Whitehorse Daily Star

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WILDERNESS ABUSES CONTINUE – Vern Peters (left) and Philip Merchant of the Trails Only Yukon Association say Yukon lawmakers are swiftly running out of time to create a comprehensive management plan for ORV access.

Voters urged to ask candidates about ORV rules

Voters should know the position of each political party regarding access to the hinterland by off-road vehicles (ORVs), say representatives of the Trails Only Yukon Association.

By Chuck Tobin on November 2, 2016

Voters should know the position of each political party regarding access to the hinterland by off-road vehicles (ORVs), say representatives of the Trails Only Yukon Association.

Association member Vern Peters insists the time to protect pristine wilderness isn’t just slipping by, it’s passing by at breakneck speed.

Even another five years without any firm action to manage access to virgin areas would be far too long, would be far too devastating, Peter says in an interview Tuesday without flinching, without any hint of exaggeration in his voice.

Peters said he knows a group of 20 watched a convoy of 12 ATVs, side-by-sides and multi-wheeled amphibious vehicles use chainsaws to cut a trail through an area off the North Canol Road where no trail had ever existed before.

Association member Philip Merchant says he knows first-hand of an incident where a group cut down timbers and limbed a couple of big spruce trees to set up a cable system so they could hoist their vehicles across a stream.

It shows you how motivated some can be to get where nobody’s gone before, he told the Star Tuesday.

Peters says the off-road-vehicles of today are already big and powerful, capable of going just about anywhere. Imagine where they’ll be like in other another five years, he suggests.

Peters and Merchant say the association isn’t asking voters to vote one way or the other on Monday.

But they do ask voters to inform themselves of the positions of each party, and their responses to questions posed by the association which are posted on its website.

“We are advocating for the moderate where we can respect our wildlife, where we can protect our wildlife and enjoy our ATV use in appropriate areas,” says Peters.

Merchant and Peters say the association is not looking to ban off-road-vehicles from the hinterland. It’s looking for a solution that recognizes there is a place for ORVs, but one that also recognizes unfettered access to every nook and cranny of the territory must end, they insist.

They say hunters, anglers, wilderness tourism operators – everybody – should be concerned about the continuing unrestricted access.

And most everybody is, they say. They point to a random survey the association conducted last year, and a 2011 professional survey conducted by DataPath Systems of Marsh Lake.

Peters points out all four political parties promised in the 2011 election campaign they would do something to manage the use of ORVs – but nothing was done.

“What we are concerned about is there has been absolutely nothing since the last election, there has been nothing accomplished on the ground,” says Peters, an avid hunter and retired teacher.

He says there were a couple of tweaks to legislation, but nothing of consequence, and no accompanying regulations.

Without regulations, all you have is an empty bag, says Peters.

He and Merchant insist a territory-wide management plan is very achievable within the next five years.

But it must be territory-wide, because piecemealing restrictions here and there would only push ORV users to areas where there are no restrictions, they say.

They point out the go-anywhere, no-rules access to the hinterland is already drawing the attention of ORV users from other jurisdictions like Alberta and B.C. where rules and regulations have been in place for years.

The Yukon, says Peters, is far behind other jurisdictions in implementing an ORV management plan.

Merchant points out the territory is a labyrinth of mining roads and old exploration trails, and the association is not looking to remove access to those roads and trails, unless, of course, they pass through critical wildlife habitat.

Establishing a comprehensive management plan shouldn’t be viewed as some wildly complicated exercise that would take from now until the end of time to complete, Merchant suggests.

He says the communities know the sensitive areas; they can tell you in which valleys the moose population has plummeted because new trails have been put in.

It’s inevitable that expanding access to pristine wilderness will lead to increasing harvest restrictions because more access equals heavier pressures on wildlife populations, says Merchant, the former animal health co-ordinator who retired from Environment Yukon.

Hunters should be worried, he says.

“If you do not restrict access, you have to restrict the harvest.”

Peters says the wilderness tourism industry should be worried. It would be difficult to keep selling the territory as a wilderness designation if ORVs are zooming around everywhere, he says.

He points out there is a solid indication that a good majority of Yukoners want to see a management plan implemented.

