Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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ATV bill off to governor

Associate Editor

St. Paul A Senate bill regulating the use of all-terrain
vehicles on state lands was largely “unrecognizable” when it
emerged from conference committee earlier this week say some
supporters of the original Senate measure.

Several environmental groups had called for strict regulations
on ATVs, including special accounts to pay for ATV damage to land,
“responsible rider” certification, and the presumption county
ditches are closed unless counties acted to open them.

What they received were more scaled-back regulations, they
say.

The bill, a compromise between a more restrictive Senate bill
and House bill that generally gave more freedom to ATV riders, now
must be approved by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Tim
Pawlenty. It creates an ATV “damage account,” gives local
governments control over ditch riding, and gives the DNR
commissioner power to withhold money from “grant-in-aid” clubs that
violate the law.

The bill also states the DNR must review all state forests and
classify all as either limited or closed. The earliest this must be
done is 2006, but, according to Matt Norton, forestry advocate for
the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the department
could delay action until 2010.

“A lot of this is in the hands of the DNR,” he said. “They wrote
it, and it gives them tremendous leeway.

“The biggest threat to the land and to the majority of
Minnesotans who recreate and enjoy what we have is the fact that we
may have to wait eight years before (ATV riders) have to stick to
the trails that are designated.”

Here’s a more detailed look at state forest rules.

According to the legislation, by Dec. 31, 2006, the DNR must
complete a review of forest classification status of state forests.
The review must be conducted on a forest-by-forest and
area-by-area. After the review, the DNR must change its status
(formerly “managed”) to “limited” or “closed,” and provide a
similar status for each of the other areas.

If the DNR commissioner decides the work can’t be done by the
set date, it can be extended until Dec. 31, 2008.

Until Dec. 31, 2010, the state forests and areas subject to
review are exempt from environmental review, in order that the DNR
get trails “on the ground,” without delays because of lawsuits,
supporters say.

There will be exceptions to some of the ATV rules regarding
their use for hunting purposes.

The ATV bill also does the following:

Except as otherwise allowed by the DNR commissioner, by June 1,
2003, riding is “closed unless posted open” on state land
administered by the DNR;

Civil citations for off-highway vehicle (OHM) violations are
set, and riders are subject to restitution payments;

A damage account, provided for by a one-time transfer of
$500,000 from the ATV dedicated account, is provided;

An increase in ATV registration fee, from $18 for three years,
to $23 for three years until 2005, then to $30 for three years
after Jan. 1, 2005;

Local governments are given control over the use of ATVs in
ditches, but the DNR can limit the use of ATVs in ditches if it
determines public resources like vegetation on state land, or
waters of the state, are threatened.

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