By Ramona du Houx
For thousands of Mainers who love to take peaceful walks, hikes, bike or ride horses along paths the Excutive Order Governor Mills signed creating a Task Force to investage the growing number of incidents where ATV riders break laws is long overdue, but very welcome.
ATV riders are creating dangerous climates and pose a threat to others who wish to enjoy the outdoors, as well as to themselves. Preventable deaths have increased because of careless and negligent riding.
On May 1, 2019 Gov. Janet Mills signed an Executive Order to create the All-Terrain Vehicle Initiatives Task Force. Although there are many ATV users who are operating on public and private lands responsibly, the Task Force comes at a time when there are other ATV operators who are disobeying state laws and trespassing on and damaging private lands, causing private landowners to consider posting their land which would jeopardize Maine’s long-held tradition of open access and threaten the state’s recreational economy. Governor Mills’ Executive Order establishes the Task Force to evaluate and recommend policy changes that will protect private lands and help preserve outdoor recreation opportunities, like ATV use, and their economic benefits.
“Maine’s many responsible ATV users should not have to pay the price for the actions of a few irresponsible actors. But that may be the case unless we act,” said Governor Mills. “Maine has a proud history of outdoor recreational activity, and I want to ensure it stays that way. This Task Force will help preserve our traditions and their substantial economic contributions while also protecting public and private lands.”
“Maine is well known for its network of ATV trails and the tradition of landowners allowing recreational access for offroad vehicles,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso. “The ATV task force is designed to ensure that the concerns of private landowners are addressed, in order to continue Maine’s tradition of landowners and land users working together to enjoy Maine’s outdoor recreational opportunities.”
ATV Maine, Maine Woodland Owners, and the Maine Forest Products Council expressed support for the Task Force, “ATV Maine commends Governor Mills for her Executive Order creating the Task Force. ATVs are an economic boost for Maine’s rural economy and another avenue for folks to enjoy Maine’s great outdoors,” said Ed Pineau of ATV Maine. “We appreciate and look forward to working with Maine’s landowners, large and small who generously allow trails on their properties. We look forward to serving on and working with the Governor to promote our industry for the benefit of Maine’s Environment and her citizens.”
“We support a complete review of the ATV trail system in Maine,” said Tom Doak, Executive Director of the Maine Woodland Owners. “That system relies largely on the willingness of private landowners to allow access. The growth in ATV use, size and weight of machines, and expansion of the trail network requires a fresh look.”
“The large landowner representatives of the Maine Forest Products Council appreciate Governor Mills' leadership in creating the ATV Task Force,”said Patrick Strauch, Executive Director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “The expansion of trails and increased size of ATVs is leading to serious concerns about property damage, environmental harm and safety in Maine's working forests. We look forward to working with the Task Force on these challenging issues.”
The Task Force is charged with:
- Discussing creating an ATV trail system with consideration to ATV size, weight, environmental impact and other relevant factors;
- Discussing construction and maintenance standards for Maine’s ATV trail system;
- Creating a plan to enforce compliance of trail construction and maintenance by the State, including discussion of third-party inspections;
- Creating a communication and outreach plan for the Maine ATV trial system to include a focus on landowner considerations designed to educate the public on responsible ATV operation
- Discuss ATV registration requirements based on size, width, weight and/or value; and
- Discuss the adequacy of funding for the oversight, construction and maintenance of the ATV trail network.
The fourteen-member Task Force will be appointed by the governor and will represent large forest landowners, a statewide forest products organization, a statewide small family woodlot organization, large farmland owner, statewide farming organization, utility corridor right-away owner, land trust organization, statewide ATV organization, combination ATV/snowmobile club, Maine ATV dealer, statewide snowmobile organization, the Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry ATV program, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) Landowner Relations Program. It will be chaired jointly by the Commissioner of IFW and a member representing a large-forest or farmland owner. The specific members of the Task Force have not yet been appointed.
The Task Force will submit its recommendations to Governor Mills on or before January 1, 2020, after which the Task Force will dissolve.