New Rules For Alberta's Bighorn Backcountry

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Strict new rules for off-highway vehicle (OHV) users and other recreationists in the Bighorn Backcountry are outlined in a new public information program. Visitors to the area will learn about the new regulations restricting trail use, best practices to avoid damaging trails, the environment and wildlife, and tips on how to share the landscape.

The information program and regulations support a recently approved new access management plan. The plan achieves a balance, ensuring the environment is protected and recognizing the needs of Albertans for recreational and economic opportunities.

Increased recreational use of the Bighorn Backcountry (more than 5,000 square kilometres in the Eastern Slopes) led to concern about impacts on the environment, and the need for a plan to better manage this area.

"We now have a balanced plan and the tools in place to manage this area better than ever before. We will be actively monitoring trail conditions and use and we will make changes if necessary," said Mike Cardinal, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

The new access plan includes:

  • Maps and detailed descriptions of the trail uses. Under new regulations, a range of activities will be managed, such as hiking, cycling, horseback riding, off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, and industry. Many of the recreational trails for users such as hikers remain the same. There are restrictions that result in less access overall to OHV users and horses to protect sensitive areas.
  • The ability of Forest Officers to close trails in response to environment and safety concerns.
  • Increased partnership and stewardship roles for community, stakeholder and industry groups.
  • Increased focus on education and enforcement to raise awareness about appropriate trail use. Users are encouraged to call 1-403-845-8250 for trail information or to report irresponsible use.

The access plan was developed with input from the Bighorn Advisory Group, and reflects the diverse views of Albertans received through a seven-month consultation process. Forest Officers will focus initially on providing information to users. Users who break the regulations can now be fined up to $1,000 (legislation increasing the maximum fine to $5,000 is pending Proclamation) or charged under provincial legislation.

The access plan is on the government web site at the following address http://www.bighorn.gov.ab.ca. Copies may also be obtained by calling 403-845-8250.