Off Highway Vehicles (OHV)

Summary

In recent years, Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use has increased rapidly across the country.The unmitigated consequences of such growth not only threatens the environmental health of the lands used in OHV recreation but also threatens to eliminate future OHV opportunities. Some states have taken steps to provide adequate funding for sustainable OHV management and to mitigate the environmental impacts of OHV use.

Introduction

Off highway vehicles (OHV), including off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV), Side by Side vehicles, snowmobiles, , amphibious vehicles, and any other vehicles built specifically for off-highway use, are a fun and exciting way to experience America’s natural treasures. Backcountry routes, trails and unpaved roads provide a wide range of recreational opportunities for responsible off-highway vehicle users on the thousands of miles on public lands that are appropriate and accessible for OHV use. These opportunities range from vehicle touring to vehicle access for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and other public land uses.

In recent years, OHV use has increased rapidly across the country. Some states, such as Arizona, have experienced a 347% growth in OHV usage over the course of a decade. The unmitigated consequences of such growth can threaten the environmental health and resources of the lands being used for OHV recreation. Without adequate systems in place to sustain OHV routes and proper management, degradation of the resources could threaten to eliminate future OHV riding opportunities for OHV enthusiasts.

Points of Interest

  • In 2016, three states (Tennessee [TN SB 2255], New Hampshire [NH SB 521], and Iowa [IA HB 2283]) enacted legislation pertaining to OHV fees and firearms transportation inside OHV vehicles.
  • Several lawsuits are being filed against California’s Coastal Commission for attempting to ban OHV use on the Oceano Dunes
  • OHV use/ misuse is cited as one of the top ten reasons landowners would not allow the public to hunt on their lands. Vehicles operated off-highway on public lands in many states, such as Montana and California, are required to registered as an OHV or street licensed.
  • OHV registrations for Colorado residents increased by 219% while OHV permits for non-residents increased by over 1,607% between 2000 and 2014.
  • Tourism and sales activity related to OHV recreation generates $2.3 billion annually for Colorado’s economy.

Language

  • Arizona’s SB 1167 specifically outlines appropriate use of OHVs, including provisions prohibiting use in “a manner that damages the environment” and additional provisions outlining the criteria necessary for appropriate OHV use areas.
    • Additionally, the bill establishes an OHV Recreation Fund and dictates the usages for which this fund will be distributed to benefit OHV recreation in the state of Arizona.
    • Furthermore, SB 1167 requires all active OHV users to pay an annual “use” fee (registration) in order to receive an OHV decal authorizing the use of their vehicles. The revenue generated by user fees, much like the monies from the OHV Recreation Fund, will be used to further riding opportunities for OHV users and mitigate the impact on the land and environmental resources.
    • Finally, the bill also includes provisions that outline vehicle equipment and safety requirements, including a law requiring OHV riders under the age of 18 to wear a U.S. DOT approved helmet specifically designed for motorized vehicles when riding on public lands.
  • In 2019, Maine passed both HP 814 and HP 175.
    • HB 813 limits, by definition, the size and weight of an all-terrain vehicle, prohibits the operation of motor vehicles on a designated all-terrain vehicle trail that is not on a gravel road system, and prohibits the operation of all-terrain vehicles on trails posted with size or weight limitations, unless authorized by the landowner or landowner's agent.
    • HB 175 increases ATV registration fees and provides that the increased fee revenue shall be deposited in the ATV Recreational Management Fund.

OHV access can be a great opportunity for all including those with physical disabilities to enjoy the outdoors. Four states - Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina - already offer permits for ATV access on public lands for disabled individuals who meet specified criteria.

Moving Forward

Elected officials should consider legislation to provide adequate funding for state agencies (i.e. Fish & Wildlife) to help manage motorized recreational activities, ensure sustainably, and mitigate environmental damages caused by motorized recreation. A licensing or registration fee is one way to account for OHV usage and accrue funding for state agencies to regulate off-highway motorized recreation usage and maintain environmental standards. Legislators should also consider language for a stewardship credit (e.g. a discount annual license fee), to incentivize volunteers to aid agencies in sustainably managing off-highway motorized recreation.

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