Nothing wrong with society having a rulebook

If you don't think ATVs should be legislated, think again. Or start thinking. These vehicles are the bane of wild places around the world.

If you don’t think ATVs should be legislated, think again.

Or start thinking.

These vehicles are the bane of wild places around the world. In the hands of inconsiderate louts, their fat, heavily treaded tires can rip up wetlands, alpine areas … heck, most terrain can be severely ground up by the things.

Once there weren’t many of these wilderness-cracking vehicles around. They were expensive oddities.

Those days are gone. And, in many places, so is the wilderness.

Now ATVs are relatively affordable and wildly popular – they are now rolling through the most remote swamps, forests and alpine meadows and doing real and lasting harm to those places and the wildlife that lives there.

Recognizing this, most North American governments have started passing laws governing their use.

Not the Yukon.

Here, in the last bastion of lawlessness, people are still ripping around the place without considering the consequences.

Not all, of course. But enough.

As is always the case, their selfishness and stupidity has forced the rational, responsible members of society to demand rules.

And so, here we are.

Those who love roaring around without any limits are hollerin’ about freedom, and red tape, and enforcement, big government and the expense of legislation. They favour common sense mixed with a little education. That is, they want the status quo.

Except the status quo clearly isn’t working.

So why champion something that isn’t working in the deluded opinion that it is? Because these ATV drivers just wanna have unfettered fun.

The rest know this, which is why they are suggesting legislation.

So the battle lines are drawn.

Those who want to continue doing what they’re doing will rail against new rules. They’ll play up the fines in an effort to whip up opposition and suggest enforcement is impossible.

All of which is deflection.

Forget the punitive stuff for a minute and think of legislation as simply the rules of the game – the rules society wants to live by.

Problems with enforcement affect every law – cops don’t catch every speeder, dealer, poacher or shoplifter – but they set boundaries.

Society takes a dim view of these things. You can still do them, but you risk a hefty fine, jail time or significant damage to your reputation if you get caught.

Plenty of people get away with these crimes – enforcement is always a problem, but we want the laws on the books.

It puts the force of society behind you when you demand some intoxicated fellow’s keys in a bar.

Same with the use of ATVs. They spell out what people should, and should not, do while driving them. It lays down what society deems to be responsible use of these vehicles. And when you catch someone doing something awful, you can call them on it. And they can’t say, “Take a hike, bucko, there are no laws about such things.”

There are enough irresponsible jerks zooming through the bush these days that citizens have every right to demand legislation limiting their behaviour.

Funnily enough, Environment Minister John Edzerza – the guy tasked with drafting such legislation – doesn’t want to do it. In this case, our lawmaker is a proponent of lawlessness. Best leave things up to the individual, he says.

It’s a weird position for him to take. Makes you wonder why he’s in the job.

In fact, it may even be irresponsible, given the fact he’s announced a committee will examine the regulation of ATVs.

Now that he’s expressed this opinion, it makes one wonder if the committee’s work will carry any weight at all. Or is it simply a PR exercise?

We hope that’s not the case. For the environment’s sake.

Fragile Yukon places are being churned to mud by the reckless, inconsiderate use of these vehicles.

Education hasn’t worked in other North American jurisdictions. It sure hasn’t worked here.

We know this through the work of the Trails Only Yukon Society, which has done an excellent job researching and laying out the case for legislation.

Through it, we know legislation on this issue is inevitable. The only question is whether we act soon enough to limit the damage to the territory’s fragile land, protecting its wilderness for the next generations.

That’s what is at stake: whether we can act to protect and preserve our future.

Society developed lawmaking to do just that.

Responsible owners have nothing to fear – a few well-drafted rules will guarantee continued fun for all.

And who but the very selfish could object to that? (Richard Mostyn)