use will result in a disintegration of these recreation clubs. However, that will not stop motorized use. The result will be an unregulated and uneducated user group operating as they see fit over the landbase. Attempts to eliminate motorized use will result in a more adverse affect to caribou and other wildlife than controlled and/or restricted motorized use.

    The comment "Zero use is the easiest regulation to enforce" is unfounded. Eliminating motorized use through regulation would be as effective as the government has been at enforcing zero use of illegal drugs through criminalization. Just ask any law enforcement official how "easy" it is to enforce "zero use". It is not. It costs billions of dollars and is still ineffective. The government needs to look at innovative ways to achieve objectives instead of continuously making the same mistakes it has in the past.

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    [-] Clinton

    There are other measures that can be put in place instead of total closure to motorized use. The can include sound restrictions on motorized equipment, core habitat closure areas, etc. Proper etiquette can reduce stress on wildlife if they are encountered. Of course, it requires thriving recreation clubs to educate on these principles. While it is certainly true that caribou will use different areas of their range over time and should not be assumed to only use area they have frequented over a few years, complete habitat closure is not always the best approach. In northeast BC, high elevation critical habitat combined with low elevation matrix and winter habitat encompasses a massive portion of the landbase. Complete protection from any human use in this area is not feasible, reasonable or necessary.

    Restricted use areas do not have to remain static. They can shift over time. An example might be high elevation critical habitat. It may make sense to close an area such as this to motorized use due to high value for caribou. If this habitat burns down and the values that benefitted the caribou no longer exist, the closure could be shifted to somewhere else where these values exist. It is possible that the burned forest may be excellent snowmobile terrain.

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    [-] Clinton

    COs will always be required to enforce regulations, and most agree that we could use more of them in many parts of the province. However, more effective approach is self regulation of recreation groups through thriving recreation clubs, combined with hardline fines and other measures implemented by the CO service. Recreation clubs foster respect of regulations and good stewardship principles through education and mentorship, which is more effective than the "don't get caught" mentality of law enforcement.

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    [-] Clinton

    Education is key for all motorized and non motorized users to comply with regulations and best practices in the backcountry. The government has stepped up its education programs in recent years and I expect it will continue to do so, especially as it relates to the caribou recovery plan.

    Responsibility of motorized users the backcountry has improved significantly in the last decade. This ranges from avalanche safety to good stewardship principles.This has mostly been a result of recreation clubs setting clear expectations for their members. Recreation clubs hold their members accountable when regulations and best management practices are not followed.

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    [-] Dave

    It's really unfortunate that the author(s) of this document have chosen to continue the Ministry's apparent confusion over recreation and adventure tourism. They are two very different activities on the landscape. One is not better than the other; they are different. In adventure tourism, all activities are controlled by legal tenures; the specific activities are outlined in management plans that are part of these documents; all activities are under the control of professional guides; companies holding tenure must follow gov't rules are they are at risk of losing their tenures, along with losing insurance coverage.

    Because of these differences, the Ministry needs to ensure that it recognizes — ans takes advantage of — the unique challenges and opportunities inherent with recreation, and with adventure tourism. Lumping them together, while perhaps easy, ignores these differences, and ignores the unique opportunities.

    In order to correct this on-going confusion, I offer some recommended revisions to the text in this section.

    5.4 Tourism and Recreation Management

    Managed access to sensitive habitats in the backcountry is an effective way to reduce disturbance or displacement from tourism or recreation activities. For tourism, working with licensees to develop a stewardship culture and ensuring compliance with proper operating procedures is critical. For recreation, public and stakeholder education is vital to raise awareness and encourage desired behaviours.

    Managing access to caribou areas

    While tourism and recreation activities in the backcountry have less impact on habitats than resource development uses, they could disturb or displace caribou from their preferred habitat.

    To date, the Province has focused on restricting public snowmobile access to specific areas. For adventure tourism, the Province has focused on ensuring specific behaviours through the training of professional guides, compliance with operating procedures, and annual reporting of observations and decisions made as a result. For recreation, we will continue to review areas where restricting access will decrease human and predator access, and reduce the disturbances to caribou habitat. For tourism, we will review, analyze and revise operating practices used by tourism licensees. We will also use existing laws and policies to reduce access to sensitive areas, especially in situations where roads are not managed by tenures or other permits.

