It has long been a request from ice fishermen utilizing Lake Darling.
Why aren’t ATV’s and snowmobiles allowed on the lake during the winter months? This year, for the first time in the history of Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, they will be.
“It’s the right thing to do for the public,” said Frank Durbian, Souris River Basin Refuges project leader. “Ice fishermen on Lake Darling have been asking for this for years. It will provide more opportunity to the public.”
Previously ice fishermen wanting to travel on the ice, other than by walking, had to wait until they determined the ice was thick enough to support the weight of vehicles such as a pickup truck. Lighter ATV’s and snowmobiles, even when pulling sleds containing ice fishing gear, can be supported by less ice than a standard vehicle. Still, warned Durbian, “No ice is 100 percent safe.”
Access to Lake Darling for off-road vehicles will be at the same access points as those used for standard vehicles. Travel by ATV’s and snowmobiles will be restricted to the ice only for the purpose of ice fishing. Other activities, such as joy riding or traveling on land bordering Lake Darling will be prohibited.
“Frankly, if it becomes an issue like that we will remove them,” said Durbian. “It’s up to everybody to police themselves.”
The proposal to allow off-road vehicles on Lake Darling had to go through a regular federal process, including a public comment period, before being signed by the Secretary of the Interior. That process concluded recently and Durbian was notified of the formal approval needed to make the changes.
“We’ve ordered some new signs for this,” said Durbian. “Hopefully we’ll receive them and get them up before ice fishing starts.”