He recalls the words of Abraham Lincoln. He once said that without public opinion on your side, you can do nothing, but with public opinion behind you, you can’t be stopped.

“We are absolutely convinced we have public opinion on our side, because they see the benefit.”

Comments (38)

Up 14 Down 6

Jorden on Nov 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Apparently these retired people forming Toya don't know what Yukoners are. They are quick to judge everyone the same. I go places on my UTV that people seldom, if ever, see. It is a great part of my life, and will continue to be long after these two will be around. Regulations or not, it's worth the fine to me. I moved to the Yukon 20 years ago because I liked the place and the way of life. I came from BC which now sucks in my mind. I didn't come here and want to change people or their way. There is one thing that these kill joys are sadly under estimating.......The Yukoner.

Up 15 Down 5

come on on Nov 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

@stu winter - It is naive to think that these regulations will change anything. All you are doing is making it more difficult for those that follow the rules.

How are we going to pay for the enforcement of these regulations? Do you have any sense of how these regulators are going to monitor the whole Yukon? Do you really think you are going to get a punk kid (as most of us were at some point) to stop running up the hill... Education has a chance at this, why is TOYA not pushing this point and only regulations?

And to your last point - i want a Yukon where my kids can go quadding, as I did and not have people pushing regulations down their throats. We do not live in Alberta, BC or Ontario.... if you want to compare, as we seem to do often, Ontario is opening up the roads to ATV'ers, some towns and counties are allowing them to be on the streets. Let's do that!

Up 7 Down 26

Stu Winter on Nov 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Kicking and screaming and name calling. Wow, a tough crowd in these comments and apparently in our wilderness or what is left of it.
The right to drive your pickup (or car) around Whitehorse when openly drinking beer was taken away. With Land Claims the right to stake ground and run a cat anywhere you please is gone. With Land Claims and First Nation governments and YESAB the Yukon is now a modern place to live.

Don't worry, the right to drive a pickup truck will not be taken away.

If you really listen to TOYA their message makes sense. The wilderness is not a park that is off limits to ATVs it's an area where TOYA wants regulations that protects what we have for future generations.

Up 24 Down 7

done with the BS... on Nov 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

People come up here with pre-conceived ideas based on the realities of the south and, for some reasons, believe that it should work everywhere the same. These are eloquent teachers, very good at using the language to make a big deal of something that, is, really, based on exceptions. The reality is: the number of quads/orv in the Yukon is MARGINAL compared to the southern provinces. Provinces like Ontario, Alberta, BC, Quebec have to deal with SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSANDS of quads. Yukon has to deal with a few thousands... We need to have a reality check on those things.
Stop trying to manipulate people by make a big deal of something to serve your own self entitlement and.. well.. if you really need to be over regulated... pack your stuff and go back... (oh! and good luck enforcing those regulations on first nation lands which make up most of the Yukon!) Is hunting reserved for the fit?? Banning people from hunting because they cannot use their quads?

Up 6 Down 3

Josey Wales on Nov 6, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Hi stu what do I mean?
Good question, I experienced an edit in that one and right after the word trail was a word that means a national socialist party...
Good example of how context is lost upon an edit, is keeping that lying witch in the game down south.

There is a teacher bashing time here, as often but not always are uber uber left, and are used to getting their way via unions and the PC Crusade ordering around indoctrinated subjects.
Seems once the classroom is left, so too is the protection from the "real" people.
...is IMO why stu.

Up 17 Down 8

ATVs Are The Problem, Really? on Nov 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Watch the Gold Rush show and what those guys are doing to the Yukon environment before you start crying about a couple trees being cut and light ATVs travelling around in the bush.

Up 10 Down 21

Concerned on Nov 5, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Mark- regulations aren't made to govern the most responsible people. They are made to govern the least. It's illegal to drink and drive not because 99% of people don't do it but because that 1% does.

What does being retired have to do with anything in this issue? Maybe it's because they are old enough to retire and thus old enough to know more than you about the topic.

Up 10 Down 23

Stu Winter on Nov 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

What is with all the teacher bashing. MY mother was a teacher.
What does Josey Wales mean with? More bleats from the trail?

