Sasquatch Initiative to protect west country ecosystems

  • Jan. 29, 2014 6:11 p.m.

Quadders, campers, and visitors to Clearwater County, west of Red Deer, this spring and summer will now be able to spot fragile ecosystems that shouldn’t be disturbed thanks to the educational Sasquatch Initiative.

Clearwater Councilor Jim Duncan has already posted signs sporting the Sasquatch in many areas of the County.

These signs sporting the ‘Welcome to our backyard: Please enjoy it with respect’ slogan are there to serve as a reminder to be respectful when visiting these delicate ecosystems, he said.

Duncan explained the initiative began two years ago in an effort to preserve land located in Clearwater County for future generations.

“It began with a small committee that would pertain to ecological stewardship in the west country of Central Alberta, after which I approached my council and then went on to look for funding for the initiative from industry members in the area.”

According to Duncan, on any long weekend in Clearwater County you can see 30,000 to 50,000 people who bring with them upwards of 20,000 quads.

“There is a lot of concern in this area about the number of people with quads and the impact it’s having on the environment,” said Duncan.

“We’re looking at the issues of over-use of trails, people making their own trails and the most severe issue surrounds those looking for mud and quadding in the wetlands,” he said.

Duncan stated that people often drive up and down the streams or go into the bog and muskeg area and make large mud holes.

While Clearwater County doesn’t want to discourage people from visiting out west to camp and quad, they hope that the Sasquatch Initiative will encourage people to be respectful of these wetlands and stick to the trails.

“A lot of people just don’t realize that it is wrong and that they are disturbing these areas,” he said. “We simply ask that people use common sense and be aware of sensitive environments and the impact that you can have especially during wet times.”

In the past, Clearwater County has had reports of people camping on oil and gas lease sites, as well as quadding on private property owned by oil and gas companies.

“Land has been damaged by quadders using wet lease roads as trails to the point where pipelines have actually been exposed because of trail erosion,” he explained.

“Some of these places where people are randomly camping are sour gas sites which is illegal and dangerous as you shouldn’t even be within 100 metres.”

Alberta remains one of the places in North America where random quadding and camping is allowed. Duncan believes the random camping and quadding to be a “culture” in Alberta, but one that is damaging many different fragile eco systems.

Provinces such as Ontario have strict rules and regulations as to where you are and aren’t allowed to camp. “There isn’t trail management in the west country like there is in places like Ontario,” he said.

“In Ontario there is no such thing as random camping and quadding and all of the trails are managed by different groups and that’s where you’re allowed to ride.”

Duncan believes that if everyone sticks to the “Honour system when it comes to quadding and camping and sticks to the trails and without disturbing these sensitive eco systems,” then there wouldn’t be a need for regulation.

In the future, Duncan hopes to help to educate children in schools on the importance of respecting these eco systems, as well as to develop trail management systems.

“We are still in the development stages of these trail management systems for Clearwater County,” said Duncan. “We are working on pilot projects for these Sasquatch Approved trails and campsites.”