Save the Souris Bend trails!

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We petition the Manitoba government to stop the expansion of the designated trails where motorized vehicles are allowed in the Souris River Bend WMA (Wildlife Management Area), and to enforce the current restrictions more forcefully.

The trails at Souris Bend WMA were formally set up for equestrian and hiker use in 1993 with a grant from the provincial government. For the past 28 years the trails have been developed and maintained by volunteers with donated money from equestrians and hikers and grants from Manitoba Horse Council.  Over $20,000 of equestrians’ money has been spent to maintain these trails and many, many hours of volunteers’ time, all horseback riders. There is a combination of very technical trails and less challenging trails that are enjoyed by hundreds of riders and nature enthusiasts every year.

Motorized vehicles and ATVs are not permitted in the WMA except on a few designated trails that were designed to facilitate hunters retrieving game.

The government has proposed allowing use of some of the equestrian/hiking trails to connect sections of the designated vehicle trail, making a loop for ATV's. For those that know the area this is most of the trail south of middle camp, blue loop, approximately 16 km. They propose to use signage restricting access to other trails but the trails were off limits in the past and it could not be enforced.

In recent years irresponsible ATV drivers use the few designated trails to wrongfully access all the equestrian and hiking trails. This has caused irreparable environmental damage and poses a serious safety risk to riders, hikers, and horses.

The Souris River Bend WMA is a beautiful, fragile, and pristine area that is home to wildlife and natural vegetation. There is much evidence of what has already been damaged by the reckless use by ATV'ers in a short time. These powerful machines with aggressive tires can literally go anywhere, and they do. There are tracks where the machines have climbed the steep hills and denuded the vegetation, leading to erosion. The ATV's have used a natural spring as a mud bog, tearing it up and causing erosion making the trail impassable. These very loud machines scare away and disrupt all the natural wildlife that call this area their home. The garbage they leave behind is polluting the area.

We also have grave concerns for the safety of horses, riders, and hikers. Horses and ATV's do not mix! A group or single horse approached from any direction by these loud machines will cause run away horses crashing through trees, riders coming off and being injured and possibly death for both. Other "shared" trails in the province have led to the equestrians being driven out because the risk of injury was so great, and the natural area ends up being ruined by these destructive machines.  Just because a group has a loud lobby voice does not mean their wishes should be granted at the cost to the environment, wildlife and the serenity of the area.

 

We, the undersigned, therefore petition the government to stop the expansion of the designated trail where motorized are allowed in the Souris River Bend WMA, and to enforce the current restrictions more forcefully.