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Three-year-old ATV regulations surprise to minister responsible

Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell appeared to be confused during budget debate last week about what his ministry is doing to reduce the destruction drivers of ATV and four-wheel drive vehicles cause.

The New Democratic Party's MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, Nicholas Simons, asked current minister Pat Bell during budget debate for an update on attempts to control the activity known as “mud bogging.”

Three years ago, then forests and range minister Rich Coleman had announced increased fines for people who “willfully run machines through sensitive areas.”

“Under new provisions of the Forest and Range Practices Act, people causing damage that adversely affects an ecosystem, such as driving four-wheel drive vehicles in wetlands, or riding ATVs irresponsibly in alpine terrain or range lands, will face penalties of up to $100,000,” Coleman announced in a March 15, 2007 news release. “Cases prosecuted in the criminal courts carry maximum fines of $100,000, up to one year in jail, or both.”

The legislation received royal assent on May 31, 2007.

But Bell responded to Simons' question last week saying his ministry had only recently taken over regulating mud bogging from the ministry of environment. “The Ministry of Forests and Range recently acquired the regulatory authority to actively be engaged in compliance and enforcement activities around mud-bogging, just in the last six or eight months,” said Bell. “I don't remember the exact date, but it's in that time range.”

The announcement came out of the forests ministry three years ago, said Simons. “It seems to me there's no mention in the press release of the Ministry of Environment whatsoever,” he said. “I'm just perplexed a little bit about the response.

Bell observed, “Clearly, we're on a different page here.”

In May, 2008, the ministry of forests and range published a pamphlet about the increased penalties.

A ministry spokesperson said in an e-mail to the Tyee that since April, 2008, 56 violation tickets have been issued under the anti mud-bogging provisions of the Forest and Range Practices Act.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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