Plan to ban new trails met with silence

The Yukon government should immediately forbid all-terrain vehicle users from cutting new trails, say two competing pressure groups. The Trails Only Yukon Association and the Yukon Off-Road Riders Association don't see eye-to-eye on everything.

The Yukon government should immediately forbid all-terrain vehicle users from cutting new trails, say two competing pressure groups.

The Trails Only Yukon Association and the Yukon Off-Road Riders Association don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. But that much they can agree on.

“This should be a message to government that they don’t need to sit around and wait anymore,” said Ken Taylor with the Trails Only Yukon Association. “There’s really two major players in this, and both of them are agreeing.”

“Some places are basically getting crisscrossed with tracks for no reason,” chimed in Chris May with the Yukon Off-Road Riders Association. “This is a legitimate issue that should be addressed.”

Representatives from the two groups met October 5 for more than three hours before deciding to issue their joint statement. The proposed ban would be a temporary measure, in place until the government comes up with new ATV usage rules.

The response from all of Yukon’s political parties? Silence.

Environment Minister John Edzerza declined an interview. The Liberals and the NDP also refused to comment on the proposal, until a select committee that’s examining ATV use completes consultations this autumn.

But Taylor says there’s no reason to wait.

“Many, if not most ATV riders are responsible and they just want to do the right thing. But for those who aren’t, the government needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing and stop the damage now.

“I think it’s incumbent on government to get some clear rules in place immediately about off-trail activity,” said Taylor.

“There’s nothing that beholds the government to wait for the select committee’s recommendations on this. The government should be able to at least say stop until we get some clear information from the select committee.”

The Yukon Off-Road Riders Association, which has the backing of ATV retailers, estimates that the territory has between 4,000 to 5,000 ATV users. “That’s a lot of people running those machines,” said Taylor. And the longer government waits, the more damage will be done.”

Beyond agreeing on a ban on new trails, both groups propose different solutions to prevent ATVs from chewing up Yukon’s hinterland.

Trails Only wants to see the creation of a designated trail map. ATV users would only be allowed to drive on marked trails. Sensitive areas, particularly creeks and alpine meadows, would be off limits.

The Yukon Off-Road Riders Association proposes instead a simple law that would forbid damaging the landscape. British Columbia has such a law, which can result in fines of up to $100,000.

The question of how territorial ATV restrictions would be enforced remains unanswered.

Trails Only believes that if rules are introduced, most residents will follow them. And if the territory requires that ATVs be registered and carry licence plates, then residents can report on reckless drivers with the help of digital cameras and GPS units.

The Off-Road Riders counter that most damage is being done by a small group of reckless youth. These yahoos probably wouldn’t follow new rules, but peer pressure might work.

The group is calling on its members to set a good example of how to behave and reprimand those who make a mess.

The association also hopes to sponsor a training course this spring to teach riders how to be safe, ride gently on the land and avoid upsetting horseback riders, cyclists and hikers.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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