It's time to clamp down on unrestricted ATV access to unprotected public lands

By Tony Kryzanowski

More and more, logging contractors and forestry companies are complaining about swarms of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) enthusiasts—also known as ‘quadders’—invading active logging areas.

Given the narrow roads, lack of radio communication by the public using resource roads, the risk of forest fires, and damage to the environment that quads can create, it’s time for the forest industry to raise this issue of unrestricted access and use on unprotected public lands with transportation authorities.

I realize that many Canadians view access to unprotected public lands as a divine right, and I generally agree with that principle. However, like the Fathers of the American Constitution who included the right to bear arms without anticipating the invention of the submachine gun, I don’t think that Canadian politicians anticipated the quad when they voted to maintain access to public land. When these rights were drafted, most people were still riding horses.

There is a definite dividing line when it comes to quadding—people either love them or they hate them, with no lack of quadding enthusiasts in the forestry community. However, given the number of close calls with both quadders and with vehicles towing quad trailers on radio-controlled resource roads, it’s about time to put some controls on the free-for-all currently guiding ATV use in most jurisdictions.

It is amazing how many environmental regulations we place on industry, yet a group of quadders can drive down a fish-bearing creek for miles or along a lakeshore during nesting season, and no one does anything about it. Yes, this practice is illegal in many jurisdictions. But there is no enforcement and the quadders know it.

Recently, I was riding along with a logging contractor and commented on how quiet it was around an out-of-the-way creek that looked promising for fly fishing. His response caught me off guard. He said it was quiet now, but on weekends, the small area near the creek where some brush has been removed was absolutely choking with people, campers, and their quads, so much so, that the number of parked vehicles with quad trailers extended back along the narrow resource road for nearly a kilometre. It should be noted that this was not a designated campground.

At the time of our conversation, there was also an active log haul on the road. A little further up, I noted a camper in the bush. I asked the logger if that was a campground. He looked at me and answered, “well, it is now.”

For too long, transportation authorities have turned a blind eye to this toxic combination of greater public access because of resource industry activity, complicated by the rise of ATV use. Municipal authorities and the police are the ones who hear the biggest complaints about irresponsible ATV use. They usually shrug their shoulders and respond that the problem is too big for them to handle.

It’s important to point out here that my suggestion of greater controls on ATV access does not refer to quad use on private property by the owner or for ATV users who have permission to use the property, although given the potential liability issues, I’m surprised how many landowners actually agree to allow access. But that’s their legal headache.

It seems that the authorities are starting to think the same way, that there needs to be more responsible ATV use. B.C. adopted its new Off-Road Vehicle Act last year and the Alberta government recently authorized fines and the ability for enforcement personnel to issue fines on the spot for illegal activity.

But it has to go farther, starting with an age and operator license requirement for ATV operation, a review of general ATV use on unprotected public land, a permitting system for work-related ATV use during authorized resource activities, and designating areas off-limits to ATVs for safety and environmental protection. Although some jurisdictions already allow this, logging and forestry companies across Canada should be allowed to post signs restricting non-authorized vehicular access on resource roads at least during active logging and log hauling within a defined distance from those activities.

Some logging contractors may complain that it will be more difficult to hire employees if they don’t have an ATV license. An ATV is a valuable tool for many industries like logging, oil and gas and mining. However, that’s the price we must pay for the irresponsible actions of some. Acquiring a license includes education about responsible use, which seems to be lacking in this whole issue of ATVs and public access.

In terms of restricting access to unprotected public land, we already do it. Hunting requires a license. We can’t hunt anywhere, whenever we want. Fishing also requires a license. We can’t fish anywhere, whenever we want. And quad owners should be licensed and should not be allowed to rip through public lands anywhere, whenever they want. Like fishing and hunting, recreational ATV users will have to adapt.

It’s time to shut down the party and realize what a safety and environmental menace that irresponsible ATV use has become, by at least putting more money into proper enforcement of the existing laws, and letting the forest sector restrict access when an area is active.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
November 2016

On the Cover:
Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, with its operations including stump-to-dump contract logging operations in Mackenzie and Cranbrook, B.C. and Saskatchewan, post and peeling facilities and two pressure treating plants, and, most recently a chipping operation. Read all about Jemi Fibre beginning on page 10 of this issue (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).

Spotlight – First Nations forestry in Ontario
A local forest management corporation has been launched in northwestern Ontario to help provide economic development opportunities to First Nations and it’s now been followed by a new First Nations-owned logging enterprise, Mkwa Timber, that is supplying timber to local mills.

Logging, manufacturing …and more
B.C.’s Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, from logging through to added value manufacturing—and it’s looking to do more, says company president, Mike Jenks.

Workhorse wood chipper
Sutco Contracting is one of the leading trucking companies in B.C. , but it also has a chipping division—BC EcoChips—that does contract chipping with what the company describes as a “workhorse”: a Peterson 5000H chipper.

New scanner eyes mill improvements
The Teal-Jones sawmill in Surrey, B.C. has seen a number of equipment additions over the years—the most recent one came earlier this year with a new Springer Microtec Goldeneye 900 Multi-Sensor Scanner that is reducing the mill’s trim loss and improving its on-grade accuracy.

Field testing Cat’s new 538 forest machine
Veteran B.C. logger Alfred Poole was a clear choice for field testing a new piece of Cat equipment—the new Cat 538 forest machine, which came equipped with a SATCO 323T processing head—and he reports it offers good power, and is stingy when it comes to fuel consumption.

From logger
Nova Scotia’s Justin Thibault tried his hand as a carpenter and crewing on fish boats, but he found that logging suited him better—and has recently expanded his iron line-up with a new Tigercat/LogMax harvester to work alongside another Tigercat/LogMax harvester, and his Ecolog and John Deere forwarders

Show Reviews
Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at what was new at Portland’s Timber Processing & Energy Expo and the InterSaw show in Montreal.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates.

The Last Word
It’s time to clamp down on unrestricted ATV access to unprotected public lands, says Tony Kryzanowski.

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