Because ATVing should take place with regards to the environment, every development activity is planned thoroughly according to the location, seasonal weather, the set objective and regulations in effect, in order to minimize the impact.
To provide governance to member clubs in their trail expansion projects, the FQCQ relies on valued partnerships with the Fondation de la faune du Québec, the Ministère des Transports, and BPHenvironnement. In 2016, the ‘Guide d’aménagement et d’entretien de sentiers quad’ was created and published as a reference tool for volunteers in their trail network development and maintenance activities.
Fragile environments and sensible aspects
A fitting design will avoid fragile areas upfront (at least those defined as such in regulation). In addition, provided they are renowned, other sensible aspects (endangered species, breeding grounds, etc.) will be considered and protected by proper planning and a good follow-up.
Erosion and sedimentation
An appropriate management of both erosion and sedimentation starts with adequate conception of the trail and effective drainage. Namely construction of ditches, placement and number of culverts as well as bridging and good construction practices are elements to consider.
Taking into consideration the dynamic aspect of water drainage, the unpredictability of precipitations and spring thaw, erosion should be monitored closely. A thoughtful conception and constant surveillance are key to proper maintenance.
Soils and vegetation
Concentrating traffic and activities in the trails lessens soil compaction and the probabilities of fauna and flora destruction. It also reduces noticeable effects such as concentrate surface runoff, loss of vegetation cover and increase of bare grounds. (USDA, 1993) Where trails are abundant and well maintained, improvised trails should be scarcer if not absent. .
The impacts on the wildlife resemble those of the road networks, and their assessment can be made by inference with prior study results on know species in addition to natural history and seasonal distribution of the said species. (Gilbert 2003) The basic knowledge is very variable according to species.
Generally, repercussions on air quality related to exhaust fumes are centered mostly along the trails due to the frequent passage of quads, rather than outside the track. Taking in account local conditions (soil content, topography, winds), using a marked trail will minimize the impact on local residents and surrounding areas.
Using coarse material for the running surface decreases lifting of fine particles and therefore, exposition to particulate matter. Moreover, building trails on less rugged and clearer terrain cuts down on waiting time and idling while enabling a better dispersion of air contaminants.
A wrongful use of the trails such as speeding is likely to emit more air contaminants and to affect visibility. In this regard, trail development should plan for few and short straight lines, as well as proper signage (ex: trail entry, acceleration zone). While raising awareness should be a priority, it is also adamant strict measures are adopted to limit speeding, thus reducing air pollution.
Due to the increasing popularity of ATVing, it becomes imperative to take measures to oversee upcoming developments. However, sound management can only take place if the correlation between recreative use and its impacts is well defined and understood. As for any expansion undertaking, loss of vegetation and habitat are unavoidable, rendering it even more imperative to make it a lasting and sustainable development.
It seems advisable to undertake a strategic environmental assessment regarding off-road vehicles to better identify specific environments that are or could be affected by upcoming initiatives.
More insightful expertise could also be established by commanding additional environmental studies and follow-up of existing trails to pin-point impacts and elaborate the means to resolve or mitigate them.
Source: Desjardins Marketing Stratégique, coll.: Tecsult Inc. Québec, Août 2004.