Please stay on trails only and stop impacting wildlife and their habitat. And of course, stop acting like children without manners.

Up 12 Down 0

Matt on Nov 5, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Wait....there's an election?

Up 11 Down 25

Tired hunter on Nov 4, 2016 at 11:38 pm

I'd rather have regulated ORVd then have to apply for permit zones to hunt within 300km of Whitehorse because access via machines caused populations to drop. Look at fish lake and north end of kusawa. All permit hunts, ashiahik will be next I'm sure.

Up 22 Down 13

Mark on Nov 4, 2016 at 5:56 pm

So these TOYA want regulations? How about taxing these so called associations extreme high taxes to even exist! These are people who grew up being overly spoiled by their parents. Whine until someone listens.
To label all atv users as you do shows your ignorance to reality. This fact makes me believe you were all teachers. Because teachers teach because they cannot actually do what they think they can teach.

Up 28 Down 10

Come On on Nov 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

@Mark Sanders - I appreciate that your heart is in the right place however, I think you are very wrong about this groups motives...

That being said, you mention that you do not want this to be overly regulated, which points to a different path of Education. I agree with you, but TOYA has been very vocal about heavily regulating ATV/ORV use - which many do not agree with, including myself... What is worse, is they discuss data they have collected which is very skewed and preach about it like it is the truth.

Honestly speaking, these are mostly retired individuals, who have way to much time on their hands. They are not concerned with other peoples thoughts and will yell until they get their way - much like my children. I do not think their would be so many "nasty personal attacks" if they were open to others opinions.

Up 24 Down 25

Mark Sanders on Nov 4, 2016 at 11:01 am

Hunters should be worried, he says.“ If you do not restrict access, you have to restrict the harvest.”

This is so true. We have lots of trails and these machines are pushing further into the wilderness. I do not want over-regulation and I certainly do not want angry people telling us to leave it alone as they ruin it for everyone.

Things have to change. That is what TOYA is saying. If people cared as much as them about protecting the wilderness they would not be making nasty personal comments. And what's wrong with planning a hunting trip and actually hunting on foot. It takes a lot more effort and I hate to say it but you have to be in shape. Maybe that has something to do with it as well.

Up 33 Down 16

bill on Nov 4, 2016 at 7:22 am

I am glad the common sense is by enlarge prevailing. Lets band together against these retired school teachers that believe they are entitled. Time to let these holier than thou wanna bee's we are not going to allow this. This is our Yukon not one special interest group that supports itself. I will never vote for anyone who supports trails only.

Up 27 Down 9

Pjt1959 on Nov 4, 2016 at 7:22 am

TOYA is not a group whom wants any ORV usage. I asked them by e-mail about the trails in Riverdale - the old wood roads that are all banned now - asking them why they didn't fight to retain these trails. They never answered. Also at a trade show I asked them but they would not answer. When I told them yes, I agree for riding trails then they have the nerve to ask me to join. I told them not chance as they don't want to fight for only against ORV usage. That is my rant.

Up 18 Down 12

Josey Wales on Nov 4, 2016 at 7:18 am

More bleats from the trail? I too wonder how this crew gets so so much air and print time. I have a myriad of things that piss me off, why not give me the seemingly endless print time to air my inventory of viewpoints.
Imagine folks a world where that would happen....thankfully still in my head.
If we need agree on anything out here, it is that nanny state fever is a epidemic asking to be eradicated. I get we need basic rules for a complex society to have a remote possibility of harmonious coexistence.
That said, it has long ago reached a tipping point of stupid with so so many telling others how to live their lives...especially up here.
All the while those same folks clearly forget we out in the northwest hemisphere are a free people.
Between the nanny staters, the cultural elites, the PC Crusaders, and over reaching state actors?
I push back, and am, and will...always, reminding those who forget that I and we are a free people.
To suggest otherwise infers a civil war I missed in the "news".

Up 15 Down 34

Woods on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:17 am

Thanks to TOYA for keeping this important issue in the public eye. Yes, we can all better enjoy pristine backcountry when ORVs stay on trails. There are hundred of of old mining roads already in the Yukon, no need to cut new ones.

