There have been some interesting comments directed my way this past week, some of which I just discount right off the bat, and some of which come from a lack of understanding of the news business. I admit I don’t have much tolerance for off-roading because so much long-lasting damage has been done in the backcountry by people driving off-road vehicles.
Yet I too drive such vehicles. I just don’t drive them off the road and through domestic water reservoirs, ponds, wetlands, creeks, riparian areas, grasslands, meadows or alpine areas where delicate plants can take years to recover in the short seasons at high elevations. I don’t do it just because it’s illegal. I don’t do it because I enjoy and respect the Okanagan’s natural environment and the wild inhabitants who call it home.
Years ago, there were only a few of us who enjoyed the backcountry, so the occasional idiot who tore up a wet meadow or drove through a creek had less impact.
However, today, every Tom, Dick and Harriet has laid claim to it.
And that means we can’t all make our own roads and trails wherever we wish or there will be nothing left to enjoy in the backcountry for anyone.
In the past week, I’ve written a couple of news stories about trucks with monster tires seen camping up in the Belgo Creek area last Friday.
Staff from the irrigation district, whose watershed that’s in, were concerned because trucks had been driving through Belgo Creek directly above the district’s domestic water intake. Not only does that stir up sediment that gets into the intake and requires more treatment at the utility’s plant, but it also continues downstream to create problems for other utilities and for aquatic creatures all along the line. As well, there’s always the possibility of fluid leaks from such vehicles because they’re frequently being driven hard, and none of those fluids are healthy to drink.
Naturally, since there were dozens of trucks at a large camp in the bush adjacent to Greystokes Provincial Park, the staff assumed those were the culprits who had driven through the creek.
No group had informed the irrigation district they would be having a gathering in the watershed, much less whether they would be responsible users or not, and the district is responsible for protecting the source of their drinking water of behalf of the public.
I wrote about that, but had no way of reaching any of those camped out to ask them any questions to include in the news story. In such instances, I always hope to be able to reach those on the other side of the story for a follow-up in the next issue.
Luckily, one of those involved in the relatively new Okanagan Backcountry Association called me and left his phone number so I was able to interview him for the follow-up in Wednesday’s paper.
There’s a further follow-up in today’s paper, because an older couple who got their truck stuck in a snowdrift up near Haddo Lake, contacted me to say one of those ‘snow wheelers’ had rescued them late in the evening on Mother’s Day and towed them to safety after hearing a plea for help on an amateur radio.
However, I’ve also heard from others, including a member of the local snowmobile club, who claim if this group is completely innocent of doing any damage in the backcountry, as they say they are, then it’s a very new-found innocence.
I don’t think any further follow-up news stories are needed here, but it just illustrates how many versions of two sides to every story there often are, and what a minefield that can be for a responsible news reporter to pick his or her way through.
The bottom line is ethics. All of us using the backcountry—all of us—must be ethical in our activities in the wild country that still exists around this valley. With its rapidly-expanding population, it will become more and more important that every one of us ensures we always leave every bit of wilderness we visit in exactly the same condition in which we found it.
If that means we must modify our activities, then we must do that.