Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 3, 2013

Legislation helps protect land from ATVs’ scarring

The legislative assembly has unanimously passed amendments to the Territorial Lands Act aiming at protecting sensitive environmental areas from damage caused by off-road vehicles (ORVs).

By Ainslie Cruickshank on December 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent and Vern Peters

The legislative assembly has unanimously passed amendments to the Territorial Lands Act aiming at protecting sensitive environmental areas from damage caused by off-road vehicles (ORVs).

The legislation was passed Nov. 25.

Vern Peters, a member of the Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA), said Monday the legislation is a positive first step.

TOYA is comprised of Yukoners keen to encourage and enforce the responsible use of ORVs.

The group is concerned about damage to fragile alpine and wetland environments, disturbance and displacement of wildlife, and the cutting of new trails.

One of the organization’s goals was to get ORV-related legislation passed.

The Yukon, Peters explained, is the last North American jurisdiction to pass legislation. And while the group is encouraged by the amendments to the act, the strength of it will lie in the regulations that have yet to be developed.

Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR) Minister Scott Kent said during the Nov. 25 debate that the government hopes to have regulations ready for public consultation by the spring.

Peters said he hopes they will implemented in time for next year’s ORV season, which is unlikely, but the amendments give the minister power to restrict the use of sensitive areas for 90 days while the regulations are being developed.

Peters raised a few concerns about the legislation, echoing issues raised by opposition parties during last week’s debate.

“We’re a little concerned that there’s no reference to licensing and registration,” he said, suggesting both could be key to effective enforcement.

When similar concerns were raised by the opposition last week, Kent explained that issues of licensing and registration would be better addressed through the Motor Vehicles Act.

Kent noted the government has committed to making insurance and registration mandatory when operating an ORV or snowmobile on the road, but did not provide a timeline for when amendments to the relevant legislation would be considered.

During the debate, Jim Tredger, the NDP’s EMR critic, noted that mandatory registration was, as he understood it, a recommendation of the MLAs’ select committee on the safe operation and use of ORVs made in 2011.

The passed amendments to the lands act seek to address recommendation 14 from the select committee, regarding environmental protection.

Kent said in the house the other recommendations would be addressed through other policies and legislative amendments.

Both Peters and the opposition parties also raised concerns about the complaint-driven process outlined in the amendments.

“We’re hoping that habitat and wildlife is protected before it’s damaged, and if it’s complaint-driven we’re wondering, is this legislation going to be reactive or is it going to be proactive?” Peters said Monday.

Tredger voiced similar concerns a week ago.

“Because this is complaint-driven, my concern is that we don’t have an overall management plan, and when we close one area, in all likelihood ATV users will not stop using their ATVs, they will go to the next area, thereby spreading the damage and the compromise of the area,” he said.

Kent noted that the amendments allow the minister to protect certain identified areas for interim protection while regulations are developed. That temporary protection will help protect lands when they are most at risk for damage – during the spring when the ground is thawing and wet.

Kate White, the NDP’s Environment critic, wondered how effective the complaint-driven process would be if ORVs aren’t registered.

Kent used enforcement under the Wildlife Act, with regards to poaching violations, as an example of a similar system where the government has seen success.

He added that the government has recommended that conservation officers be tasked with enforcement responsibilities.

Tredger also raised concerns that the legislation doesn’t apply to snowmobiles.

Kent said they don’t cause the same level of damage, so it’s unnecessary.

“Snow machines have – just given the time of year that they’re operated – in the winter when the ground is frozen and covered in snow – they have little or no impact on the land,” the minister said.

Tredger disagreed with Kent’s assessment. He noted several studies have documented damage, especially around creek crossings.

Peter also highlighted a few aspects of the amendments he’s pleased with, including the ability to create designated trails for ORV use and the “all-encompassing” definition of ORV used in the act.

CommentsAdd a comment

Stan Fister

Dec 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm

This is a good first step.
I think most reasonable people want to protect wildlife habitat from ATV damage. It will not be easy to do so, but its well worth it.

I would hope local medical spokespersons would comment at what age is appropriate for younger aged operators to use ATVs. There are many fatal and debilitating accidents that suggest these machines should not be used until children are at least 16 years of age, perhaps older.

Samuel Dion

Dec 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Registration of ATVs is just another money grab for the government and insurance companies. If ATV riders decide to access a restricted area, how long will it take to remove the licence plates for the day?
Take a picture of the offenders. Most people carry some type of photo equipment like camera, cell phone, etc nowadays.
Forcing riders to purchase insurance will only create more friction between user groups.

Fred Norris

Dec 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

“TOYA is comprised of Yukoners keen to encourage and enforce the responsible use of ORVs.”
How will we be able to identify the ATV stasi enforcers? Will they be wearing uniforms? Will they be given special constable status? Handing out tickets?
Will they be using ATV’s as enforcement vehicles?

Thanks, Vern and pals. Your network of citizen snitches, now THAT will be a truly positive legacy you can leave to your children and grandchildren

yukoner

Dec 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Most of the people that ride ORVS stay on the trails and exploration road that already exist. There aren’t a lot of us out there wishing to break new ground as that is a lot of work I think for the most part you are all a bunch of baby’s that have nothing better to complain about. There is room for every one on all the trails even the cry baby’s so move on to your next big idea and find some other freedom that you would like to take away. TOO MANY LAWS ALREADY.

Atom

Dec 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Great, another bunch of rules.
Please just stick to your walking trails and leave the real wilderness to the ones who want to go.

Anonymous

Dec 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm

The maturity of people who resort to name-calling is astounding.  I hope you are not respresentative of an adult group who can actually respond to comments without resorting to childish put-downs.  I say this as someone who thinks we should be showing better behaviour to young people.

ATV User

Dec 6, 2013 at 7:59 am

I don’t understand why people are so upset about registering your ORV. If you are a responsible trail user and ORV operator than the only difference is you have to pay $30 or whatever the cost will be. This will just make you accountable for your actions because people will be able to ID those negligent riders, thus making them accountable and thus meaning that this beautiful land we love, and enjoy will be better protection for all of us. So at the end of the day, who cares it’s not that big of a deal.

Thanks Vern and Pals for making ORV operators accountable for their actions!!

yukoner

Dec 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Ok, so I’m out on my 4 wheeler this summer. I come up on two ladies walking I pull over and slow down. One of them start taking pictures for no reason. Now here is the kicker, I had a helmet on so they couldn’t tell who I was but I know who they are. It was my neighbor so when we returned home I talked to this person and asked if we had been disrespectful in anyway. Her answer was no. Then why the pictures? Well you don’t have a plate. Yes, you’re right and I won’t because of people taking pictures for no reason because with a plate there are too many of the so called law abiding people that will take pictures and lie just cause they hate ORVS. Who are they going to believe the older women or me? Take your plate and stuff it. She did apologize and deleted the pictures

north of 60

Dec 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Until all off-road vehicles are required to have license tags clearly displayed then there will be no way to enforce this.
Anonymity allows unpunished disrespect for our land.

I suspect that the abusers are the ones most opposed to registration and tags.

Frank

Dec 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

These vehicles are a menace to the Yukon wilderness. I wish they were allowed only in small isolated towns and on private property.
Sport should not involve driving a vehicle. If people want to experience the outdoors and see wildlife they should use their feet to get there.

Something is wrong with all these people who feel they have an entitlement to scare game, make noise, cause pollution and tear up sensitive vegetation. TOYA has it right, lets protect areas not destroy them.

ATVs are good for ploughing driveways, otherwise they do not belong in town.

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