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The Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants to create more places for ATV and off-road motorcycles to ride. Photo by Chris Young.

DNR addressing concerns over OHV sticker rules

November 28, 2013 at 11:18 AM

The State Journal-Register

The director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said the agency is working to make a change to the off-highway vehicle sticker required in 2014 to exempt private landowners.

The $15 sticker required for all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles and other similar machines is intended to help DNR raise enough money to match federal funds that are available for motorized trail development.

Right now, DNR director Marc Miller said $1.4 million in federal dollars are waiting to be matched. The sticker is expected to generate up to $800,000 per year.

The fee was part of the DNR sustainability bill that was passed in the state legislature a year ago. The main provision of that bill was the $2 surcharge on license plate renewals that would help fund state parks. DNR expects about $20 million to be generated by the license plate surcharge.

Of that $20 million, $10 million is earmarked for capital projects in state parks and the other $10 million for administration.

Passage of the sustainability bill “was a big victory for us,” Miller said, referring to a backlog of maintenance at state parks estimated to cost $750 million.

Fees on other services, such as endangered species consultation and oil and gas permits, will raise an additional $10 million.

“It is the ‘user pays’ principle,” Miller said of DNR’s effort to move away from reliance on general tax revenue.

Thanks to ongoing state budget shortfalls and a backlog of unpaid bills, DNR’s share of general tax dollars has been cut in half during the last 12 years.

Work continues

But some of the new fees are still being worked out.

The new off-highway vehicle (OHV) stamps will be valid from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015. The stamps will cover the same time frame as fishing and hunting licenses.

“But some of the other fees included in the sustainability bill have not yet been fully implemented,” he said. “One of those is the OHV sticker.”

There are already some exempted uses, such as those who use OHVs for agriculture.

DNR also plans to exempt golf carts, commercial businesses and qualifying hunters with disabilities.

Miller said his agency wants to be responsive to those who helped negotiate the sustainability bill.

“Right now, there are no exemptions for landowners where you do not reside on the property,” Miller said, referring to land that may be owned strictly for hunting or recreation, but where the landowner does not live. “That is the situation some people are upset about, and rightfully so.”

A place to ride

Despite some issues to be worked out, Miller said the OHV fee is necessary and important to expanding recreational opportunities.

“We have to find some way to capture the dollars and promote another form of recreation we do not currently offer,” he said.

DNR currently does not have any trails for motorized vehicle use in state parks.

“We have bike trails, equestrian trails and multi-use trails, but no motorized trails,” Miller said.

During the winter some trails are converted to use by snowmobiles. Those motorized machines already have their own sticker, and that money goes into a dedicated fund for snowmobiles. Funds are granted to snowmobile clubs for trail grooming and insurance.

“When you look at other states, they have tremendous resources around us for motorized trails,” he said. “We don’t have anything to offer them.”

Miller said the federal dollars could be used to improve current state property to allow motorized use, or to acquire new land.

The latter is more likely as spaces dedicated for motorized use would not conflict with current uses of state parks.

“We pretty much have some loose criteria for where we site them,” Miller said. “We think new acquisitions will be better.”

It would be difficult to retrofit existing sites, and federal money can be used for either purpose.

“Our goal is to be sure it is not in an area that is ecologically sensitive and with no endangered and threatened species around,” he said.

New sites should be easy to access from major highways.

“Isolated places don’t lend themselves to tourism,” Miller said. “Our goal is to provide places for people to ride.”

Chris Young can be reached at 341-8487 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at

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