Off-road activity jeopardizing the future of rare fen on Bowen Island

Fairy Fen on Bowen Island.
Fairy Fen on Bowen Island. Islands Trust

The Islands Trust Fund say they are very concerned about a nature reserve on Bowen Island due to increased off-road activity in the area.

Fairy Fen Nature Reserve used to be one of the least disturbed and ecologically rare fens in southern B.C.

“It has taken nearly twelve thousand years to create the peat layer that now stands three meters over the lake that once stood here at Fairy Fen. A single footprint in the peat can take months to disappear,” said Jennifer Eliason of the Islands Trust Fund. “Spinning tires could destroy this special place forever.”

Increased off-road activity this year from ATV drivers and mud boggers has seen vehicle tracks deeper into the heart of the protected area, and now conservationists fear the off-roaders will break through the last barrier of forest surround the fen.

“Appropriate ATV use is allowed in some areas,” said Eliason, “but in the last two to three years there is what appears to be an increase in ATV use in the area or [riders] are getting closer and closer to the fen.”
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“Our biggest fear is that the ATV users breach the fen itself.”

Mud bogging leaves visible scares of ruts, erosion, and dead plants, and can cause irreversible damage to fish and wildlife habits. The Islands Trust and Bowen Island Conservancy has put up signs designating it vehicle-free, but Eliason said the area is just too expensive to fence off. “It’s 18 hectares,” she said. “The cost of fencing would be big.”

The Fairy Fen on Bowen Island. Credit: Islands Trust
The Fairy Fen on Bowen Island. Credit: Islands Trust.

Mud bogging on public land like Fairy Fen Nature Reserve is illegal in B.C. Violation tickets for mud bogging are $575, and other penalties may include towing or impoundment of vehicles, jail time and expenses related to habitat restoration. The Wildlife Act, the Motor Vehicle Act, Forest and Range Practices Act, and the federal Fisheries Act can all be used to prosecute offenders who cause environment damage to public land. The Islands Trust Fund and the Bowen Island Conservancy have not yet been able to identify the ATV users trespassing the nature reserve, seeing only the tire tracks after the damage is done. They are asking for the public’s help identifying those trespassing in the nature reserve with motorized vehicles.

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“Many people from this community worked very hard for a number of years to see the fen protected,” said Owen Plowman, President of the Conservancy. “But now, a very small number of people are undoing all that work. The loss of Fairy Fen, especially after it was secured as a nature reserve, will be heartbreaking for this community.”

Fairy Fen Nature Reserve was formerly Crown Land, transferred by the province to the Islands Trust Fund to protect its remarkable biodiversity.

The public are encouraged to report suspicious motorized vehicle activity near Fairy Fen Nature Reserve (or other protected areas) to the province’s toll-free, 24 hour Report All Polluters line at 1-877-952-7277 (or from a cell phone *7277). The Islands Trust Fund also hopes to connect with ATV clubs or users from Bowen Island interested in becoming advocates for responsible ATV use on the island. If you are interested, contact the Islands Trust Fund at 250-405-5186 (Victoria) or toll free through Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867 (or 604-660-2421 in Vancouver), or visit them online.