Environment Minister John Edzerza doesn’t want the territory to regulate all-terrain vehicles.
“It’s something that is best regulated by the individual,” he told the legislature May 10, in response to a question by the NDP’s Steve Cardiff.
Cardiff wanted to know why Edzerza was a no-show at a meeting held in Whitehorse May 6 by the Trails Only Yukon Association.
The new group is pushing for rules to ban all-terrain vehicles from fragile alpine meadows and wetlands and to keep the vehicles on existing trails.
Yukon’s hinterland is increasingly scarred by ruts left by ATVs. It can take generations for the land to heal.
TOYA’s members fear that unless the government introduces regulations, pristine areas will continue to be torn up by careless riders.
Close to 200 Yukoners attended, but Edzerza, who had been invited by organizers, wasn’t one of them.
He said the Yukoners he’s spoken to don’t see restrictions as the solution.
“What I heard from people who phoned me with regard to the meeting was, ‘Don’t you guys regulate enough things? Do you have to start trying to regulate ATV use? And what’s next?’”
That worries Cardiff. In November, MLAs agreed to strike a committee that would tour the territory to ask residents their thoughts on how snowmobiles and off-road vehicles should be regulated.
The committee was struck at Cardiff’s request. He’s pushing for a helmet law for off-road vehicle users.
“It sounds like the minister is predetermining the outcome of a process that hasn’t even begun yet,” said Cardiff. “What the minister needs to do is listen to what all people are saying.”
Edzerza repeated that education, not regulation, is the best fix.
“I have always had respect for the environment,” he said. “I never once had to have any government write out a document or a piece of paper to tell me how to respect the environment.
“Maybe that is something that should be focused on more here than any regulation: education – education on how people need to start respecting the environment.”
Enforcing ATV regulations would be a “grave difficulty,” Edzerza added, given the size of the territory.
“I think everyone who owns one and wants to ride one needs to get busy and start learning what it means to respect the environment,” he said.
The ATV committee is supposed to tour the territory this summer and report to the legislature this autumn. But, to date, the government has not yet appointed a chair.
When the Liberals’ Gary McRobb asked when the government would do so, Premier Dennis Fentie changed the subject and blamed the Liberals for holding up the meeting of another committee, set to review the territory’s Landlords and Tenants Act.
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