Offroad Vehicles

Below you'll find information about the impact of Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) on the Yukon Wilderness. This information was originally published in a brochure (available at the CPAWS Yukon office) in July 2017.

Regions sensitive to ATVs

Alpine: Harsh winters and short growing seasons make plants in the alpine particularly susceptible to damage from ATV’s. Even just a few rides in alpine terrain can stop fragile plant growth. Ruts in the alpine can quickly fill with water and can lead to permafrost thawing and erosion.

Wetlands: Wetlands are home to an enormous variety of wildlife. They help control erosion, floods and droughts by absorbing water during wet periods and releasing water during dry periods. Driving through wetlands and tearing up the ground can damage vegetation and physically alter the terrain, decreasing the functionality of these sensitive habitats.

Impacts on Wildlife

Habitat Fragmentation: Habitats can become fragmented when new trails are formed. Since animals try to avoid human contact, they have increasingly fewer places to go that are untouched by humans. This can divide their habitats into smaller and smaller pieces.

Decline in Survivorship Through Winter: The noise from ATV’s can frighten wildlife, causing them to flee for safety. Rather than preparing for harsh Yukon winters and saving precious energy for survival, animals can spend too much time fleeing loud noises.

Changing Migration Patterns: As new areas become more frequently explored by ATV’s, migratory animals such as caribou must go to greater lengths to distance themselves from people. This shifts the distribution of the animals.

Impact on Vegetation

Soil Compaction: Even just a few runs over a new trail can compact the soil enough to prevent growth.

Above-Ground Breakage/Crushing: Driving over plants often breaks the stems and kills the plant. It can take many years before a new plant can grow back to the same size, especially in the Yukon where plants grow very slowly.

Invasive Species: Invasive plants can get entangled in the underside of off-road machines and spread to new environments. This can be especially harmful to fragile ecosystems where a new species can take over a large area rapidly.

Ways to reduce the impact of ATV’s in the Yukon

Stay on established trails: Staying on existing trails can help keep habitats intact.

Ride on hard-bottomed trails: Hard-bottomed trails prevent you from driving over fragile plants, especially in the alpine. Since the soil is already compact, it also reduces the impact of driving over loose soil.

Slow down: Driving slower not only creates less noise, it also saves fuel and reduces environmental damage.

Wash your ATV after every ride: ATV’s can carry invasive species. By washing your vehicle after each trip, you can help eliminate the transfer of these species to sensitive areas.

Be aware of wildlife: Become familiar with wildlife seasons (mating season, spring calving, preparing for hibernation, etc.) and how they affect different regions, especially those sensitive to ATV use.

Avoid driving through wetlands: As wetlands are particularly sensitive to ATV’s, it’s best to avoid these areas by driving around them on dry ground.

Looking Forward

Currently, the Yukon has limited regulations for Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use, including ATV’s. CPAWS would like to see a proactive and effective territorial plan to manage environmental damage. A component of this strategy might include non-motorized zones in sensitive regions. By determining which areas in the Yukon are especially sensitive to ORV’s, they can be protected. Regulations mandating the registration and identification of individual ORV’s (via license plate or sticker) is another way to manage environmental damage by ORV’s. This provides a way to address irresponsible use.

References:

Quote

    Schreiner, J. (1992). Highway to Alaska: Fiftieth anniversary of the road that irrevocably changed the Canadian Northwest. Canadian Geographic, 112, 80-88.

Alpine Info

     ATV Trail Habitats Study
    Nyssa van Vierssen Trip, & Wiersma, Y. F. (2015). A comparison of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail impacts on boreal habitats across scales. Natural Areas Journal, 35(2), 266-278. doi:10.3375/043.035.0207

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada Atv Info

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada. All-Terrain Vehicles, Fish Habitat & You [Brochure]. (n.d.) N.P.: n.p.

 

 

Wetland Info

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada Atv Info

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada. All-Terrain Vehicles, Fish Habitat & You [Brochure]. (n.d.) N.P.: n.p.

