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House passes proposed hike in trespassing fines for snowmobiles, off-highway vehicles

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

In an effort to protect landowners and preserve trails, increased trespassing penalties for snowmobiles and off-highway vehicles were passed off the House Floor Monday.

HF2819, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), would increase civil penalties and establish specific civil citation authority for trespassing while operating a snowmobile or off-highway vehicle. The bill would authorize conservation officers and other licensed peace officers to issue civil citations to drivers who violate certain snowmobile provisions.

The bill passed 122-10 and now goes to the Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point).

“Snowmobile trails are voluntary,” Hansen said. “Landowners who provide access for snowmobile trails, they do that on a voluntary basis. What the challenge is, if snowmobilers go off that trail, some of the landowners may have damage. And if they have that damage, they say ‘no more snowmobile trails.’

“So, if you start removing sections of the trail that are there but for the volunteerism of the landowner working with the local snowmobile club, then you no longer have a trail and that impacts not only tourism, but the enjoyment for that local economy.”

The bill, supported by the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association and the Minnesota ATV Association, seeks to deter trespassing by raising the fines.

The penalties for violating existing off-highway vehicles laws, or the proposed snowmobile and trespass provisions, would more than double.

The penalty for a first offense would rise to $250 from $100. A second offense would result in a $500 fine as opposed to $200. Subsequent penalties would incur a $1,000 fine. Previously, the subsequent penalties were $500. Fine money would be used to increase enforcement of snowmobile laws.

Hansen said the fine structure came about after a comprise by the snowmobile and ATV associations.

“Some interests wanted the penalties to be larger, some wanted to be smaller,” Hansen said.

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