WHEREAS the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) for recreational use on public and private lands pose complex management challenges; and
WHEREAS OHV use impacts the triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental outcomes; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta does not have effective legislation, programs or management strategies to address the issues arising from recreational OHV use;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta introduce an annual motorized off-highway vehicles (OHV) permitting process and fee structure with all revenues dedicated solely for the creation of OHV areas, maintenance of OHV areas, enforcement and educational programs; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta identify non-recreational OHV users that would be exempt from the licensing fee; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta amend current legislation to enable the consolidation of recreation management oversight and responsibility to a department and/or agency to better address OHV issues; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta develop and introduce enhanced liability protections into legislation that better safeguard the interest of the Crown and private land owners where OHV activities occur.
With the number of OHVs increasing in Alberta, there is a corresponding increase in pressures and challenges associated with their use. As OHV ownership has increased, greater activity has been witnessed in areas where OHV use is permitted; there has not been a corresponding increase in infrastructure supporting or enabling OHV activity.
In Alberta, there is relatively little public funding available for recreation management programs and, in particular, those dealing specially with OHVs. Any available revenue sources are from general revenues and departmental budgets. As a result, the management and control of OHVs must compete for limited funds with other provincial priorities. In contrast, other jurisdictions have taken proactive measures to deal with OHV use and have established programs that create dedicated revenue streams for specific programs. These revenue sources include user fees and permits, regulatory charges such as vehicle registrations, operator licensing and fines. In the absence of a reliable, dedicated funding source, it will be difficult to address the issues surrounding OHV recreational use. A recreation management strategy is required to tackle environmental impacts, reduce user conflict and increase public safety while addressing liability issues.
The impacts of OHV use on lands throughout the province, particularly from an environmental perspective, have been receiving increased attention. From the adverse impact on fish habitat, disruption and displacement of wildlife breeding and nesting habitats to the impact on flora and the potential loss of a food source or wildlife, the need for a recreation management plan is crucial to balance the interests of OHV users, other recreational pursuits and the environment.
OHV use has also resulted in conflict between users and private land owners, most notably, agricultural producers. Illegal access to private agricultural lands has resulted in damage to fencing, escape of livestock, damage to crops and agricultural lands as well as vandalism of private property and equipment. These activities result in a direct financial loss to farmers and ranchers.
Currently in Alberta, the roles and responsibilities associated with recreation management are somewhat fragmented. The environment, parks, recreation, conservation, access to public lands, motor vehicles, roads, and liability for injuries related to recreational use of public land are often dealt with by different department or agencies. This fragmentation contributes to ambiguous rules, a lack of developed recreational amenities and difficulty in mitigating the negative impacts of recreation activities. The existing legislation fails to provide clear direction or enabling authority. Consequently, many recreation management decisions such as OHV use require the involvement of ministers or Cabinet. Due to the politicization of OHV recreation management, both previous and current governments have failed to move forward on this matter.
Another crucial subject that needs to be addressed is liability. In Alberta, the legal protection from lawsuits arising from trail-related injuries has evolved and provides better protection than in the past. The provincial Occupiers Liability Act lessens the duty of care owed to recreational users in some situations, however, the legislation is complex and does not provide adequate assurance potentially affected parties. While it addresses and enables access to recreational opportunities, it fails to provide protection and the certainty that would advance actions or initiatives such as trail development or implementing user fees.
Inaction will further perpetuate the issues, challenges and conflicts surrounding OHV use as the province recognizes continued population growth and increased OHV activity.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.