I am writing to you today on behalf of the Trails Only Yukon Association to highlight a serious concern. Officials in the Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources are undertaking a “consultation” on regulations for offroad vehicle use in the Yukon at the direction of the minister. The approach that has been chosen is ill advised for several reasons:
1. This is not a public consultation by any reasonable standard of practice in this jurisdiction. This is more a private solicitation for private input to a departmental employee that will then be summarized in a document.
2. The timelines are inappropriate for two reasons – 60 days is not enough time for Yukon people to respond fully, and late spring and summer is a time when people are often otherwise occupied. If the government is truly interested in a full and considered response, this is not the way to get it.
3. The discussion paper is woefully lacking in terms of its content. It guides the reader to some poorly defined suggestion of a process involving the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board or renewable resource councils. It falsely suggests that the issue of registration of ATVs has been dealt with – it has not. It absolves the government of any real part in the process of managing offroad vehicles in the wilderness and passes it off to others.
We respectfully suggest that the minister provide new direction to the department officials who are responsible for this process with the following in mind:
1. A full and open consultation should to be undertaken including a series of public meetings in Whitehorse and the communities and a much longer timeline. We suggest that it take place in the late fall. Also, a much more user-friendly process to access and return the consultation document should be implemented.
2. A more appropriate consultation document should be developed that emphasizes the broad range of values that Yukon people, including most ATV users, place on the land. It should address more directly the core issue of whether management of ATVs should be complaints-driven (the government’s preferred plan) which would only see action taken after damage has been done, or a proactive approach that would see ATVs properly managed to avoid damage in the first place.
Also, the issue of registration of ATVs needs to have public discussion. Enforcement is dependent on identification and this has not been adequately addressed.
This issue has needed serious consideration and action for 35 years, and has been a very public concern for the last five years. The government made a good first step by amending the Lands Act, but the ball has been dropped with this inadequate consultation on the regulations – which is where the real issues must be addressed.
We ask that the government do the right thing. Move immediately and make the effort required to have a successful consultation and resolution of longstanding issues around certainty for offroad vehicle owners and also protection of Yukon’s beautiful wilderness.
Vern Peters, Tony Grabowski, Peter Harms, Ken Taylor, Ellen Johnson, Manfred Hoefs
TOYA Steering Committee