An issue we all should support

An issue we all should support Open Letter to John Edzerza: We missed you at the Trails Only Yukon Association information meeting last Thursday. From time to time, politicians have the opportunity to lead, get ahead of problems, and do what's right for

Open Letter to John Edzerza:

We missed you at the Trails Only Yukon Association information meeting last Thursday. From time to time, politicians have the opportunity to lead, get ahead of problems, and do what’s right for the public and for the land. This takes foresight and courage and a willingness to stand up to criticism from those who want the status quo. Not many politicians step up to this standard, so it was disappointing you were quoted saying you are opposed to regulating all-terrain vehicles.

But it is not too late. You can still assume responsible leadership on this question because a substantial majority of Yukoners (i.e. voters) Ð according to surveys Ð believe this is a problem that needs sound regulation.

Nearly 14 years ago I researched and reported on the topic of offroad vehicles for the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I spoke with land managers and wildlife managers from Alaska to Newfoundland and in the western provinces and states down to New Mexico. All jurisdictions saw a pressing need to address damage and disruption from unregulated offroad vehicles and all were doing something about it. All except one: the Yukon.

Without exception, these professionals thought their province or state should have gotten onto the question years earlier (this was 14 years ago). It would have been simpler, there would have been less damage, and it would have been more responsible. A resource manager in Newfoundland asked me some simple questions: since all other jurisdictions saw a serious problem and were trying in various ways to address it through regulation, what made the Yukon so different? Was our land less sensitive? Was our vegetation tougher? Were our animals more robust and less flighty? Were our offroad vehicle users distinguished for sensitivity and responsibility?

Why was it understood to be a problem everywhere except the Yukon?

Fourteen years ago, the accepted wisdom for the Yukon was

“Education.”

In that timespan, things have only gotten worse, and one must be in deep denial or have never seen undamaged backcountry to say differently.

Things are getting worse in our neighborhoods as well as in the backcountry.

Just the other week, an ATV rider and later, a dirt biker tore up the non-motorized walking trails in a well-used network just north of the Hotsprings Road. These were cut by and for skiers and walkers 25 years ago, and they have not seen wheels until this spring. The marsh grass rimming the pothole now has tire ruts that were made in minutes, but will last for decades.

This is landscape graffiti Ð vandalism like spray-painting the Elijah Smith building. Only it is more serious because it takes decades to gradually undo. (Parents, if these are your kids Ð educate them. If it is you, behave like a responsible neighbor.)

Edzerza, Dennis Fentie, Arthur Mitchell, Todd Hardy, First Nation leaders: regulations for offroad vehicles is an issue all parties can support. Most Yukoners want it and it’s the right thing to do for the land, for the wildlife and for people.

Listen to TOYA as they engage Yukoners.

Dave Loeks

Whitehorse