The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations has announced 15 new motor-vehicle closures within the Province of BC, mostly within the Thompson Okanagan area.
Maps of the affected areas, which cover approximately 536,000 hectares, can be found here .
Within the Thompson Okanagan region, the areas of White Rock Lake, Lytton Creek/George Road, July Mountain, Mowhokam Creek, Mckay Creek, Tremont Creek, Sparks Lake, Two Mile Road, Hunakwa Lake, Momich Lake, Underdown Creek, Thomas Creek, Garrison Lake and Bunting Road have all been affected by the order.
Severe wildfire damage from the 2021 fire season in 14 areas of the Thompson Okanagan and one area in the Kootenays has caused the closures under the Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation of the Wildlife Act. Under the Act, all forest service roads except those identified in green on the maps are prohibited to motor vehicles, as well as on all recreation trails and trail networks.
Public roads, defined as roads maintained by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, are not included in the closure, nor is private property.
The Act applies to all motorized vehicles, including automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, motorhomes, electric bikes and all types of off-road recreational vehicles, wheeled or tracked, including snowmobiles.
The closures do not affect access for commercial activities. Hunting is permitted, as is non-motorized recreation, like on foot, horseback, or bicycle.
The 2021 wildfire season burned more than 550,000 hectares of habitat in the Thompson Okanagan region, severely displacing wildlife and destroying vegetation. Unregulated public access, according to a release from the Ministry, could have negative effects on sensitive burned ecosystems, including increased soil compaction, increased spread of invasive species and accelerated erosion of wildfire-charred soils, which impacts aquatic ecosystems and fish habitat.
Some exceptions to these prohibitions will be provided to ensure that thoroughfares remain open and access to private property is not affected.
It is unknown how long the closures will remain in effect, though a goal has been put in place.
“Although there is no ‘sunset clause’ in the Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation, the intent is to repeal or replace these closures in approximately 18 months,” said Nigel McInnis, Media Relations with the Ministry.
Patrolling will be enhanced to enforce the public’s compliance with these restrictions.