By the end of March, Yukoners will know where members of a select legislative committee sit on the controversial question of how to regulate offroad vehicles in the territory.
Vern Peters, one of the founders of the Trails Only Yukon Association, worries MLAs will take the easy route by recommending a mandatory helmet law, but staying clear of the touchy matter of limiting where all-terrain vehicles roam.
“We’re trying to encourage them to have some vision,” said Peters.
There’s been plenty of tall talk about Yukon’s population swelling as more mines open. If this proves true, Peters wonders what the consequences may be, without regulations to guide ATV use.
“We’re wondering whether there will be any alpine hills without an ATV trail over the top, or any valleys without a trail cut through.
“We’re going to have ATV trails all the way from Old Crow to the border. They’re already going into the Peel River area. There are applications to use ATVs in that area.
“Do people really want to be canoeing down the Wind River and the Bonnet Plume, racing ATVs down the side? There’s nothing to prevent it.”
Trails Only has spent the past year documenting the damage done by wreckless ATV riders to Yukon’s hinterland.
“They’re pushing trails into the alpine. They’re mud-bogging in the wetlands. They’re winching their way into sensitive areas that belong to all of us,” said Peters.
“Is that what Yukoners really want? And, if it continues, is it fair to our children and grandchildren?”
Peters’ group wants the committee to support an immediate ban on the creation of new trails in the territory. They also want ATV use limited to existing, hard-surfaced roads and trails in sensitive areas.
The territory already has thousands of kilometres of mining roads and trails – more than enough for ATV enthusiasts, said Peters.
He’s also calling on the committee to release the results of a public survey on ATV use it conducted. It received approximately 3,000 responses.
“I don’t think people send in thousands of surveys because they’re happy with the status quo,” said Peters.
“They sent these surveys in because they love their wilderness and they want some sensible, practical laws. They want action now. And we think it’s only fair and transparent to release these results.”
When Trails Only formed last spring, it quickly signed up more than 100 dues-paying members. But their cause has yet to find a political champion in Yukon’s legislature.
Peters expects that the select committee’s members are trying to stay neutral until their report is released. But, with a territorial election that must be held by this autumn, he also worries that politicians may be reluctant to wade into the controversy.
It’s precisely that impulse that has created today’s problems, said Peters. “For the past 25 years there hasn’t been much leadership. That’s why we’re in the fix we’re in.”
Contact John Thompson at