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Home > Alberta's Resource Inventory > Forests > Agents of Change >  Increased Access

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Increased Access

Forestry RoadThe harvesting of timber resources involves constructing temporary or permanent access routes. As is often the case in Alberta, however, access roads may have been built previously for exploration and development of petroleum and natural gas resources. Improved access routes into the forest can benefit people other than industry, particularly recreationists, such as off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, hunters, anglers, and campers. Both controlled and uncontrolled access into previously inaccessible areas can be harmful to some components of the forest ecosystem. Uncontrolled access to vehicular traffic, in particular, can lead to symptoms of overuse. Soil compaction and erosion, damaged vegetation on sensitive terrain and around watercourses are examples of these symptoms.

Sometimes industry roads create access into areas with sensitive wildlife habitat, perhaps a critical overwintering area for large game. Other wildlife species are vulnerable because of their specific habitat requirements. Many of the larger carnivores (e.g., bear, wolf and cougar) are less tolerant of the inevitable human intrusions that accompany improved access and tend to avoid these areas. When use by people increases, the usual result is reduced habitat effectiveness for these types of species. When use by people is minimal, some species (e.g., wolf) may take advantage of an access corridor as a travel route. In addition, improved access and increased use of an area usually increases the risk of human-caused forest fires. Finally, there are social impacts that affect traditional land uses, and wilderness and heritage values.

To address these and other access management issues, the Alberta government establishes limitations on recreational use and access in environmentally sensitive forest areas. As well, industries working in the forest recognize the impacts associated with access and are taking steps to reduce these impacts. Strict controls and planning processes are also in place to minimize impacts and protect the environment.

Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.


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