PEORIA – Owners of all-terrain vehicles will be protected when using their vehicles on private property under a new law proposed by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to help finance the Department of Natural Resources through a series of new and expanded fees – part of an effort to keep the desperately underfunded agency afloat. However, after hearing from a number of ATV owners who believe the fees for all-terrain vehicles are unfair, Koehler began working with DNR to find a solution that ensures the agency gets the funding it needs while ATV owners get a better deal.
"The Department of Natural Resources plays a vital role in keeping state parks and wildlife areas open for Illinois families, and we need to make sure it has adequate funding," Koehler said. "But the 2012 law asked too much of ATV owners. We need to fix this problem."
The flawed 2012 law failed to differentiate between golf carts, vehicles used by people with disabilities and ATVs used in state and local parks and preserves. It also charged a flat fee for all ATVs, failing to differentiate between adult ATVs and vehicles used by children.
Koehler's plan (Senate Bill 2633) cuts the current $15 registration fee down to $10 for vehicles with smaller than 75 cc engines (normally used by children). It also provides clear exemptions for golf carts, vehicles for people with disabilities, ATVs used by governments and ATVs used by farmers. It clarifies that ATVs used only on a family's own property are also exempt, as are vehicles used only in ATV competitions.
In addition, DNR has pledged to use much of the money raised by the new fee to develop and maintain ATV trails on state property. This new money allows the agency to qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal matching funds.
"When ATV owners pay these fees, they should get something out of it," Koehler said. "New, improved, better maintained ATV trails will be a great family-friendly resource that should help raise the profile of Illinois' state parks."
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) is co-sponsoring a plan that allows youths, ages 16 or younger, to hunt when they are supervised by a parent, grandparent or guardian who is 21 or older and holds a valid state hunting license. This legislation, Illinois Youth Hunting License program, recently passed the Illinois Senate with a 57-0 vote.
"The more hunting opportunities we provide to the youth of this state the sooner they will experience the great outdoors, appreciate conservation and become better sportsmen," Sullivan said. "There is a proud tradition of hunting in Illinois and this plan gives families more chances to pass that tradition on to the next generation."
The new license will cost $7 and allows youth hunting throughout the appropriate seasons with a bow, crossbow or firearm. The license can be renewed every year until the minor turns 17. Upon turning 17, they will need to take the hunter safety course and obtain a regular Illinois Hunting License.
This program is based on the success of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' apprentice hunting license program, but it only allowed for a one-time license.
The proposal, Senate Bill 853, passed the Senate without opposition and now moves to the House for consideration.
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) joined fellow Democratic Senator Andy Manar of Staunton on Wednesday in a push for new Youth Hunting License in time for the spring turkey season.
"Hunting has a rich history in Illinois and should be promoted," said McGuire, who recently passed wildlife legislation to prevent hunters from poaching illegal wildlife. "This plan will create a special season for young hunters and ensure that they are kept safe while they learn the sport."
The new Youth Hunting License would be similar to junior hunting permits that are already in effect in neighboring states. The provision would allow teen hunters to join licensed family members without the cost of an expensive hunter's education course.
Instead of the course, teens would only pay $7 for the new hunting license and may even be able to cash in on the new law in time for the 2014 youth turkey season (March 29-30).
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources supports this measure. The license would be the first step for young hunters to enjoy their favorite pastime in the spring. IDNR requires all hunters to apply for different permits and licenses for various hunting activities and seasons.
The proposal passed the Senate on Wednesday and now heads to the House for further consideration.