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Changes to snowmobile legislation expected



By late January or early February the provincial Land Use Co-ordination Office should be ready to make recommendations to cabinet that could see the legislation and policy that governs snowmobile management and trail use in B.C. changed before next winter.

LUCO’s Terje Vold said the intent is for the recommendations to go to cabinet before an election is called.

"But I think the recommendations are going to be solid enough that any government will want to react to them. A lot of work has gone into this so far," said Vold.

"We are certainly hoping to get some direction this winter as to whether government wants to move ahead on some of these recommendations before people spend time working with legal advice on drafting any legislative changes. We will want to make sure that we are generally going in the right direction."

Both the government and the powerful B.C. Snowmobile Federation saw a need to overhaul the status quo for snowmobiles in this province, but each for different reasons.

The BCSF, for example, wants to build trails that connect communities throughout the province and the existing legislation – some of it more than 30 years old – presents obstacles.

One of the federation’s key concerns is the red tape involved in crossing public roads and rules that prohibit snowmobilers using any roadways that fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Highways.

The federation maintains a trail network has potential to bring economic development benefits to communities and First Nations throughout B.C. through an increase in winter tourism.

On the other hand, Vold said a review of the policy and legislation received support from government because there is "a real interest in protecting Crown land values, like wildlife and non-motorized recreational interests and other values that may be impacted by snowmobile use."

He noted that one of the prerequisites to being better able to manage snowmobilers is to be able to identify sleds that may not be in compliance with whatever the Crown land regulations of the day may be.

"And the current system of registration and licensing has just not worked effectively for a variety of reasons."

Vold said snowmobiles have seen a dramatic increase in use and there have been giant leaps in technology since legislation and policy were drafted.

The Land Use Co-ordination Office agreed to work with the BCSF as a "one window" contact point for the various government agencies in reviewing the status quo.

The two bodies jointly developed a public discussion paper in June last year making various recommendations. Public input was sought until the end of October last year.