ATV Phases in North America

The following phases are typical in North American States and Provinces

ATV introductionownership of 3 wheelers followed by first 4 wheelers and argos. 

Expansion of ATVs : more ownership - increasing number of trails pushed into wilderness.  ATVs become much more reliable with increase in concerns raised about environmental damage.

Education PhaseConcerns about irresponsible usage increase as damage to habitat and wildlife becomes more evident.  Various groups and individuals call for a focus on education as opposed to regulation with much time and energy spent on voluntary guidelines, pamphlets, brochures and desirable codes of conduct with respect to ATV use.  Studies are commissioned.

Proliferation and extention of ATV trailsLarger and more capable ATVs and argos equipped with winches and operators using chainsaws cut new trails into valleys, go through wetlands and make their way up to the alpine.  Animals in accessed areas are disturbed, displaced and over-harvested.  ATVs forge into new areas where the pattern repeats itself.

Reality PhaseChanging attitudes even among those originally calling for education alone as a solution – evidence indicates it is not working.

Consensus PhaseConcerned citizens, responsible ATV owners and dealerships, various wilderness groups and associations advocate for reasonable, sensible and enforceable ATV legislation to protect habitat and wildlife.  While this process is going on, phase 4 continues. 

Implementation PhaseWith input from its citizens, wildlife biologists, conservation officers and organizations similar to Renewable Resource Councils, Government implements a workable plan for the jurisdiction. 

Fine Tuning PhaseThe workable plan is fine-tuned, concerted educational efforts are made, maps of designated trails are published, compliance and enforcement issues are dealt with.

These phases are similar in every jurisdiction studied

The speed of implementation depends on the level of public pressure

The issue of unrestricted ATV use was first identified in the Yukon some 20 years ago and has remained unresolved. Unless something is done now, extensive damage to sensitive habitat and wildlife will continue to the point where complete area closures may be required when something is finally implemented.