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Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association

 

PaOHV Alert-the next General Membership conference call meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 16 at 5:30 p.m.  Questions can be directed to Don McClure at

mcclureconsulting@pa.net or 717-920-1312.

 

 

PaOHV, Key Legislators Meet with DCNR

PaOHV and its legislative allies met with DCNR officials in the Capitol on March 24 to discuss the DCNR’s Guidelines for Motorized Events and dirt bike registration.  Representative Mike Regan (R-Dillsburg) initiated the meeting after hearing complaints and concerns from South Penn Enduro Riders’ members and PaOHV representatives about the Guidelines and the need for dirt bike registration. 

The March 24th meeting covered two very important and involved issues.

PaOHV thanks Rep. Regan for his rapid response in coordinating the session.  Rep. Regan teamed with Rep. Dan Moul (R-Gettysburg) and Rep. Tallman (R- Abbottstown) to include Rep. Mark Keller (R-New Bloomfield), and Rep. Erin Molchany (D-Pittsburgh).  All House members were present.  Likewise staff representing Rep. Tallman, Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Chambersburg) and U.S. Congressman Scott Perry at Denny Mann’s request (R-Dillsburg) attended.  Rep. Moul chaired the meeting.  

Guidelines for Motorized Activity

DCNR issued the Guidelines a year ago in response to a Forest Certification audit finding fault with DCNR’s forest management.  These new rules are aimed at restricting enduros, dual sport meets and other special events.  The Department argues that they are enforcing rules neglected in recent years.  PaOHV argues that the Guidelines far exceed the intent of any past benchmark. 

The Forest Certification is a forest industry designation that rates a forest for quality.  Private industry looks to the certification as a designation of top grade hardwoods.  The Certification is issued through the Forest Stewardship Council.  According to their website, the FSC is “a group of businesses, environmentalists and community leaders [who] came together to create the Forest Stewardship Council. Gathered in the first FSC General Assembly in 1993 in Toronto, Canada, the group set out to create a voluntary, market-based approach that would improve forest practices worldwide.”

Enduros have been run for over 40 years in some locations and never has Forest Certification been an issue.  Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how a one day event confined to a two foot wide track can negatively impact an entire forest system.  These Guidelines jeopardize access to motorized recreation.  The economic and charitable benefits of the sport are equally at risk.

DCNR maintains that the Guidelines were part of the corrective action plan necessary to maintain Certification.  The Guidelines require clubs to develop three enduro trail systems for use on a rotating basis and that no trails can substantially overlap.  The Guidelines prohibit the development of new trails. They set repair and remediation standards.  Priority remediation must be executed four days after the event.  Other remediation must take place within thirty days.

The Guidelines require a surety bond of $5,000 or $1,000 per acre whichever is greater.  At two feet wide, one acre is equal to 4.125 miles of single track trial.  The Guidelines do not define trail width so the basis of the bond is uncertain.  Nevertheless, Jason Hall of DCNR in communication with Mr. Mann set the standard at three feet.  For example if the total single track trail segment that has an average 3 foot impact width and is 40 miles long would total 14.5 acres,” Mr. Hall wrote in a May 3013 email.  Mr. Hall’s wider trail standard would naturally lead to higher costs.

The Guidelines prohibit new events from being held.  Only existing events can take place.  There will be no new enduros in Pennsylvania on state forest land.  This provision was not recommended in the forest audit.  Rather, it was a decision made by Mr. Hall.

No consultations were held with parties affected by the Guidelines.  The Department unilaterally opted to move these guidelines without consulting stakeholders arguing that they didn’t have time or need to ask for assistance.  Motorized recreation is the only forest user group subjected to similar rules.

The Guidelines also require two extensive environmental impact studies when developing a trail system. The first is the State Forest Environmental Review (SFER) which is the land impact study.  The second is the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) which is the wildlife impact study.  The trail must pass both standards before it can be approved. 

Representatives Moul and Regan led the discussion about the Guidelines.  They voiced concern about the arbitrary and vague nature of them.  Mr. Mann from PaOHV spoke of how difficult it is to comply with the guidelines and how they lead to eliminating future enduro competitions.  He also explained that existing events could cease as trail miles go offline with little or no ability to replace them.  Mr. Mann further noted that the rules are being applied differently by the forest districts.  Mr. Mann cited how the language “no new trails” is interpreted as absolutely no trails, no trails except rerouted trails, or no new trails beyond what is currently planned.

