New rules proposed for off-road vehicles

The provincial government is one step closer to regulating the use of all off-road vehicles in B.C.

By Angie Mindus

The provincial government is one step closer to regulating the use of all off-road vehicles in B.C.

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, announced Bill 13 Monday, which he said addresses environmental and safety concerns surrounding ORVs while aiding in enforcement measures.

In a teleconference Monday, Thomson said the new regulations promise certainty, safety and regulatory structure and will replace the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act. He noted regulation is needed to address environmental and safety concerns surrounding a few “rogue riders” out there.

Thomson deflected questions surrounding a loss of freedom ORV operators have expressed surrounding the new regulations.

“I think what we need to focus on is ensuring that we have a system that helps encourage both sound stewardship in the backcountry, helps us make sure that we protect our critical grasslands and in the process that we have a system that supports the enforcement and compliance, and that we also have a system that ensures that there is safe operations of these vehicles,” Thomson said.

He noted the regulations will apply to all Crown lands and be enforced by existing peace officers, such as conservation officers and natural resource officers.

He said the cost will be a one-time charge of just under $50 per ORV.

“The Off-Road Vehicle Act will secure the future of off-road vehicle use in a way that is self-sustaining, safe and environmentally responsible,” he said.

The act, if passed and brought into force, will:

• Establish a one-time registration system specifically designed to integrate with the pre-existing structure of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s vehicle registry, reducing implementation costs.

ORVs will have to be registered and display a clearly visible number plate before they can be operated on Crown or other public land.

• Allow the development of regulations on the rules of operation (such as wearing helmets), safety standards and conditions of use for a wide range of modern ORVs, including snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles or “quads,” dirt bikes and utility terrain vehicles.

• Assist in identifying stolen or abandoned ORVs, by requiring ORVs to be registered in a database that is accessible to peace officers at all times.

• Provide officers with more effective enforcement tools to target the small number of irresponsible ORV owners that endanger others or damage sensitive habitat.

This includes the ability to stop and inspect ORVs for violations, seize an ORV for safety or evidence purposes, and increase the maximum fine for offences from $500 to $5,000.

Included in the proposed ORV legislation is an amendment to the Special Accounts Appropriation and Control Act establishing the ORV Trail Management Sub-account. Thomson said this will help to collect funds to develop and maintain trails.

Thomson said proposed ORV Act is the result of extensive consultation, and represents a fair compromise for all user groups.

Implementation, including registration provisions, is anticipated in the fall of 2014.