Open letter to Environment Minister John Edzerza:
Spring is upon us and, with that, the toys of winter are being put into storage to be replaced by those of summer.
Traditional hiking boots and ball gloves are being dusted off and the ATVs and watercraft that are now a part of many outdoor experiences are being tuned up.
In November 2009, the legislature announced consultation would take place to address safety issues in regard to ATV use as they have truly become one of the “toys of summer.”
I am hoping thought has been given to expanding the issue to motorized access, in general, to the Yukon’s wilderness.
I spend several months a year “in the bush.” I have found the need to go farther into the mountains every year to find areas that are not crisscrossed by ATV trails. Increasingly I have found evidence of new trails being cut through the bush and trails in alpine areas where there were never trails before.
One of my favourite spots that used to be 14-hour walk to get to now has an ATV trail running through it. This includes going through what was a wetland area and is now a mud bog and over a mountain pass well above treeline.
The scars on the hills are evident and the disturbance to wildlife can only be imagined.
I have little issue with ATV use on existing trails in areas below treeline, however I encourage you to consider the inclusion of access to the backcountry areas, particularly wetlands and alpine, as well as the cutting of new trails as a part of the proposed consultation.
I realize this could be a very hot issue politically, but it is time it was addressed. If something is not done to encourage responsible use of the backcountry we soon will have no true wilderness backcountry left.
With this in mind, a group of concerned backcountry users, many of whom own and use ATVs, has been meeting over the winter to bring this issue to the attention of the public.
Since beginning to recruit in March, we have signed up more than 100 members.
Trails Only Yukon Association is holding a public forum May 6th at 7:30 p.m. in the Jack Hulland School main gym. At this meeting we will discuss the issue of ever-expanding motorized trails in the Yukon wilderness, present possible solutions and get feedback from concerned Yukoners.
We encourage you to attend this meeting, both as a citizen of the Yukon and in your role as minister responsible for the environment.
Dennis Peters, Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA)