Stephen Harper's ATV ride through a "fragile ecosystem" has left some Yukon locals irritated.
The prime minister posed for photos Monday sitting atop an ATV in the Carcross Desert and, according to iPolitics, unknowingly rode into an ongoing environmental dispute in the Arctic territory.
According to the territory's own website, the dunes are "home to a variety of rare plants and animals unique to this habitat" and constitute a "fragile ecosystem" created from deposits of sand and silt left on the bottom of Lake Watson at the end of the last ice age.
The site even asks visitors to stick to a network of hiking trails in order to protect the wilderness.
Staying on the trails, however, is not a legal requirement in the Yukon.
That's something Trails Only Yukon has been trying to change for years. The group, which includes ATV enthusiasts, has been advocating for a change in Yukon's laws that would protect the territory's natural splendour from damage caused by off-trail riders.
"His advisers should give him better advice than put him on an ATV in a place like that,” Ken Taylor, the head of the group, told iPolitics.
Taylor, who led the Yukon's Liberal Party from 1995-1997, isn't alone in his opposition to off-trail riding. A poll conducted by Trails Only in the summer of 2011 found that 93 per cent of Yukoners want some form of restrictions on ATV riding in the wilderness.
This isn't the first time Harper has made headlines by hopping on an off-road vehicle. During his 2010 trip to the Arctic, the prime minister left his RCMP detail scrambling to chase him after taking off at high speed on a runway in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
Asked if he was licensed for such high-speed activity, Harper famously replied "I think I make the rules," according to CBC.
The prime minister is currently up north on his annual Arctic tour. He will spend Wednesday at another scenic location, a national park reserve in Norman Wells, a small community about 680 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife, N.W.T.
The federal government has been working with First Nations groups in the area to make the reserve a reality, part of a general expansion of national parks in the North spearheaded by the Tories.
However, after Parks Canada's funding was slashed in the most recent federal budget, the agency has been shutting down services at some parks, including in the North.
Asked about the cuts on Tuesday, Harper said they'll be rexamined on an ongoing basis depending on reaction from the public, but stopped short of committing to any reversals.
With files from The Canadian Press
CLARIFICATION: The current version of the story has been updated to indicate that Ken Taylor of Trails Only previously served as the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.