Recently I wrote Environment Minister Currie Dixon to request some insight into our government’s plans regarding the regulation of Outdoor Recreational Vehicles (ORVs) in the wilderness.
I also reminded him and our local MLA, Wade Istchenko, that in the lead-up to the last territorial election, every candidate, including them, committed to addressing this issue and developing legislation to manage ORV use throughout the Yukon.
I own several ATVs and snowmachines and enjoy their use both practically and as recreation. I also realize the benefits they provide to our citizens and visitors. However, as a 37-year resident of the Yukon, and as someone who has travelled its wild areas extensively, I have seen the increasing deterioration of many sensitive areas by their use over time.
As the technology advances by leaps and bounds, fewer and fewer areas remain inaccessible to our machines, with wildlife and its habitat bearing the brunt of the damage. Most other jurisdictions in North America, which are far less blessed with unique wilderness, have recognized the need for control and protection in these matters and have acted accordingly. Now it’s time for us to act. There are already enough trails carving up our territory.
Living in Haines Junction, the effect on the land that these machines can have is readily apparent by walking the route of the “mud bog” trail one kilometre north of the village centre. For the past number of years, a recreational event held one day a year has, for the remaining 364, left a rutted and scarred track for miles around the town, a trail that ironically had been designated as a wildlife corridor in previous area planning efforts.
I could accept this if that is what the village citizens want in that specific area. I would then say, “So be it, but only there.” The fact that under current rules this mess could translate to a different creek bed, game trail, or valley, at any elevation every year in virtually 100 per cent of our Yukon cannot be acceptable to the average, reasonable citizen.
The issue cries out for rational thought, rational discussion and overdue action and legislation. The land and its wildlife, arguably the Yukon’s most important assets, need more attention in this matter.
Many Yukoners hold values that do not coincide with wholesale mechanical invasion of the wilderness. Their needs and wishes deserve respect as well.
That their enjoyment of our territory’s special places can be overrun anywhere and everywhere by others, whose only quest often is to dominate the terrain with machinery strictly for their amusement, is at best grossly unfair.
It is our government’s responsibility to sort this out – hopefully in my lifetime.