TOYA's surveys have proved that a majority of Yukoners are very concerned about ORV damage. The Yukon Party has ignored it. It's time for the government to deliver, think about this on voting day.

Up 16 Down 31

Concerned on Nov 3, 2016 at 9:15 pm

The real problem with and the reason I left the Yukon is everybody seems to think the rules apply to everyone outside of the Yukon but that they shouldn't apply to you. All the BORN IN THE YUKONERS get on their high horse like that's some kind of a special license to do whatever you want.

Cutting green trees in the Yukon goes against the forestry act, tearing up wetlands, bogs, marshes, gravel bars or anything within the high water mark goes against one of many wetlands acts, water acts, fisheries acts which are all FEDERAL acts.

If you are upset that this "special interest" group is going to ruin your riding then you need to take a good hard look at yourself and how you operate your "environmentally friendly" machine, because it is you that is causing the need for regulations. This is YOUR fault, if ORV were being used appropriately and respectfully then TOYA wouldnt exist. Educate yourself and drive responsibly and these guys will disappear! Im sure they would much rather be doing something else with their time.

Up 12 Down 11

Salar on Nov 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Toya is against folks doing what they used to do when there was no one doing it but them.
They aren't all teachers, but they do all have federal pensions....Merchants a good shot too.....google reindeer.

Up 47 Down 21

Anonymous on Nov 3, 2016 at 3:22 pm

We need to stop giving publicity to this special interest group and political parties certainly should not give any merit to TOYA's poorly sampled, biased surveys. One has to only look at their supporters (outfitters) to see their real intentions.

They do not and will never represent the majority of Yukoners on the subject.

Up 41 Down 19

Born and raised on Nov 3, 2016 at 2:46 pm

I called several candidates. The liberals seem to want more restrictions on hunting, more restrictions on snow machines. More restrictions on trails and access to them.

I suggest the liberals crawl back to Ontario and leave our way of life alone. This is THE Yukon, we love and respect the outdoors and are responsible enough to use ATV's, boats, rifles, and snow machines all without destroying the environment and sustaining our wildlife treasures by working with First Nations to maintain their traditional harvest and hunters alike. $20 says half the liberals don't even know how to shoot a rifle, never mind understanding what hunting is about.

Up 41 Down 18

spud on Nov 3, 2016 at 2:27 pm

These retired teachers are a pain in the ..... They are used to ordering around people 3 to 4 feet tall, they retire and convince each other they are super intelligent and must order around those of us who work for a living and actually contribute to our communities and society.

Up 21 Down 18

I have lived in Alberta for years on Nov 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Their trails are all in place by the oil and gas industry. No problems there.
In fact it helped game because of feed it created.
I went to UFA and studied resource management.
Open up areas is healthy for the Yukon all around.

Up 28 Down 17

Concerned person on Nov 3, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I love my quad ! I love going and riding with my buddies who all own ORVs . We love taking our quads to go hunting. Why would I carry the weight that far when I can just throw it on the quad ? I think the difference is my buddies and I get off our quad when the trial ends and we walk to our hunting ground . We were taught responsible ORV use. I will go mudding with the best of them. I don't need to go make new trials to accomplish my goal of covering my self in mud. We wouldn't need legislation if responsible ORV use was still common . Unfortunately there are those who have abused this freedom thus we need rules . For those who wish there were no laws, In ten years when you can't go anywhere to hunt without a permit, I hope to not see you complaining.

Up 46 Down 14

come on on Nov 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm

@ Mark Sanders - I think the real problem is all the radicals - including yourself on both sides of the spectrum. The Yukon is seen by the last frontier by many and that is why they are here (and have been here for a long time). All you are doing is turning us into one of the most heavily regulated places in the world with little or no effect on people damaging the environment.

And what is worse, you are making it nearly impossible for those who will not tear up the alpine areas to go anywhere and enjoy themselves on their machines. Not everyone can walk 30 miles to see a beautiful landscape, walk to get that moose or sheep.

Lets be honest - toya is here to ban machines, this is just the start. ATV's/ORV's manufactured these day are not heavy polluters, they have to meet standards to even get into Canada and they are not damaging to the environment if you ride in a respectable way. EDUCATION will allow people to make smart choices. That is the middle ground.

