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Position Paper on OHV representation

Aug-02-2019:

NSFAH’s OHV committee members are Harley Conrad, Donnie Lushington, John Fraser, Bob Cross, Jeff Mcneil . Please do not hesitate to contact any of us with your thoughts or concerns on this subject.



  Over the past several years it has become increasingly clear to the NSFAH (its members, member clubs and the people it represents) that no other provincial bodies are representing our type of OHV use - either to government or with other organizations.  Because of this we are being left behind in the decision making process of government.   In general, the people we represent use OHV’s as a means to an end or as a tool to accomplish a task and we access trails with those interests in mind, therefore not generally for A to B trail-riding recreation. Example uses could be for transportation in pursuit of hunting, fishing and trapping activities or assisting with homesteading tasks such as access to camps or transporting supplies and equipment.  Many OHV users make use of these machines to make every day homesteading chores easier, such as gardening or hobby farming.



In its 2004 final report the Voluntary Planning Off-highway Vehicle Task Force chose to focus its investigations and recommendations almost entirely on the development, maintenance and control of access to trail networks for ATVs and snowmobiles. In support of that position the Task Force recommended the creation of the Off Highway Vehicle Infrastructure Fund (OHVIF) into which every OHV owner in Nova Scotia is required to pay an annual amount of $40 for the development of a trail network. Those annual payments now total in excess of $1.6 Million annually. The Task Force recommendations did, however, provide that membership on the OHVIF Executive Committee overseeing the Fund include “representatives from umbrella associations of off-highway vehicle enthusiasts”. While no invite has been extended to the NSFAH to give its input on fund expenditure priorities, the intent of the Task Force in establishing the Executive Committee makeup clearly offers the opportunity for the NSFAH to be a voice for the OHV users that it represents.



Reviewing minutes of the OHVIF Executive Committee it is it is clear that the Committee not only makes decisions throughout the year as to the distribution of the funds collected annually, it also discusses other issues that affect OHV use in the province in general.  Such matters are of interest to the NSFAH. Without an invitation being extended from the Executive Committee, NSFAH has requested, but has been denied by the government, a seat on the OHVIF Executive Committee. No reasons were given at the time by Lands and Forestry minister Margaret Miller as to why NSFAH was denied a seat on this Committee.  NSFAH’s membership is regulated to pay into this fund, yet we have no decision-making input as to how those funds are disbursed.



Another restriction of the current setup needs to be recognized. Besides having no access to policy discussions and decision-making of the Executive Committee, neither NSFAH itself nor member clubs within the NSFAH are permitted any access to the fund that contains the monies that they are forced to pay unless they join one of four groups: ATVANS, SANS, NSORRA or NS Trails. ATVANS represents only the 3&4 wheel ATV owners, SANS represents the snowmobile users and NSORRA represents red-plated dirt bikes. So of these four groups, it is only ATVANS that represents the interests of any ATV owners at all and their focus is almost entirely on trail construction and maintenance. Such interests, though, are merely a subset of the interests of all OHV owners. Further ATVAN’s interest is so narrow in focus that they refuse to qualify the NSFAH or any of the almost 30 individual member clubs within it to be able to belong to their organization or more specifically you must own a 3 or 4 wheeled machine to be a member.



  The views and priorities of NSFAH members and like-minded users – being about 26,000 of the 30,000 registered ATV/side by side owners in the province - are currently not represented in the Nova Scotia OHV  3&4 wheeled world because their interests include angling, hunting and trapping and OHV’s are used as a means to an end.  Being forced to join a club that doesn’t really represent your interests or core values in order to have any opportunity to contribute to policy development related to your interests or to gain access to public monies that all Nova Scotian OHV users are forced to pay does not seem fair in today’s world. Nova Scotian OHV users should not be forced to pay into a fund that they cannot access unless they join one of the four organizations.



As an example of the type of policy decisions influenced by ATVANS and the OHVIF Executive Committee is one that results in NSFAH members and the majority of legally operated OHV’s in the province being excluded from “managed” trails on provincially protected  and private land - trails that are being built and/or maintained with money from the OHV Infrastructure Fund. OHV club members from New Brunswick, however, are allowed to use these trails while the Nova Scotians who pay for the trails are not.  The offsetting agreement – that ATVANS trail riders can use NB trails – is of no value to the vast majority of Nova Scotia ATV owners as trail riding is not their interest yet we are forced to pay for these interests at no benefit to ourselves and in some cases pay for trails that we end being excluded from using.



NSFAH is currently the only provincial organization positioned to represent the vast majority of OHV users regardless of the type of OHV machine that they use or the way in which they use them.  ATVANS represents only 3&4 wheeled OHVs, SANS represents snowmobiles and NSORRA represents only 2 wheeled OHV’s.  You cannot join one of these clubs unless you own the specified type of machine.  For some types OHV owners there is no organization that represents the machine that they own that sits on the OHVIF Executive Committee. And with only about 25% of all registered OHV users in total being represented by these three organizations, NSFAH fears that nobody is representing the concerns of the other 75% of OHV owners.  As NSFAH represents the individual and his/her interests and uses for the machine - not the type of machine they own and use.  It is well positioned to bring a useful perspective to the decision-making.



NSFAH is well aware of the potential damage that improper use of OHVs can and does cause. NSFAH hopes to work within its organization and with other groups to educate riders on how to use these machines in environmentally responsible ways moving forward.  Because NSFAH represents its members and their broad cross-section of interests – not just the type of machine on which they ride or a narrowly focused trail riding interest that they may have – they are well positioned to access OHV owners not being otherwise targeted.  Our members use OHV’s not only to further their recreational interests (which could include angling, hunting and trapping) but they also use their OHVs for many homesteading chores such as firewood hauling or snowplowing which are made easier, more enjoyable and maybe even only possible by OHV use. NSFAH does not want – or support – OHV use in areas that have been shown with proven science to be environmentally sensitive. We hope to lead by example and through that leadership example change, to the greatest degree possible, the public perception that all OHV owners are bad for the environment.  When operated responsibly, OHV’s can be used to the greater benefit of all.



NSFAH is hoping to work towards safe, educated and responsible use of OHV’s while balancing the need to protect and sustain the environment. NSFAH’s primary goal is to conserve the natural resources for generations to come and it believes that it can do this while balancing the need for motorized access.  NSFAH does not support motorized access at all costs – what we do support is access that is environmentally sound and responsible.



Through education and through collaborative discussions we hope to come up with ideas that can not only re-allow access where it is currently restricted, but can work towards remediation of the damage inflicted to some areas done by irresponsible motorized access.  NSFAH represents users who do not generally purchase an OHV to go on rallies but instead purchase them to further our chosen recreational activity. This type of user does not enjoy riding in a wetland or on a lakebed. The type of user we represent is very conservation minded and aware of the careful manner in which they need to operate their machines. This type of user will also walk the extra mile to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.  This is the type of user that NSFAH will be promoting.



For more detailed information on points brought forward in this discussion paper pleases access these links which include the most current reports released by government:



https://novascotia.ca/natr/ohv/pdf/OHV_Final_Report.pdf



https://ecologyaction.ca/files/images-documents/file/Wilderness/OHV_Action_Plan.pdf



https://novascotia.ca/natr/ohv/pdf/17-45600_Off_Highway_Vechicle_Infra_fund.pdf



https://notices.novascotia.ca/files/public-accounts/2018/highway-vehicle-infrastructure.pdf