The free ride is over for dirt-bike and ATV riders.
Licensing and registration requirements are on the way for 2010.
“We think it is important that we increase the regulation with regard to off-road vehicle, and that we develop a licensing and registration system. And I don’t think we’re very far away from that” Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger said in an interview.
“WE think it’s important because there is the issue of-and it’s a small minority but- people who behave badly on these machines. They rip up riparian zones, chase wildlife, and chase domestic stock. There is a crime-prevention issue in that it is hard to trace where vehicles came from when they are suspected stolen. We need to come grips with that”
He believes his ministry is very close to making recommendations to respond to those concerns. Ministry staff have already started drafting the changes, but the details won’t be release before it introduced in the legislature.
“I expect see some changes in next spring’s legislation,” Krueger said, with the hope the recommendations are in place for next summer’s riding season.
“I believe that (licensing and registration) is important, and so do my colleagues, that people can identity a machine, clearly identify it if they have a need to, just as we rely license plates to identify vehicles that have been used in offenses or that are related to misbehavior in any way”
It then would an offence to cover the identification on a dirt-bike or ATV, he said.
“I’ve been working with a group of MLAs in our caucus for a number of years now as we come to grips with the many competing interests with regard to off-road vehicle usage the whole question of licensing and registration” said Krueger.
“There is a very wide spectrum of opinion on the issue. The range of public opinion is all the way from “Leave us alone; we like things the way they are’ through to ‘everybody ought to be licensed and have to pay every to license their vehicle.’
“Some people are calling for a fairly large amount of money (for licensing and registration).
“And that the money should be used for everything from training people to compliance and enforcement bodies to trail building.”
His ministry produces grant money to a large coalition of concerned groups: everyone from the Grasslands Conservation Council to the B.C. Snowmobile Federation, manufacturers to groups that use Crown land.
The committee proved a set of recommendations and ministry staff have been working though those.
Krueger, active on the committee for years, is now in a position where is minister responsible for the leading the decision-making.
“By no means is everybody expecting it, nor will a lot of people like it. We already have that provision for snowmobiles and there isn’t 100 per cent compliance there either but it’s still better than the situation for dirt-bikes and ATVs where there is no requirement for identification. We think there should be and that will be in the recommendations coming forward to government.”
Enforcement then becomes the focus and citizens can contribute significantly, he said.
“Many crimes with motor vehicles are resolved because of citizen reports. Ant that’s going to be one aspect.”
Krueger expects conservation officers would be involved in enforcement as well as enforcement officials with the Ministry of Forests, police officers and similar enforcement staff in the civil service.
“Some of the recommendations include creations of a network of trails where a person can’t use them unless they have the required identification,” he said.
“And with some of those trails, probably any new trails, which would be built into the cost of licensing users’ vehicles. It’s not something that we want to apply across-the-board if we get into costs for trail building. We want it to be a user-pay situation. A rancher who is using his off-road vehicle in the Crown land he leases and the land that owns wouldn’t want to be required to pay an annual fee for that, nor should he be.”
But if that farmer wants to use his off-road vehicle on a Crown network of trails that other users are paying to use, then he’ll be treated the same as everyone else.