ATV plans stuck in the mud

Many agree the damage done by all-terrain vehicles to Yukon's hinterland is a problem, but territorial politicians have been timid with proposing solutions.

Many agree the damage done by all-terrain vehicles to Yukon’s hinterland is a problem, but territorial politicians have been timid with proposing solutions.

That’s despite the work of an all-party committee, which examined this thorny problem and, in a report released in late March, proposed new laws be developed that would restrict ATV use in sensitive areas.

Trails Only Yukon, a pressure group that promotes ATV regulation, wants the government to introduce a temporary ban on cutting new trails until new regulations are in place.

They also want the government to require ATV users to register and plate their vehicles, so that scofflaws can be identified.

And they want territorial politicians to commit to act on the matter, rather than continue dithering.

The Yukon Party’s official position can be summarized with one word: crickets. Since the report’s release, the governing party has said nary a word on their plans on what to do next.

Calls to Premier Dennis Fentie and Environment Minister John Edzerza have gone unreturned.

But there’s a Yukon Party leadership race underway, and the candidates have been more forthcoming with their views.

Jim Kenyon sounds the most bullish on ATV regulation. He sounds warm to all of Trails Only’s proposals: imposing a temporary ban on cutting new trails until new government policies are in place, requiring registration and plating of vehicles and of putting a committee of experts to work to develop an action plan.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said.

Darrell Pasloski is the most skittish on the matter.

“I haven’t been fully briefed,” he said. “I need to have a better understanding.”

Rod Taylor would strike a committee to create an action plan for ATV regulation. “It’s clearly an issue of enough importance to enough Yukoners to warrant that kind of scrutiny.” Beyond that, he isn’t ready to commit to specifics.

Neither opposition party has an official position on ATV regulation. But NDP Leader Liz Hanson supports Trails Only’s plans to restrict ATV access.

“We need to make sure more damage isn’t done,” she said. “There are miles and miles of existing trails.”

And Hanson would ensure experts develop an action plan. “We need to move on it,” she said. “It needs to be addressed. We know it’s contentious.”

Hanson also supports mandatory registration. “We do it for boats,” she said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t do it for ATVs.”

Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell is far more cautious. “I’m not a big believer in moving out and doing all kinds of instant changes,” he said.

“I personally think the first thing we should be doing is educating Yukoners, regarding both the safety and the environmental issues, before we rush into any legislation or restrictions.”

He’d also put experts to work on an action plan. But Mitchell’s wary about Trails Only’s scheme to restrict ATV use to existing trails.

“Existing trails are fine if you’re just out for a nice ride in the afternoon … but sometimes people are using these machines to try to actually get somewhere, whether for hunting or for the mining industry.”

Mitchell acknowledges that ATVs have created muddy messes in places. But he suspects most problems occur near Whitehorse, and that these issues could be handled through city bylaws.

“That’s not the issue in Carmacks or Old Crow,” he said.

Mitchell supports requiring ATV users to pass a mandatory training course, such as what’s done with boaters.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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