House votes to protect private land from ATVs

Posted May 19, 2011, at 10:42 p.m.
Last modified May 20, 2011, at 9:27 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Acting on a perennial issue before the Maine Legislature, the House has voted on a bill seeking to bolster private landowners’ protections from all-terrain vehicle users.

By a 90-56 vote Thursday, representatives gave preliminary approval to the bill, which still faces further House and Senate votes.

Now, a game warden may stop an ATV if the warden has a “reasonable and articulable” suspicion to believe a violation of the law has taken place. The bill approved Thursday allows a game warden to stop an ATV on private land without that suspicion, which was the standard in the law before 2009.

Supporters say passage will improve relations between ATVers and landowners and encourage them to allow access to their properties.

Opponents warn that the bill could violate the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches.