05/07/2015 04:17 EDT | Updated 05/07/2016 05:59 EDT

Mountie says more enforcement needed of ATVs in Alberta backcountry

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. - A veteran Mountie says more enforcement of off-highway vehicles is needed in Alberta's backcountry.

Cpl. Wayne Howse says police who patrol public lands along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains are dealing with more cases of people driving through stream beds causing environmental damage.

Howse says people are carrying loaded weapons on ATVs, some are driving impaired and others leave mounds of garbage in the wilderness.

There are also cases of illegal poaching and people randomly shooting firearms.

Howse says the RCMP is considering a proposal to form a unit that would focus more on such illegal activity.

He says some Mounties are already taking ATV driver training as police brace for the coming season.

"I think this is something that is really needed given the amount of damage that is being done in the backcountry," Howse said Thursday. "We want to protect the environment for others to use."

Howse's comments follow a ruling by a judge in Rocky Mountain House, who fined two off-highway vehicle drivers $1,500 each for riding in the Clearwater River.

The Alberta Wilderness Association applauded the fines.

Sean Nichols, an association spokesman, said the AWA hopes the fines send a message to the public.

"This precedent-setting decision sends a clear signal that the public will not tolerate this kind of wanton destruction of our headwaters," Nichols said.

He said the AWA supports the proposal for stepped-up RCMP enforcement in the backcountry.

Howse said the RCMP is very busy with other law enforcement, but increased criminal activity in the wilderness can't be ignored.

"We are going to lose a lot of the beauty of the public lands," he said. "There is a lot of criminal activity back there."

Howse said Mounties will be out in the backcountry on ATVs during the Victoria Day long weekend.