Something must be done to mitigate the damage ATVs do to the environment.
A group, the Trails Only Yukon Association, has pushed for legislation that will curb their use. And it has run into stiff resistance.
ATV dealers and some riders and even some politicians have balked at the idea of laying down rules governing the use of these go-anywhere vehicles. Apparently, people who own them relish the freedom they provide.
But freedom isn’t free.
If society is not going to pass laws, something has to be done to protect and restore the environment, which is being torn up, mashed and rendered muddy bogs by these machines.
So perhaps a tax is in order.
The popularity of all-terrain vehicles has expanded to the point where even some of the more remote places in the territory are being irrevocably harmed by their use.
There are tons of these things being sold. And that popularity comes at a real cost to the environment.
This cost has to be borne by somebody.
Currently, the unfettered use of ATVs damages the product – the wild Yukon – that some tourism operators rely on. The machines harass animals that some people like to hunt and photograph, robbing those citizens of experiences they covet.
Plants are torn up and destroyed. Permafrost can be exposed, causing slumping, which can damage vistas and animal habitat.
If society is not ready to legislate, or believes legislation is nonsensical because it cannot be enforced, maybe the Yukon government should enact a stiff environmental tax on the sale of ATVs and their accessories in the territory.
Such a levy would increase the cost of the machines, which would reduce sales and, therefore, their presence in the wilds.
It would remind buyers of the cost of the thoughtless off-trail use of the vehicles.
And the money collected from this initiative could be used to restore the places the vehicles are tearing up or, at the very least, to provide other tourism-enhancing initiatives as compensation for the damage to the wilderness.
As well, some money could go towards the Environment Department to cover the cost of wildlife studies or habitat-restoration projects.
Heck, some cash could be diverted to creating trails for them to drive on.
It’s not a perfect solution. But in the absence of legislation laying down rules for their use, it’s something. And it would be fair – a fee paid by anyone buying a vehicle, or an accessory for one.
In the face of stiff opposition to legislation, this is an alternate solution to the growing problem of irresponsible ATV use in the territory.
After all, something has to be done to mitigate the well-documented damage they do. And the cost should be borne by the community using them. (Richard Mostyn)