Regulate ATV use in Yukon, new group says

Some longtime Yukoners have formed a group that will lobby for all-terrain vehicles to be regulated, amid concerns that the four-wheeled machines are tearing up the territory's wilderness.

Some longtime Yukoners have formed a group that will lobby for all-terrain vehicles to be regulated, amid concerns that the recreational machines are tearing up the territory's wilderness.

Trails Only Yukon Association plans to lobby the Yukon government to license ATVs and limit their use to designated trails.

Members say they are tired of the four-wheeled vehicles going off-road and scarring some of the Yukon's pristine lands.

"We went from talking about, 'Something should be done,' to deciding that if it's going to get done we probably had to do it," member Ken Taylor, himself an ATV owner, told CBC News.

Vern Peters, another member, said a recent trip to Scout Lake uncovered a hill that was marked up by ATVs.

"When I looked at that ATV trail I started wondering, 'Would anybody really want to take their grandchild into here?'" Peters said.

Trails Only Yukon Association is hosting a public meeting in Whitehorse on Thursday.

Last jurisdictions

Taylor said the Yukon is one of the last jurisdictions in Canada to introduce any limits or regulations on ATVs.

Issuing licence plates for ATVs would help responsible owners keep track of those who may be less responsible, he said.

As well, Taylor said limiting the vehicles to designated trails would limit the amount of damage done to surrounding lands.

"For example, a lot of the Cat roads that have been pushed into places for exploration, we're saying, 'Sure, take your ATVs on those, but stay on those roads,'" Taylor said.

"We think that way, we can limit the damage into the really fragile areas above [the] tree line and ... into some of the wetlands, where they're getting pretty chewed up with these machines."

Dave Strachan, a longtime Yukoner who sells ATVs, said while he has no problem with developing safety requirements for vehicle owners, controlling where they can go would be hard to enforce.

"Telling people where and when they can ride, that is not something that is actually, I think, even in the spirit of what the Yukon is," Strachan said.

Strachan said educating ATV riders on proper use and etiquette would be a better way to go.

Fish, game association welcomes debate

The Yukon Fish and Game Association says it welcomes a public debate on regulating ATVs in the territory, but it warns the debate could be heated.

President John Carney said some of his members are older and need all-terrain vehicles to enjoy the backcountry, but some others feel the vehicles are tearing up the environment, especially those with special tires and more power.

"We know it's going to be a fairly divisive issue," Carney said.

"There's a lot of people that are getting older in the Yukon and rely on their ATVs to go places, and [they] are anxious that more regulation is going to cost them more money and restriction."

Carney said his association is not taking a position on the issue, but it does want environmental conservation to continue.

"As a conservation group, we want to ensure that the wildlife and the habitat is protected for future generations, so something needs to be done," he said.

"How it's going to be done? We hope the government follows through on what they want to do and go around and find out what people think about it."