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Jan 25 2006
Off-road rec study calls for licensing fees

By Judie Steeves staff reporter

If government goes along with the 47 recommendations of a group of provincial outdoors organizations, off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles, ATVs and dirt bikes will require registration and annual licensing in future.
The 49-page report with its proposal for changes in the way operation of such vehicles is managed has now been presented to government for consideration.

Involved in the three years of negotiations were ATV user groups, Terry Burke of the Okanagan Trail Riders’ Association, the snowmobile federation, the Federation of B.C. Naturalists, Union of B.C. Municipalities, Cattlemen’s Association, RCMP, Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C., Trails B.C., Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., representatives of the ministries of agriculture, forests, tourism, environment and transportation.

It included the 30,000-member B.C. Wildlife Federation at the start of discussions, but that group withdrew because president Dave White said, “The coalition objectives are different from those of our members.”
The federation’s members object to the idea of an annual licensing fee for off-road vehicles, although they favour registration of vehicles and the requirement for a large decal to be on each vehicle, so it can be easily identified.
There is already legislation requiring that snowmobiles be registered and have a visible decal.
White said the federation’s members don’t see the need to increase the cost of using such vehicles, and don’t want to see more trails built in the back country to accommodate off-road vehicles.

The idea of collecting annual fees for trail upkeep and expansion just doesn’t fit with federation objectives, he said.
Many of the federation’s members do use off-road vehicles, particularly ATVs, but mainly to access the back country.
Carl Withler, resource stewardship agrologist at the local office of the agriculture ministry was part of the group involved in negotiations to come up with a set of recommendations to manage off-road vehicle use.
Although he said he sat as a representative of government, so was more an advisor, he commented, “considering the wide range of views it brought together, it wasn’t an easy process, but I think everyone did the best they could.”
He noted the federation of naturalists also had some objections to the way it was recommended that fees be allocated.

He was optimistic that government will take the report seriously and act on the recommendations.
The proposal is for a new ORV Act to replace the Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act, which would require registration and annual licensing, with income to go into a trust fund to be administered by a board representing user groups.
Funds would be used for education and safety programs, trail development, including maintenance and enhancement, enforcement and conservation and stewardship.

The coalition also recommends that helmets be mandatory and riders be 16 years of age and have a drivers’ license to ride on public roads; that riders under 16 be under the supervision of an adult, unless a safety course has been passed, for riders 12 to 15.

The Conservation Officer Service would enforce the legislation, along with trained, volunteer wardens.


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