    Working with the Conservation Officer Service, we will build a motor vehicle compliance strategy that will be applied across the province.

    Education

    Educating the recreating public on the potential impacts of their activities on caribou herds and their habitats is essential, especially as more and more people want to visit the backcountry. We will work with recreation groups such as the BC Snowmobile Federation, local recreation clubs and others to get the word out to their members.

    Because professional guides make decisions and control the behaviours of clients in tourism businesses, we will work with associations such as HeliCat Canada, the Backcountry Lodges of BC Association, the BC Commercial Snowmobile Operators Association, guide-outfitters and others to ensure that all staff are properly trained and that they full comply with the required operational procedures.

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    [-] Travis

    Plain and simple! If closing caribou habitat to snowmobile use was effective in saving the species. Then the herds would be thriving in the closure areas and provincial parks, but they're not. So closing more land to snowmobile use will not be effective. The government will look like complete fools to continue this approach and expect a better result. Perhaps they should try opening areas to snowmobile to see if they return, i have seen caribou in well used snowmobile areas. Caribou may see snowmobilers as protection from predators. Predator control will definitely be a step in the right direction. Their food supply maybe in a decline and needs some attention as to why. There may not be enough food to sustain energy levels to avoid,fight predators and encourage procreation.

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    [-] Travis

    If the caribou cannot survive with 80% of their habitat closed to snowmobile use then closing any more of the remaining 20% will not have any benefit to the survival of the species.

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    [-] Travis

    All ski hills should be closed and reclaimed/ replanted. Because they benefit from resource development of their tenured area. Such as the logging to build their ski runs ,lodges and chalets.

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    [-] sandra

    Limiting motorized recreation use in areas where large-scale clearcut logging is still permitted is unfair. There are lots of ways to work with snowmobilers, and many are conservation minded. For example, an exhaust sound limit, and better digital map resources would help substantially. The tourism value of motorized recreation is very high and benefits local communities and can be managed to protect the herds.

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    [-] Josh

    Decisions need to be based on proven scientific evidence, "could disturb or displace caribou from their preferred habitat" isn't good enough.

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    [-] Calvin

    Allowing mining or forestry operations to open roads that snowmobiles are not allowed on in the winter doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The roads are open, predators can travel into the areas and the intent of the restrictions are nullified. Same as allowing industry to snowmobile for business purposes into areas closed for recreating. Close the areas for the season and give no exceptions. If we want to be serious about saving the caribou don’t go halfway.

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    [-] KX

    Strict fines can help fund extra enforcement. Nature and ecosystems first over people always.

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    [-] Tara

    It is puzzling to hear that 80% of caribou habitat is already off limits to motorized activity yet the population continues to decline rapidly. In my view, it is clear that resource development remains, and continues to remain the top predator of caribou. No more dilly-dally around the real issue here. Protect the lands 100% from resource development. It is unfortunate we have come to time that we must halt all such activity but we are at that time because we have allowed this to go on for too long without any real action and resource development has always been considered a priority. Well it isn't anymore.

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    [-] Tara

    Education is very helpful but there are those who are educated and choose not to follow the rules. Serious enforcement of such rules are imperative. When there is serious consequence to breaking such rules, such as harsh fines, people listen more. The other concern is people with wealth who feel entitled to breaking the rules for personal gain or don't care because they can afford to get themselves out of trouble (trophy hunters etc). A harsh fine for these people isn't always affective which is why jail time should also be considered. These fines could be given back to the restoration project into protecting species at risk in BC. Fines for hunting or disturbing a species at risk should be really high, like $50K or more, not mere hundreds like some hunters have paid in fines for hunting bears illegally. The outdoor guides can also be paid off which is something to be mindful of in educating. Such bribes should hold a maximum offense to discourage such behavior also

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    [-] Tara

    Such groups can educate and explain to their members the rules until they are blue in the face but the members ultimately are the ones who choose to follow them or not. There are no cameras or fences to contain people. For example, back country skiers are often very informed and well aware of not being allowed out of bounds and why but they go anyway for the "thrill". Education is very important but discipline is key should members choose to ignore the rules. Groups should have signage, pictures, information in all languages so there's no confusion or misunderstanding. Signage of fines and disciplinary action should the rules be broken. People need to be scared of messing with the caribou. This is at a critical and serious point in our lifetime.

