Open letter to our MLAs:
I am writing to express my concern regarding the use of all- terrain vehicles in the Yukon.
I am one of many Yukoners who values the Yukon’s pristine wilderness. I enjoy hiking, running, fishing and hunting. I relish the Yukon and its reputation as one of the last pristine, unspoiled and untouched areas of North America. It sets us apart and creates our tourist industry.
I am, however, very disturbed and saddened by the destruction of this wilderness by some ATV operators.
I have seen large mud ruts torn into the alpine and wetlands by ATV tires ripping up the fragile growth.
In places where even footprints can be seen for seasons to come, this damage will take more than my lifetime to repair.
To make it worse, the same ATV drivers, or new ones, will widen the mud pit when they return, as they don’t want to drive through the mud they just created.
This ever-expanding destruction of fragile areas is just one example of the harm that can be caused by careless use of ATVs.
I have been enjoying the Porter Creek trails since I was a child in the early 1990s.
Those small trails have since become wide, rutted 4×4 tracks. In my opinion, green space in the city should have some regulation to keep these areas as a green space and not as a motor vehicle corridor.
If we cannot establish rules and enforce and educate ATV users in Whitehorse, it will only be more difficult to do so in the vast territory of the Yukon.
Despite these experiences and observations, I do not think ATVs should be banned.
They can be a great tool when used responsibly, and also enable elderly people and those with disabilities to access areas they would not otherwise be able to. But I do think we should take responsibility for what is happening and create some regulations.
I have read the “10 rules recommended by the Tread Lightly! organization” on the Environment Yukon ATV information website. While these are positive recommendations, unfortunately recommendations do not result in action.
We need to protect the fragile areas such as the alpine and wetlands while we still have them, and limit ATV use to the hundreds of kilometres of existing trails.
We need to make it necessary for all ATVs to register and carry plates so irresponsible riders can be held responsible.
Why are we one of the last jurisdictions in Canada to protect what is important to us?
Does our environment need to be overwhelmingly destroyed before we take action?
That these types of regulations would be hard to enforce is a terrible excuse for not trying to protect what is important.
The same could be said of drinking and driving, crime and poaching. Regulations, and programs to enforce those regulations, have been created for all of these examples and are successful in mitigating these actions. The same can be done for ATV enforcements.
I strongly urge you to take action instead of simply encouraging responsible off-road driving.
Education is one part of the solution, but it is not enough.
I want to be comforted that there will still be unscarred areas around Whitehorse and the greater Yukon for my children.
This is everyone’s environment, we have to share it responsibly.
The problem goes beyond my passion for the wilderness though; it will affect our tourism industry as well. Those looking for beautiful, protected outdoor experiences will look elsewhere than our territory.