Backcountry open to ATV damage another season

The Yukon government is consulting on proposed rules to help identify and protect sensitive environments from off-road vehicle damage.

The Yukon government is consulting on proposed rules to help identify and protect sensitive environments from off-road vehicle damage.

Meanwhile, the Yukon backcountry remains wide open and free from regulation this spring season.

Wet alpine meadows are easily rutted by ATV tires this time of year, and damage takes decades to heal. Sheep populations are easily disturbed and displaced during the lambing season.

It’s around now that our neighbours from B.C., Alberta and Alaska start coming in to play, taking advantage of the unregulated landscape, according to Trails Only Yukon Association, a group that advocated for ATV rules.

It’s been four years since a legislative committee recommended that the government rules and legislation to protect wildlife and habitat from off-road vehicle damage.

Since then, the government has amended the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act with provisions to allow for the protection of areas of concern.

But that legislation won’t come into force until the regulations have been set. That’s what the current consultation is tasked to determine.

When the regulations are finalized and implemented, that still will not result in any actual protection. The government would still have to identify sensitive areas, set rules for its protection, notify the public and allow for enforcement.

In the legislature yesterday, NDP MLA Kate White asked why action has taken this long.

“Though the Yukon Party government has the ability to be proactive and protect ecologically sensitive areas before they are damaged, they have chosen not to,” she said.

“A simple question: why not? Why does the Yukon environment have to wait for yet another spring to pass before this government does anything to protect its ecologically sensitive areas?”

Resources Minister Scott Kent replied that he looks forward to the outcome of the consultations.

“What we’re going to do is build on valuable information that we have already received from First Nations in a prior consultation with First Nations that was done over a 30-day period,” he said.

“We are confident that we can get to a place that we can protect the Yukon environment as well as the rights of responsible ORV users for generations to come.”

The process for protecting sensitive areas will either be complaint-driven, or it will result from area-specific planning in partnership with First Nation renewable resource councils and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

White also criticized the government for failing to require licence plates for off-road vehicle users operating in the back-country.

“We can’t effectively manage ORVs without being able to identify the users,” she said. “British Columbia has a simple and inexpensive 10-year licensing program that the Yukon could follow if we so chose.

“When does the government plan on getting around to the issue of off-road vehicle licensing and registration?”

Kent did not answer the question.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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