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House Committee Sets Oct. 1 Meeting To Discuss Bill To Open Public Lands, Trails, State Park, Forest Land To Off-Highway Motorcycles, Dirt Bikes, Sport Motorcycles
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On October 1, the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee will hold an information meeting on House Bill 1706 (Gabler-R-Clearfield) to allow Off-Highway Motorcycles-- dirt bikes and dual sport motorcycles-- on public trails, state forest and park lands and other public land.

“OHM riding is and has been very popular in Pennsylvania. However, current law provides no means to insure OHM’s [Off-Highway Motorcycles] or provide legal access to trails on public lands,” said Rep. Matt Gabler, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

“This legislation will enable OHM owners to register their bikes with DCNR if they would like the ability to purchase insurance or seek access to public trails. The legislation will add OHMs to Chapter 77 of the Vehicle Code which currently regulates the use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s).

“Providing for the optional registration of OHMs in a similar manner as ATV’s and snowmobiles will provide the impetus to create more recreational and trail riding opportunities, jobs and economic growth in many areas of the Commonwealth.

“The revenues generated from OHM registrations will be used for trail development and maintenance.” 

The legislation also changes the composition of DCNR’s Snowmobile and ATV Advisory Committee and prohibits a requirement that OHM’s be required to have head lamps or tail lamps as a condition of sale.  (sponsor summary)

The Committee meeting will be held in Room G-50 of the Irvis Building starting at 10:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch online.

Background

The legislation is supported by the PA Trail Riders Association, the Delaware Valley Trail Riders, the American Motorcyclist Association and similar groups.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources released draft changes to its ATV Trail Policy in January for public comment which closed March 27.  The policy does not include Off-Highway Motorcycles.  Read more here.

At the September 23 meeting of DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council, DCNR staff expressed concerns about House Bill 1706 and said they would be monitoring it closely. 

The Council has a Motorized Recreation Work Group that will be reviewing the final recommended ATV Trail Policy and offer its comments to DCNR.

In January of 2019, the Council issued a report making recommendations on motorized recreational opportunities in Pennsylvania.  The report dealt with snowmobiles and ATVs and specifically not with off-highway motorcycles, 4-wheel drive vehicles and off-highway modified pickup trucks.

The report did say, “It would be appropriate to include such uses as comprehensive plans are developed.”  Read more here.

The next meeting of the Council is November 18.

On September 24, DCNR released its new Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan which includes references to motorized activities. Read more here.

DCNR said most user conflicts on public lands are conflicts between motorized and non-motorized activities.  

The Plan quotes a 2019 public survey which found most people use forested landscapes for viewing natural scenery, plants or wildlife, hiking and picnicking, family gatherings, relaxing or hanging out.

Only four percent use the forested land for riding ATVs and only one percent ride snowmobiles. (Page 60 of Plan)

As a result, the Plan says, “As DCNR considers expanding its ATV trail system on state forest land, it must build sustainable trails that minimize the impacts on other activities like wildlife watching and hiking.”

Visit DCNR’s ATV Riding webpage for more information for current ATV riding opportunities and policies.

Rep. David Millard (R-Columbia) serves as Majority Chair of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1102 or send email to: dmillard@pahousegop.com. Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-772-4035 or send email to: mlongiet@pahouse.net.

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[Posted: Sept. 26, 2020]


9/28/2020

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