By Korie Marshall

New legislation promises funding for trails as well as a safety and regulatory structure for BC’s off-road vehicle users.

In late February, the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations introduced new Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) legislation to replace the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act. If passed, the legislation will establish a one-time registration requirement for off-road vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles or “quads”, dirt bikes and utility terrain vehicles. Off-road vehicles will require a number plate in order to be operated on Crown or other public land. Snowmobiles have required registration in BC since the 1970’s and BC is currently one of the last provinces to require registration of other off-road vehicles.

Curtis Pawliuk, Manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association, says there are many benefits of the proposed act, including new safety standards, ease of identifying stolen machines, and ensuring off-road vehicle activities will continue to be environmentally sustainable into the future.

The province says the legislation will allow the development of safety standards and rules of operation, such as wearing helmets, and will assist in identifying stolen or abandoned vehicles by giving access to the registration database to peace officers. It will also give officers more effective tools to target the small number of ORV users that endanger others or damage sensitive habitat, including the ability to stop and inspect an ORV, seize an ORV for safety or evidence purposes, and increase the maximum fine for offences from $500 to $5,000.

Pawliuk says motorized groups and individual enthusiasts have supported and requested this update for a long time.

“I believe most are very excited to see this needed update to the existing regulation.”

He says it will not affect the out-of-province visitors to Valemount as they have been used to these standards for years in other provinces, and sleds already require registration.

“It is good to see British Columbia catch up with much of the rest of Canada.”

“What is really exciting,” says Pawliuk, “is the proposed creation of the ORV Trail Management Sub-account which will allow future investments directly into developing and maintaining trails in rural communities.”

Greig Bethel, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says the Ministry manages over 90 designated snowmobile areas in BC and many designated dirt bike and ATV trails. There are also undesignated ORV trails across the province that are maintained by local user groups, and ORV riders also use resource roads as trails as well. All of these trails require funding to maintain, and Bethel says the Ministry currently funds some of the designated trails, but they are mostly maintained through formal volunteer agreements.

If approved, Bethel says the ORV Trail Management Sub-account will fund the maintenance and development of ORV trails across the province, but the details are yet to be developed with stakeholder associations. There are not expected to be any changes in the trail authorization process as a result of the new Act; any proposed new trails on Crown land will still require authorization from the Recreation Sites and Trails branch or another Crown agency.

An estimated 200,000 ORVs are used in the province, in a variety of sectors including farming, ranching, forestry, oil and gas, mining, sport, tourism, transportation and search and rescue.