The provincial government is driving ahead with changes to BC's backcountry road system and the vehicles that use them.
The Natural Resource Road Act would take the 11 bits and pieces of legislation currently governing the various facets of backcountry roads and modernize it into a single document.
This will cut down on red tape for industry, clarify safety and enforcement issues, and save taxpayer money currently being wasted in redundancies, said Minister of Forests Steve Thomson.
"The act will support non-industrial maintainers taking on responsibility for roads no longer required by industry, thereby retaining more roads for longer periods of time," he said. "It will protect the right of the public to use resource roads except where restrictions are required to provide for safety and protection of the road or environment, and it will ensure road users are accountable for following the rules of the road and for damage they cause to a road, thereby respecting the rights of others to also use the road."
There is an ongoing public consultation process, said Thomson, and so far there have been more than 9,000 submissions of advise and anecdote.
Once the resource road legislation has been consolidated - likely in 2013 - attention will shift to the off-road vehicles.
"It is an important initiative, and we are continuing active work on the legislative package for that framework, following the public advisory process," he said. "When you bring in new registration and licensing systems, you have to make sure it is fair to all and implemented without causing problems in unexpected ways."
According to Thomson, some of the key elements of the new regulations would include:
* Enhanced safety measures should result in fewer deaths or serious injuries, especially among youth.
* Improved tools to help compliance and enforcement officials identify irresponsible off-road riders and track stolen vehicles.
* Opening up the province by connecting rural communities and contributing to a world-class trails system through the designation of numerous public road crossings for off-road vehicles.
* Environmentally friendly muffler standards will reduce noise disturbance to wildlife and recreationists; spark arrestors will reduce the risk of forest fires.
* Reasonable costs that will be based on a user-pay approach and comparable to other small vehicles.
Prince George Conservation Officer Gary Van Spengen has been seconded to a research office where he is one of the lead researchers on the issue of off-road vehicle policy. His extensive experience in conservation enforcement and field work is helping write the new laws about using quads and side-by-sides and other rec machines. He said that work was still "in the early stages of analysis and really preliminary drafts."