Vehicle access closures that took effect in early September in areas surrounding Iron, Big Sand and Little Sand creeks are being lifted to allow further study and more extensive community consultation.
Effective immediately, the Iron Sand Access Management Area will be returned to its previous status. The ministry announced Sept. 6, 2016, that all side roads and trails in the watersheds of Iron Creek, Lime Creek, Little Sand Creek (above Galloway Road) and Big Sand Creek (upstream of Whimster Creek) would be closed to vehicle access year-round while main roads would remain open between June 16 and Labour Day.
Both Iron and Sand Creeks were originally established as areas closed to motor vehicles for hunting under Wildlife Act regulations more than 30 years ago. Lime Creek was added to the Iron Creek closure area in 2010. Last spring, the ministry approved the conversion of the Iron and Big Sand /Little Sand Creek to an Access Management Area, which closes the area to all motor vehicle use, in order to better protect wildlife habitat.
The tighter restrictions were put in place following consultation with some regional stakeholders. However, the decision was criticized by recreational users of these areas who were not adequately consulted. A public meeting held in late October in response to those concerns was attended by about 200 people.
The order has been rescinded to allow for the development of an improved, expanded and more-transparent consultation process. A revised access management area proposal will be brought forward in time for the 2018 hunting regulations change cycle.
The areas surrounding Iron, Big Sand and Little Sand creeks contain significant huckleberry patches -- an important food source for grizzly and black bears as they gain body weight before hibernating -- and also serve as an important corridor for elk and deer as they migrate to their winter ranges.