    Satellite Imaging Study on ATV Tracks
    Tømmervik, H., Johansen, B., Høgda, K. A., & Strann, K. B. (2012). High‐resolution satellite imagery for detection of tracks and vegetation damage caused by all‐terrain vehicles (ATVs) in northern norway. Land Degradation & Development, 23(1), 43-52. doi:10.1002/ldr.1047

 

Habitat Fragmentation:

    Geological Survey
    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

    Caribou Case Study
    Newton, E. J., Abraham, K. F., Schaefer, J. A., Pond, B. A., Brown, G. S., & Thompson, J. E. (2015). Causes and consequences of broad-scale changes in the distribution of migratory caribou (rangifer tarandus) of southern hudson bay. Arctic, 68(4), 472-485. doi:10.14430/arctic4524

Survivorship Decline

    Geological Survey
    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

    Caribou Case Study
    Newton, E. J., Abraham, K. F., Schaefer, J. A., Pond, B. A., Brown, G. S., & Thompson, J. E. (2015). Causes and consequences of broad-scale changes in the distribution of migratory caribou (rangifer tarandus) of southern hudson bay. Arctic, 68(4), 472-485. doi:10.14430/arctic4524


Migration

    Geological Survey

    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.


    Caribou Case Study

    Newton, E. J., Abraham, K. F., Schaefer, J. A., Pond, B. A., Brown, G. S., & Thompson, J. E. (2015). Causes and consequences of broad-scale changes in the distribution of migratory caribou (rangifer tarandus) of southern hudson bay. Arctic, 68(4), 472-485. doi:10.14430/arctic4524


Soil Compaction

    Geological Survey

    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

    Alpine Plant & ATV’s Study
    Crisfield, V. E., Macdonald, S. E., & Gould, A. J. (2012). Effects of recreational traffic on alpine plant communities in the northern canadian rockies. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 44(3), 277-287. doi:10.1657/1938-4246-44.3.277

    Satellite Imaging Study on ATV Tracks
    Tømmervik, H., Johansen, B., Høgda, K. A., & Strann, K. B. (2012). High‐resolution satellite imagery for detection of tracks and vegetation damage caused by all‐terrain vehicles (ATVs) in northern norway. Land Degradation & Development, 23(1), 43-52. doi:10.1002/ldr.1047

 

Plant Crushing

    Geological Survey

    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada Atv Info
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada. All-Terrain Vehicles, Fish Habitat & You [Brochure]. (n.d.) N.P.: n.p.

    Human Impact Study
    Robinson, J., & Hermanutz, L. (2015). Evaluating human-disturbed habitats for recovery planning of endangered plants. Journal of Environmental Management, 150, 157-163. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.10.033


Invasive Species

    Geological Survey

    Ouren, D. S., National Science and Technology Center (U.S.), Geological Survey (U.S.), United States, & Bureau of Land Management. (2007). Environmental effects of off-highway vehicles on bureau of land management lands: A literature synthesis, annotated bibliographies, extensive bibliographies, and internet resources. (). Reston, Va: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.


Hard Bottomed Trails

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada Atv Info
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada. All-Terrain Vehicles, Fish Habitat & You [Brochure]. (n.d.) N.P.: n.p.

    Satellite Imaging Study on ATV Tracks
    Tømmervik, H., Johansen, B., Høgda, K. A., & Strann, K. B. (2012). High‐resolution satellite imagery for detection of tracks and vegetation damage caused by all‐terrain vehicles (ATVs) in northern norway. Land Degradation & Development, 23(1), 43-52. doi:10.1002/ldr.1047


Slowing Down Importance

    Mountain Goat Case Study
    St-Louis, A., Hamel, S., Mainguy, J., & Côté, S. D. (2013). Factors influencing the reaction of mountain goats towards all-terrain vehicles: Mountain goat disturbance by all-terrain vehicles. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 77(3), 599-605. doi:10.1002/jwmg.488

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