Up 21 Down 45

Mark Sanders on Nov 3, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I have never seen a more selfish group.
And no, I am not talking about TOYA, I am referring to an unorganized group of ATV users who think they can go anywhere.

If you own or buy these machines please stay on trails and avoid wetlands and areas seasonally important for wildlife; they live and rely on these areas so why disturb them.
Please read about declining woodland caribou populations and how in some areas in Yukon where is a concern about the ATVs and how access has been detrimental to moose populations.

Up 49 Down 15

bill on Nov 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

The vocal minority always unhappy, Trails only is a joke.

Up 20 Down 34

Rick lawson on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Please push hard with a very strong law when I see what a small number of riders with no respect have done in west
Central Alberta. You need to very careful. Stop a problem before it gets to large.

Up 50 Down 17

Orv owner on Nov 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Give it up already, the majority of Yukoners don't share your opinion. You want to protect the environment go after the cat trails, float planes on lakes ( fuel spillage) and the irresponsible miners who dump used oil all over the place. My quads and Argo do little damage, I ride responsibly, I am sensitive to the environment and I spend a lot of time in the bush.

Up 42 Down 16

Dave on Nov 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Any political candidate who starts laughing hysterically when I ask if they support TOYAs nonsense gets my vote... And that's coming from someone who hasn't owned an ATV for years.

Up 37 Down 24

Call The Tree Police, STAT! on Nov 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm

OMG, someone cut a couple trees down, I guess there are only 520,000,000,000,998 trees left standing in the Yukon now. And someone else made a new trail out in the middle of nowhere! The sky is definitely falling, let's call the new trail police right after we call the tree cutting police and make some new laws so that these dastardly people committing these unspeakable crimes can be charged under the fullest extent of the law!
But seriously all good citizens out there, please snoop on and rat out any of your fellow Yukoners who have the nerve to do such unmentionable acts such as those described in this story.
The point of this story completely backfired on this voter as I will personally be asking my local political candidates if they support such nonsense and if they do they won't get my vote.

Up 30 Down 16

jc on Nov 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Once a law has been legislated, now they have to hire a police force to enforce them. But these two I guess haven't thought about that and the horrendous cost it will be to taxpayers. Their job is just to observe and make suggestions.

Up 30 Down 20

June Jackson on Nov 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm

An election issue on riding an ATV? Pahlease.

Up 46 Down 16

Come on on Nov 2, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Your surveys are a farce. At your booth at the trade show, your buddies came by and supported you in your so called random survey... and then Marsh lake - really? That is one of the biggest demographics against any machinery whatsoever ... skewed to say the least.

I think that there are a lot of better issues which need attention. Regulations are not the solution as they are costly, almost impossible to enforce and do nothing but make things more difficult for 95% of these users which are environmentally conscious riders. Lastly, you are hurting businesses who sell, and operate these machines daily by making things more difficult than they already are.

Up 21 Down 43

Merchant is right! vote out the conservative party! on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Merchant is bang on, the conservative party had 14 years to deliver on ORV and did absolutely nothing, nothing. Nothing!

Up 42 Down 13

Close the Yukon down to only certain groups on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm

The whole Yukon is here for all of us to use and enjoy.

Up 18 Down 44

Mark Sanders on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:30 pm

It's time for all the abusive comments.

Every time a groups wants to protect our Yukon environment they are called names and people are aggressive in their misguided fight against commonsense regulations.

It's time to change it up before the wilderness is damaged further. Thought it was manly to hunt on foot or by canoe and walking in the wilderness used to be the way to explore the wilderness. I wish the people addicted to these machines would move back to........Alberta or where ever it's cool to ruin the environment.

Up 44 Down 11

ProScience Greenie on Nov 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Not these Toya guys again. They just never stop. And always so smug.

If there is a problem with ATVs in certain hunting areas then ban the use of them for hunting there.

And sorry eco-tourism industry but your well-off clients are now and then going to have to put up with a local on an ATV or sled or heaven forbid even the odd icky miner or trapper. Sharing good, greed bad.

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