Reps. Moul, Regan, and Keller aggressively objected to the Department’s failure to review the guidelines with stakeholders prior to implementation.  The Representatives insisted that stakeholders must be introduced into the process to ensure fairness.  

DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forests, Dan Devlin stated the Department rushed to complete the Guidelines because of an internal dead line and regretted the lack of input from the user groups.   It was decided that all affected clubs would be invited to meet in Harrisburg at the Rachael Carson Building in the near future.  With the clubs’ input, the Guidelines would then be rewritten.  Mr. Devlin hoped this would put motorized events on the right track and still comply with the Certified Forest regulations.

Dirt Bike Registration

Dirt bike registration has been a PaOHV objective for some time.  Registration would treat dirt bikes like ATVs and Snowmobiles as an officially recognized recreational user of State Forest Land.  With this recognition, dirt bike issues would be open for discussion by the Snowmobile/ATV Advisory Committee.  This new standing would provide representation for dirt bike issues on state forest land and curtail DCNR rulings without input.  Registration will also boost the Snowmobile/ATV fund by roughly $1 million annually.

During the meeting, the House members pressed DCNR officials as to whether the Department would support dirt bike registration.  Mr. Devlin remained noncommittal arguing that the details of any bill would determine the Department’s path. 

Rep. Regan then announced he will introduce legislation within days to register dirt bikes through DCNR.  Representative Moul instantly agreed to be a cosponsor of the Regan registration bill.

Rep. Regan began circulating a cosponsorship memo to his colleagues on March 27. 

 

To keep Pa. recreation safe, lawmakers should support updates to old environmental law: Fred Brown

This editorial has appeared in several Pennsylvania newspapers.  Fred Brown is a Legislative Advisor to the Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

By Fred Brown

Pennsylvania's Recreational Use of Land and Water Act was passed in 1966 and for the last 47 years has provided "landowners" a limitation on liability if they open their “land” for recreational use without charge.

The Recreational Use of Land and Water Act of 1966 repealed and replaced a statute that only extended the limitation on liability to woodlands and agricultural lands.

The definition of “Land” in the current Act means, “... land, roads, water, water courses, private ways and buildings, structures and machinery or equipment when attached to the realty.” 

This definition extended the limitation on liability to the owner of any “land,” improved or unimproved, regardless of size or location that is free to the public for it’s use. However, the courts over the years have applied their own interpretations to the provisions of the Act. 

These interpretations have not always kept to the intent that the authors sought to achieve thereby limiting the protections to “landowners”.

House Bill 544 introduced by Representative Dan Moul (R) Adams Co., with bi-partisan sponsorship, is intended to restore the Act’s original intent and to update the Act to include certain recreational activities not foreseen at the time the original Act was passed. 

 The bill includes amenities, under the definition of “land,” needed by individuals with disabilities so they will have better access and opportunity to enjoy recreation. House Bill 544 clarifies that “land” can be improved or unimproved, rural or urban of any size and for any use. 

 The bill also addresses the two biggest concerns expressed by “landowners” the fear of being sued and the costs associated with being sued by providing for the recovery of attorney fees, if found not to be responsible for the accident or injury of the recreational user. Similar provisions exist in the Recreational Use statutes in the states of Maine and New Hampshire.

Opponents of House Bill 544, Representatives Longetti (D) Mercer Co., Gibbons (D) Lawrence Co., Neuman (D) Washington Co., and Haluska (D) Cambria Co. have drafted a total of 18 amendments that would have, if passed, eviscerate the bill and render the current Act virtually useless. 

 As an example Representative Neuman’s amendments would eliminate the limitation on liability if the recreational user is under 18, over 65 or if the recreational user has a physical or intellectual disability or a mental health condition. For the last 47 years the limitation on liability has been uniformly applied to all recreational users.

I caution that if all legislators vote to support the amendments, I believe it won’t be long before they realize their efforts will prove to be among the worst decisions ever for the future of recreation in Pennsylvania.

