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Senate to Consider Amendments to Recreational Use Law

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PA Senate to Consider Amendments to Recreational Use Law


Dear PSSA Member,

Urgent-- Your Action is Needed to Contact your Legislator!

Senate to Consider Amendments to Recreational Use Law

History and Background

In past years, PSSA has issued alerts seeking member support for efforts to change the Recreational Use of Land and Waters Act (RULWA) to largely eliminate the liability concerns of landowners who allow snowmobiling on their properties. To date, the Association and its coalition partners have been unsuccessful in achieving the goal. However, the November elections have dramatically altered the political landscape presenting new opportunities to secure RULWA changes.

Passage of legislation is among one of the strategies PSSA has been pursuing to improve accessibility to land for snowmobiling on private land. Success is critical to opening opportunities on private lands. Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) has agreed to offer an amendment to SB 469 when the SB 469 is considered by the Senate next week.

Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) is the prime sponsor of SB 469 and is supportive of Sen. Folmer's amendment.

Common sense legal reform is the core of this issue. Private land owners must be granted protections from the costs of litigation filed by overreaching lawyers. Until land owners are protected from the cost of abusive and baseless lawsuits, there is little or no incentive for landowners to allow the use of private land for any incidental recreational use. To the contrary, the current system promotes a climate of fear and intimidation preventing landowners from utilizing their properties as they desire including loaning it to others for recreational use or safety training.

This presents the PSSA with an extraordinary opportunity to broaden the scope of protections afforded to landowners. Senator Folmer and PSSA are pressing for the amendment as part of a large omnibus amendment that will expand the definitions of recreational activities. If amended, SB 469 would provide all of the additional protections for landowners who allow people to hunt, ride and otherwise recreate on their property. Therefore, it will be easier for individuals and clubs to find places on which to engage in snowmobiling.

Action Needed

Contact (call, write or email) your state senator. Make your Senator aware that SB 469 is on the Senate calendar for consideration next week and that Senator Folmer will be offering the amendment to achieve the purpose and objectives as listed above. Be sure to cite the bill numbers for easy reference.

1. Ask your Senator to support the Folmer Amendment.

2. Explain that the amendment seeks fairness by leveling the playing field between landowners and overreaching lawyers.

3. Explain to your Senator that the Folmer amendment to SB 469 provides additional limitation from liability for landowners who allow individuals to use land for recreational purposes. It has long been recognized that government cannot meet the needs and demands placed on public lands to accommodate and provide for the needs of all the recreational users and their activities. That is why RULWA was enacted in the first place. The trade off for opening their private property for public recreational use was the limitation on liability should there be an accident due to no fault of the property owner or where no charge was required for access.

The provisions of the Folmer amendment recognize the emergence of recreational activities not contemplated in 1966 when RULWA was enacted.

The amendments further clarify and strengthen the intent and purpose of the statute while providing balance between the rights of the landowner and the expanded need for recreational venues.

The changes include:

· an expanded definition of "recreational purpose" which specifically lists snowmobiling as well as all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riding, walking, jogging, bicycling, exercising and horseback riding;

· an expanded definition of "land" which would be subject to the protection of RULWA, specifically listing bridges, trails, fishing piers, boat docks, paths, parking lots and items such as ramps which provide access to the disabled;

· improvements to properties;

· clarification that the current liability protection provided to landowners is not limited by the location of the aggrieved person or property;

· new language allowing in-kind contributions from recreational users to help with the upkeep of the land; and

· an award of attorney fees maybe made by the court to a property owner who under RULWA successfully defends against a lawsuit.

To find your elected official: The Pennsylvania Senate - Senators Listed Alphabetically

A copy of the bill can be found at the following site: The Pennsylvania General Assembly

Please let Lori Elliott, Executive Director, know how your Senator responded to your request and with whom you spoke should your conversation be with a staff member rather than directly with your Senator. (Email: [email protected])

PSSA will provide additional information as this important issue progresses. Please forward this to fellow snowmobilers and ask for their help!

Thank you for your help!

Fred Brown

PSSA Government Relations Specialist

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