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    [-] Maryann

    Education is only a first step. Many who are educated fail to obey closures or other management regulations. The Conservation Office lacks the staff to enforce rules. I believe there needs to be substantial fines and consequences for breaking conservation rules and that these penalties need to be applied to the fullest extent.

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    [-] Todd

    Shutting down the backcountry go sledding is a terrible idea — we see mountain caribou all the time sledding — they are often walking on the old tracks — making life easier for them — especially the young ones as they don’t waste so much energy in the deep snow. When we see them – they don’t run away — they are not spooked — they walk and eat and act as they normally do— snowmobiles and mountain caribou have coexisted for decades — in a positive relationship— to close areasto sledding is a bad idea — and I oppose any further closeures

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    [-] Kat

    I consistently find that the public dialogue regarding environmental protection and the protection of Indigenous peoples is much the same. With a few exceptions, folks make suggestions as though the caribous and us Indians have all the time in the world for people to discuss, to debate, form committees etc. about life and death struggles for both species. We as homo sapiens do not have the luxury of time. We are on the brink of extinction and many of us don't even notice. Even in this form, there is a list from which I am to pick which of the herds of caribou am I interested in. They are not separate from one another. There is nothing in nature that stands alone, compartmentalized or separate. This is a very rudimentary principle in traditional Indigenous worldviews. I am an Indigenous outdoor educator in the Kootenays. I am one of two in a list of hundreds of environmental educators recognized by local organizations. Why is that? We as Indigenous people have vital knowledge about our land, water and everything that lives here. Before colonization, there were millions of people living here on Turtle Island and we didn't have a caribou shortage problem. Why don't you ask us how? Recreational land use in the back country? Why is that even an option? Stop it! Fine them. Throw them in jail. Our survival depends on us getting it right! Thank you for caring. Please send help because life is dying.

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    [-] Adam

    I agree that of backcountry access restrictions need to be supported through funding and enforcement, not just legislation.

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    [-] Alycia

    It is very important that the government do a better job of monitoring recreational activity in closed areas, and do a better job of closing more habitat areas to recreation. I do not believe that my own recreational desire to visit an area should trump the survival of a caribou herd. I did a hike near Tumbler Ridge a couple years ago and the trail follows a ridgeline where caribou migrate. As much as it was fun to be there and see the caribou footprints, I do not think that this hike should be open.

    Also, there were many problems in the past year where deactivated roads were illegally reactivated and where closed areas were visited anyways. Many of the people accessing these closed areas were not from BC, so it is also important to educate surrounding provinces and do a better job of monitoring/closing these areas.

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    [-] Cori

    Restrictions do not work unless there is not enough funding to make sure enforcement is present. The road and trail network is simply getting too big. Once recreationalists access an area they want to stay and road/trail closures are very hard to enforce. It is not just motorized recreation that is an issue: non-motorized activities (especially mountain bikes, but also skiing) create trails that predators follow. Do not allow more Crown Land tenures or Recreation Sites for recreation of ANY type. The moderate local use is fine, but monitor it – if the use gets too heavy, stop that too. Above all, do not create policies that are not practical to enforce. That is a just a game of smoke and mirrors and we do not have time for that. Either fund enforcement or admit that the herds are lost. Predator control is needed. Grizzly, wolf and cougar populations are high and climbing, but mule deer, elk and caribou are declining. Too may people and predators, too little quiet habitat. Please deny the 2 current Crown Land tenure applications for backcountry access.

