When Environment Agency rangers returned to their posts in Iceland’s mountainous interior this spring, they were met with an ugly sight, off-road driving tracks in the delicate flora of the Fjallabak nature reserve.
Spring has sprung early this year and mountain roads were opened earlier than usual. When Environment Agency’s staff inspected the nature reserve, they saw several tracks in the moss, evidence of illegal off-road driving.
The negative impact of off-road driving is multi-faceted, not only are the tracks starkly visible in the otherwise untouched nature, but the tracks and wounds in the turf can take decades to heal. The tracks also create choice conditions for water erosion, soil erosion caused by running water. Last but not least, the visible effects of careless drivers spoil the experience of the wilderness for other visitors.
The Environment Agency has spent considerable effort to stem the tide of off-road driving and has had some success. The tourism industry, as well as the public, are aware of how serious this is and take part in stopping and alerting authorities to illegal off-road driving . The rangers are only active for 3-4 months over the summer, however, and tourists visit the mountains all year round. Much of the rangers’ time over the summer is spent inspecting and correcting wounds from off-road driving, but few drivers are caught in the act. Off-road driving is illegal and off-road drivers can expect to pay heavy fines.
According to the Environment Agency, it’s important to further strengthen education about the negative impact of off-road driving in order to reach travellers before they set off into Iceland’s nature.