The Longetti, Haluska and Gibbons amendments pick away at different provisions being proposed in House Bill 544, while a few take a wholesale swipe at gutting many of the provisions being proposed. Gibbons amendment would eliminate the Act’s protection for local governments further exposing them/us to increased liability and costs of frivolous suits.

The net effect of these amendments would be to reverse 47 years of success in providing greater access to recreation of all types on public and in particular private “land.” The efforts of Representatives Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman would create such a extraordinary disincentive to any landowner, public or private, for allowing access to their land for any reason. Leading, I would argue, to closures and postings of many recreational venues currently available.

These amendments must be withdrawn or defeated, when considered by the Legislature. Instead of protecting recreational users, these amendments would eventually result in fewer, if any, lands open free to the public.

It is unfathomable that anyone would propose what these three legislators have proposed in terms of amendments to House Bill 544. If they don’t like the bill I would just urge them to vote no. 

As of this writing 26 organizations comprised of state government agencies, recreational user groups, local government associations and recreational businesses support House Bill 544. Only one opposes it, Trial Lawyers.

I caution that if all legislators vote to support the amendments, I believe it won’t be long before they realize their efforts will prove to be among the worst decisions ever for the future of recreation in Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, if you want to see more recreational venues for all manner of recreation, then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

If you want to provide additional incentives for “Landowners” to provide access for individuals with disabilities then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

If you want to support responsible recreational use and help to take the pressure off of public lands then vote to oppose the Longetti, Haluska, Gibbons and Neuman amendments and vote in support of House Bill 544.

PaOHV members need to continue to contact Pennsylvania House members on RULWA.  Ask them to support HB 544 without amendment.   The vote that was scheduled in December has be delayed until March at the earliest.  102 members are needed to pass the bill.  At this time, it is uncertain whether the 102 votes can be secured.  Rep. Moul will not permit a vote unless its passage is secure.

As of February 28, the landscape shows that Republicans will have no help from Democrats to pass this vital legislation.  This  does not mean that OHV should give up on Democrat support.  Rather, members must intensify thier pressure on Democrats to pursuade them to reject the trial lawyer's amendments and support common sense reform.

Nevertheless, at this time, Republicans will likely be on their own.  Republican lawmakers must be encouraged to reject all of the trial lawyer amendments and vote for a clean bill.     

 




 


 

 

The Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association

The Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association (PAOHV) is an independent incorporated association organized by OHV enthusiasts and businesses to fight for the rights of Off-Highway users.  PaOHV is recognized by statute by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as the sole/official voice of ATV/Trail Bike community.  PaOHV holds representation on the Snowmobile/ATV Advisory Committee (SAAC). 

 

PaOHV's Mission 

  • Promote legislation with the purpose of developing and maintaining trails.
  • Become instrumental and influential in interactions with land managers.
  • Defend the OHV community against discriminating legislation and regulation.
  • Provide assistance for legislation favorable to trail and open space recreation.
  • Foster camaraderie among motorized OHV and all recreational trail user groups.
  • Provide a medium for the dissemination of information relating to the OHV industry.
  • Provide educational opportunities related to OHV use.
  • Promote research pertaining to compatibility of OHV and environmental resources.

PaOHV Alert-next General Membership conference call is scheduled for September 16 at 5:30 p.m.  Questions can be directed to Don McClure at

mcclureconsulting@pa.net or 717-920-1312.   

 

 

 



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Lepley Appointed to DCNR Natural Gas Advisory Committee

PaOHV executive director Dick Lepley has been appointed to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Natural Gas Advisory Committee.  Mr. Lepley becomes the first OHV representative to represent OHV recreation interests on an energy related advisory committee.  Mr. Lepley will join 20 other appointees on the committee.

 DCNR formed this committee to advise the department on the management of natural gas activities on state forest and park lands.  The creation of the committee originated in the Governor’s 2011 Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Report that recommended DCNR establish its own committee.  Mr. Lepley will review development in the gas industry for their impact on OHV recreation.  The board will be led Penn State’s Dr. James Grace.  Dr. Grace holds the Goddard Chair in Forestry and Environmental Resource Conservation at the University.

 

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