Amendments to the Occupiers Liability Act to help prevent resource road closures and reduce the possibility of injury-related lawsuits are now in effect, as the general public heads into the backcountry to enjoy B.C.'s wilderness this summer.
"These changes are an important first step to simplifying the regulations covering B.C.'s vast network of resource roads," said Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson. "Reducing the possibility of injury-related lawsuits will encourage road maintainers to keep roads open and preserve access to B.C.'s wilderness areas."
B.C. has an estimated 450,000 kilometres of resource roads that provide commercial and recreational links to vast expanses of the province's backcountry. Currently roads that do not access year-round communities are sometimes closed to the public after an industrial user no longer needs the road.
The amendments will help keep more backcountry roads open by establishing that people using resource roads of their own accord do so substantially at their own risk.
"We use these roads, both new and old, and feel they should be left open whenever environmentally possible," said Terry Wardrop, ATV Association of BC. "As recreational users, we're willing to accept reasonable accountability in return for the ability to enjoy our sport in a sustainable manner."
In addition to lowering the duty of care owed by the Crown and road maintainers, the revised legislation shifts the onus for personal injury insurance coverage to third-party users and brings the government's resource road policy into line with policies covering rural agricultural land and marked recreational trails.
"We support these amendments because they will keep more back country roads open for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation," said B.C. Wildlife Federation president Bill Bosch. "The B.C. Wildlife Federation can provide liability insurance to its members through clubs, direct members, and programs such as the outdoor passport."
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