Illegal trails removed

Illegal trails in the Garnett Valley area have been deactivated.

Illegal trails in the Garnett Valley area have been deactivated.

Volunteers from the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association, along with workers from the Conservation Officer Service and the South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program posted the signs and deactivated the trails last week.

The work was funded in part by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation Public Conservation Assistance Fund.

Bryn White, manager of the conservation program, said the trails had become a problem in recent years as an increasing number of off-road vehicles were using them.

She said motorized vehicles will cause disturbance to wildlife and have already degraded habitat in the area.

“Hopefully we will see some recovery there,” she said. “The South Okanagan is a pretty sensitive place.”

The area includes grasslands, dry forests and wetlands. The area also provides winter and early spring habitat for wildlife.

The Garnett Valley area is a corridor for wildlife off Highway 97, she said.

Earlier efforts at habitat restoration have resulted in improvements to the area, White said.

“The success of the Ritchie Lake fencing project and the recovery of that wetland has inspired us all,” she said.

New regulations for the Garnett Valley area designate open, legal routes and closed illegal routes. Seasonally open routes may be accessed from May 1 to Dec. 31.

Those who use illegal trails can face a $575 ticket if habitat destruction is observed, White said.

If the destruction is significant, penalties can include fines of up to $1 million, imprisonment for up to three years or both.

Those who observe illegal trail use may call 1-877-952-7277 or *7277 on a cell phone.