IDNR to Require Public Access Stickers for Off-Highway Vehicles

SPRINGFIELD — People wanting to operate an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike in Illinois this summer will have to pay the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to do so.

Starting July 1, the IDNR will require people operating off-highway vehicles, such as ATVs and dirt bikes, to purchase an annual $15 public access sticker. 

The public access stickers can be purchased over the counter at “DNR Direct” point-of-sale vendor locations that include Wal-Mart stores, bait shops and sporting goods stores. 

“Anywhere you can get a hunting license or a fishing license, you can get these stickers,” IDNR Spokesman Chris McCloud. “There’s thousands of them (point-of-sale vendors) throughout the state.”

Anyone caught operating an off-highway vehicle without a public access sticker after July 1 will be charged a $120 fee.

“It’s a petty offense,” said McCloud.

The $15 off-highway vehicle fee is one of over 30 IDNR fees that have either been created or increased, as part of Senate Bill 1566. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed SB 1566 into law last month. It went into effect Jan. 1.

Instead of paying a three-year, $6 registration fee, people operating non-powered watercrafts, such as float tubes, canoes and kayaks, must purchase an annual $6 “water usage stamp.”

SB 1566 also increases boat registration fees. The registration fee for boats less than 16 feet long has increased from $15 to $18; boats at least 16 feet but less than 26 feet, from $45 to $50; boats at least 26 feet but less than 40 feet, from $75 to $150; and boats 40 feet or longer, from $100 to $200.

In addition to recreational activities, SB 1566 creates and increases regulatory fees for water permits, consulting work and licensing coal mining officials. 

A $2 surcharge has been added to the Illinois license plate renewal sticker fee, as a result of SB 1566.

The $2 surcharge will generate between $20 million and $22 million in revenue for state parks that are operated by the IDNR. It prevents the IDNR from imposing state park entry fees, said McCloud.

“The first original idea that was floated in a similar house bill for the state parks was to charge some kind of an entrance fee,” said McCloud. “You would be able to buy some kind of a day pass or a yearly pass to a park. There are some serious drawbacks to doing it that way. It was not something that was supported by the Governor either. And for us, we felt after doing some research that charging a very nominal $2 increase on your license plate would allow everyone who is a registered vehicle owner in the State of Illinois — your license plate will now be your sticker into any state park. We have over 300 state parks, natural areas, wildlife areas, fish and wildlife areas.”

SB 1566 was created as a sustainability package for the IDNR that has lost over half of its general revenue funding from the state in the last 10 years.

“Our agency has been cut over the last decade by more than 55 percent in general revenue,” said McCloud. “Our staffing has decreased by over 58 percent over that same decade, and because of the ongoing issues with pensions in the state, which are very costly, the Medicaid issue, which was a big drain financially on the state, that general revenue fund, which is the general fund shared by multiple agencies every year — that pot of money is shrinking.

“In 2002 the agency was funded through the general revenue fund to the tune of about $106 million in that particular fiscal year, and if you fast forward 10 years since, now here in 2012, our general revenue is now at $48 million. The agency had to find a way to sustain itself, meaning not rely on general revenue to fund and run the agency, and so, Senate Bill 1566 was created.”