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    [-] Robert

    First and foremost, "enforcement of closure areas". This is pretty much non-existent except for a few isolated fines being issued while thousands of infractions occur on a regular basis. I have worked at a mechanized skiing operation for 28 winters. I have witnessed the numbers declining. I have witnessed on a regular basis, increased snowmobile activity in closure areas. These are reported, the conservation officers "occasionally" do a fly over, or visit the areas via snowmobile. Nothing changes other than an exorbitant increase in snowmobile activity in the past 15 years. The riders claim the caribou don't visit these closure areas! Well I've got news for you Einstein, they use to be there and we would always see them, record their numbers, and actively avoid the area as per our management plan. The herds were seen regularly in the snowmobile closure areas and not stressed by any means by our occasional presence. The correlation between the 10 fold increase of snowmobiling in the past 15 years and the decline herd numbers can not be overlooked.
    As far as forestry, or perhaps a better term, "deforestation", it is ludicrous to assume that mechanized skiing has had such a serious impact on the caribou population when the clear cutting of the 80's and early 90's in the North Columbia has decimated their food source, the lichen moss on the trees. These animals are forced to higher elevations in the winter earlier than they use to, to look for food, as their early season food source where snow levels are lower has been decimated,. The higher tree line elevation snowpack is not firm enough in early season thus making travel much more difficult. This stresses the animals and uses up vast energy stores in there bodies. Not by coincidence, the favourite snowmobiling elevations…….tree line! Lower, the forest is too thick to ride in, and higher alpine glaciated terrain is less accessible, although they are getting up there now also.
    So, nickel and dime, isolated enforcement has proven to be a failure. Areas near current closure areas should be closed on a permanent basis with a vast increase of enforcement and significant penalties. The odd slap on the wrist doesn't work, partial closure areas haven't worked and will continue to fail as this un regulated user group continues to grow.
    I'll finish with this, the other species on the "closure radar" is the mountain goat. Similar "closure discussions" are occurring for these animals. this is also a species we observe and avoid according to our management plan. It still baffles me beyond logic then, that hunting tickets are still issued for goats. Go figure that one??????

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    [-] Robert

    Reply to "Todd"
    To your comments; "snowmobiling and mountain caribou have co-exisred for decades."
    Yes, snowmobiles have been around for decades, but decades ago, even in the 70's and eighties, the machines were not capable of reaching higher, tree line elevations very often. back then, snowmobile user groups numbers were in the 100's , now the numbers are in the thousands and growing. There is direct link to the declining caribou numbers with a 10 fold increase of snowmobile activity in their habitat.
    Stating that snowmobilers and the Caribou have existed for decades is ridiculous. Even as short as 10-15 year ago there were not thousands of sledders out on any given weekend. Your user group is unregulated and constantly active in closure areas. The BC government need to take action to regulate this user group through licensing (like Alberta does), and extend "permanent" closure areas with hefty fines and vehicle confiscation.

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    [-] Matt

    Monitoring and enforcement need to be a large part of the work with the Conservation Officer Service. With the unrelenting resource extraction in the backcountry over the past 15 years, the culture around backcountry use in BC has deteriorated to such an extent that no amount of public education and stakeholder engagement will reverse the trend in the time needed to recovery Caribou. Greater enforcement is needed to ensure any new rules for backcountry users are, in fact, followed.

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    [-] Evan

    Snowmobile recreation does NOT bring in enough revenue to even be considered a driving factor as to why we should not shut down a sport that is removing a species from existence. The access from the valley to the alpine in winter and the trails back and forth across the basins, making it easier for predators to move should be more than enough. Anyone else been in the back country during winter without a snowmobile? It's one of the most tranquil and lonely places on earth, until a few sleds show up, that's enough to make a human want to run the other way. Those who use any power "sports" in these wild places don't deserve to experience such beauty and are unworthy of calling themselves outdoorsmen by any stretch of the imagination.

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    [-] Bryn

    A comprehensive off road vehicle compliance and enforcement strategy is required and adequate capacity for enforcement as well as fines and penalties that are effective are needed. Consider a tax on ORV's and allocate license fees from general revenue to wildlife protection/management and compliance needs.

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    [-] Mark

    Motorized recreation in caribou management zones needs to be prohibited by legislation including snowmobiling, ORVs and helicopter recreation.

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