Vehicle use, particularly by off-road vehicles, has significantly increased in recent years. The Wolverine Hill area in the WMA has sustained significant damage from off-road vehicle use and the unauthorized development of a dirt bike course. The landscape in the WMA is not very resilient; vegetation is not well rooted in the light sandy soil and it is easily destroyed by vehicle use. The footprint of trails across the WMA is large which impacts the quality of habitat for wildlife species. With increasing recreational activity and the number of machines being operated in the WMA, these activities contribute to increased disturbance to wildlife and habitat.
Conservation and Water Stewardship staff has established a trail working group that represents various interests to assist in the development of the designated trail system. Meetings have been held with the Trail Working Group and with individual interest groups. Additional meetings are planned to identify those trails that will continue to allow motor vehicle use and areas where motor vehicle use will be discontinued. A Public Open House will be held once a draft plan is developed to provide an opportunity for members of the public to comment on the plan.
Conservation and Water Stewardship is continuing to meet with interest groups and concerned citizens to develop a designated motor vehicle trail system that balances the need for access with the need to conserve wildlife habitat.
The intent is to take a balanced approach, establishing a system of trails where motorized use is permitted. This approach accommodates some established motorized vehicle use, while recognizing the role of the WMA in providing habitat for wildlife.
No. There is no specific proposal to reduce the number of trails by 80 per cent. Sample designated trail maps were reviewed with participants in the process to help determine those trails that were considered essential, those that were desirable, and those that were of less interest for motorized access. It is anticipated that there will be a reduction in the number of trails available for use by motor vehicles, but no decisions have been made.
The public will continue to have open access to the WMA. The only change in use is that motor vehicles may only be operated on those trails eventually designated for motorized use.
The WMA would remain open to hunting and trapping. Licensed hunters and trappers would only operate motor vehicles on the designated trails and would retrieve downed game without using a motor vehicle off the designated trail. The design of the designated motor vehicle trail system will consider the need for reasonable access to retrieve downed game. Consideration will be given to allowing for off trail permits for problem wildlife situations.
The approach taken for the Mars Hill WMA, or any WMA, will not reflect what may be appropriate on Crown lands within Provincial Forests, Provincial Parks, or undesignated lands. A designated motor vehicle trails system for the Mars Hill WMA is not precedent setting. Some WMAs prohibit motor vehicle use, such as Brandon Hills and Oak Hammock Marsh, some restrict motor vehicles to designated roads and trails, such as Souris River Bend and Lauder Sandhills, while others have no specific restrictions on vehicle use other than a general prohibition on the development of new trails.