Changes need to be made to how the territory is consulting Yukoners on regulations governing the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs), say Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA) members.
The group advocates for responsible ATV use and protection of sensitive wilderness areas.
It issued a call this morning for a more open consultation process, which includes public meetings and happens in the fall, as well as an improved discussion paper to be published by the Yukon government on the topic.
As TOYA members Vern Peters, Ken Taylor and Philip Merchant outlined during a press conference today, the June 22 deadline the territory has set on public input over potential regulations is just 60 days.
It comes at a time of year when many residents are away or busy with summer activities, TOYA noted.
The discussion paper released on potential regulations is “woefully lacking,” Taylor said, with Peters then taking issue first with the photos published.
Peters pointed to a number of pictures in the document featuring landscapes from around the territory or a few ATV riders driving along trails.
He argued they don’t tell the whole story. Missing are the larger ATVs, Argos and the like, along with scarred, muddy trails and bogs in environmentally sensitive areas.
The photos in the booklet, Peters argued, would be better suited to the 1980s, when fewer people had machines and most were less powerful.
Now there are more than 5,000 of the machines in the territory, Peters said.
He went on to take issue with the wording in the discussion paper.
He pointed out there are a number of other jurisdictions that have implemented regulations and plans to protect sensitive wilderness areas.
“We’re not working in a vacuum here,” he said, noting the government’s proposal for complaint-driven enforcement of any regulations that might come into effect.
“Damage first, manage later,” as Peters described it.
No action would be taken until the damage is done, he said, raising the possibility that irresponsible ATV riders will just move on to other areas that might be torn up and scarred.
It is also difficult to enforce any regulations without a registration system in place, the TOYA members said.
Territorial officials have already stated they’re not pursuing registration of the vehicles, the trio noted.
While it’s been argued that charges could still be laid against an individual by identifying their clothing and ATV, Taylor was quick to counter that argument.
He stated he has trouble believing a judge would hear a case where the accused was identified based on the fact he or she had a yellow ATV and was wearing a blue jacket, for example.
When a licence plate number is attached, it makes it easier for campers, hunters or others who might be in the bush and spot an ORV breaking any rules to report the incident and for authorities to track down the owner or rider.
A recent case in Calgary saw successful convictions for a group of riders breaking regulations who were spotted and the licence plates reported by a camper in the area, it was pointed out.
As the TOYA members stressed, the group is not against ORVs (and many members have their own machines they often use). It’s simply pursuing responsible use that protects sensitive areas.
“I want to be able to look beyond my handle bars into the future,” Peters said.
It appears a number of Yukoners agree.
TOYA members acknowledged their survey is not a scientific representation of the population.
However, the group provided the results it received from 217 responses to a list of nine questions asked at this month’s Lions trade show.
Among the responses: 94.5 per cent agreed, 1.8 per cent disagreed and 3.7 per cent didn’t provide a clear response on whether ATVs need to be managed in the territory’s wilderness.
As well, 79.3 per cent agreed, 15.2 per cent disagreed and 5.5 per cent didn’t have a clear answer on whether ATVs should be licensed and registered for enforcements.
As it stands, residents have until June 22 to provide input to the government on the matter and can do so through the territorial Department of Energy, Mines and Resources site (www.emr.gov.yk.ca).
As Peters warned though, the process to fill out the questionnaire is convoluted.
It requires respondents like himself to download documents in one format, reply in another and then either print off the paper work to mail in or attach it to an email.
“It should be easier,” Peters argued.
Another group drawing attention to the consultation is the Yukon 4X4 & ATV Users Against Aspects of YTG Off-Road Vehicle Legislation, a Facebook group which lists 191 members.
Much of the discussion on the group’s page argues against legislation for off-road vehicle users – though also states it does not support destruction of sensitive areas.
It takes issue with TOYA’s argument that most Yukoners want restrictions imposed.
It goes on to encourage everyone interested to provide input to the territory through the consultation process.