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Off-road vehicle users to benefit from access to protected wilderness area trails

Fountain Lake in the Portapique Protected Wilderness 
Fountain Lake in the Portapique Protected Wilderness Area. - Google map

Snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle users should soon have a new connector trail available in the Portapique area.
Amendments to the Wilderness Areas Protection Act recently introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature will give authority for limited use of off-highway vehicles on two long-established connector trails.
If passed, the amendments will allow the environment minister to authorize limited use by ATV’ers and snowmobilers on the Fountain Lake Connector Trail in Portapique River Wilderness Area, that runs through Colchester and Cumberland counties. The other amendment deals with the Grand Lake-Ross Lake Connector Trail in Ogden Round Lake Wilderness Area in Guysborough Co.
“They connect one trail to another and without a management plan they’ve gone without much maintenance if any,” said Colchester North MLA Karen Casey, of the Fountain Lake trail.
While some may question the wisdom of opening up a protected wilderness area to such use, Casey said, she does not share that concern.
“It is a protected area but some of the best stewards that we have of the forests and of the environment are riders on ATVs and snowmobiles,” she said, “so it doesn’t seem to be a risk. But it will provide them with a better trail because it is a connector.”
Opening up the trails to limited off-road vehicle use will enable members of the ATV Association of Nova Scotia and the Snowmobiliers Association of Nova Scotia to work with the government to create a management plan to be used for both developing and maintaining the trail, which runs for approximately 10 kms through the protected wilderness area, Casey said.
“And, so for the users, it’s huge because it gives them better access with their vehicles and it does connect them to trails that go both east and west.”
Part of the plan is to also create parking areas so users don’t have to park their highway vehicles on the sides of the road while out on the trail.
“It’s good for the users, it’s something they wanted,” Casey said.
Before designating a connector trail, the minister must enter a trail management agreement with an organization and ensure certain conditions are met to protect the environment and trail users.
“Nobody can use it until that management agreement is finalized,” Casey said. “It all takes time but it’s a good start to get the ball rolling.”

Quick Facts: 
- thes amendments will not change the level of protection offered to designated wilderness areas. All vehicle use in wilderness areas will still need to be specifically authorized and activities that may damage biodiversity in these areas is still prohibited  
- the Wilderness Areas Protection Act allows government to designate connector trails for vehicle use in newer wilderness areas without changing legislation
- there are already about 120 kms of designated off-highway vehicle connector trails within wilderness areas in the province.

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