New ATV fees

Talk about “sticker shock”! You’ll know what I mean when you go to your town office to renew the registration for your all-terrain vehicle. For a Maine resident, the registration fee has gone this year from $45 to $74! By my calculator, that is a 60 percent increase.

It’s bad enough at the gas pumps. I walked away shaking my head. I could see maybe a 10 percent cost of living bump for the Maine ATV regulation and trail maintenance apparatus, but 60 percent is getting uncomfortably close to the gouging neighborhood, wouldn’t you say? By my measure, 70,000 registered ATVs multiplied by $30 equals an additional $2.1 million.

As a curious outdoor writer and ATV owner, I did some digging around. It has taken some persistence to get answers, but here is how the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) explains the new fees:

“The (ATV) Task Force identified and looked intensely at six objectives including what exactly is and what size is an ATV, trail construction and maintenance standards, trail construction and maintenance enforcement, public education and outreach, registration system and funding.

Looking at those objectives, you can see there was widespread need concerning trails — trail standards, construction of more trails and maintenance of new and existing trails. Also, from the very beginning it was apparent that there long had been a lack of funding to create new trails and maintain existing ones. The task force felt the best way to solve these issues was to raise the ATV registration fee, and put all the money towards trail creation, trail standards and enforcing those standards and trail maintenance.

ATV registrations were increased by $25, and all of that increase goes towards trails. This is in addition to the money from the old registration fee that goes towards trails. In all, over two-thirds of the money collected for registration fees goes towards trail creation and maintenance.”

Anyone interested in delving in detail can read the summary of the task force’s findings on the MDIF&W website. When it came to registration fee increases, the task force apparently crafted three options. As you might surmise, the option finally selected was Option Three, the most costly for those of us who operate ATVs.

To its credit, the task force, which comprised a broad array of stakeholders, dedicated a great deal of energy and time hammering out a way to improve and maintain Maine’s incredible ATV trail system. The legislation that mandated the new ATV registration fees was sponsored by state Rep. Tim Theriault of China.

Task forces have their place in public policy framework, but they are also a very effective way for politicians and government bureaucrats to diffuse public accountability. Search as I might, I have yet to find anyone among the task force or the Legislature who can show me the math regarding these new ATV fees, or, for that matter, who decided that a 60 percent increase was necessary.

The fact that most of this new money is going toward trail maintenance and enforcement may make it easier for ATV owners to swallow. We will see. Those of us who do not trail ride with our ATVs but simply use them to work around the place may be a hard sell.


The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected].


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