Where the rubber leaves the road

  Updated April 17, 2008

 

 

As of July 1, you might want to think twice about driving your ATV off designated trails in Colorado. That’s when HB 1069 – signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, D, on March 20 – goes into effect. In what might be the strongest attempt yet to keep off-road vehicles from ripping up the backcountry, the bill gives local peace officers the power to ticket off-roaders on federal lands. It’s a move that’s unprecedented in public-land management.

 

Now, Colorado county sheriffs, state Division of Wildlife law enforcement or even state police officers will be able to enforce off-road violations on national forest or Bureau of Land Management lands, writing tickets and imposing fines instead of just handing out court summons. “It’s a major shift in policy,” says one of the bill’s primary sponsors, Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. “People all across the country have been watching to see if this would pass.”

 

So will a bill like this really keep people from off-roading in prohibited areas?

 

“Any time we have more people out there who can cite people, it could help with prevention. More eyes, more feet on the ground,” says Paul Krisanits, a Forest Service law enforcement officer. If off-roaders think that there’s a good chance they’ll be seen going off designated routes and cited, they might decide to avoid the hassle – and the expense -- and stay on the trail.

 

The fine for riding off designated trails is $100 in a non-wilderness area, and $200 in a designated wilderness area. And if a rider is ticketed while hunting or fishing, he or she will also receive license suspension points. A non-wilderness violation gets 10 points, and a wilderness violation gets 15.

 

The real teeth of the bill could be in those suspension points. “Hunters and anglers are allowed 20 penalty points on a license,” says John Smeltzer of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. A $100 or $200 fine might not matter much to someone who can spend, say, $5,000 dollars on an ATV. But the license points could add up quickly and, as Smeltzer says, “You could lose your hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado,” as well as in the other 25 states that are part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. (Under the 1989 agreement, a hunting or fishing suspension in any member state is recognized in the others.)

 

The new law has another important provision that federal agencies are already in the process of implementing. Previously, off-road trails were designated closed with signage. Anything without a sign was considered open. The new law reverses that: Signs and maps will designate trails as open, while anything unmarked will be considered closed.

 

But the state’s law enforcement officers won’t be handing out tickets right away. “The first year will be an educational transition period for everybody,” says Glenn Graham of the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition. That means lots of warnings will be given to rogue off-roaders, while the Forest Service and BLM begin to update their maps and post new signs. It’s the start of a more effective way to address off-road use on public lands, notes John Smeltzer. “This is a model piece of legislation for the West.”

 

The author is an intern for High Country News.
High Country News Classifieds
  • GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS MANAGER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a Government Affairs Manager to support our legislative and administrative advocacy efforts in Colorado. This new, mid-level position will report...
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance, a leading grassroots conservation advocacy organization for over 30 years, seeks a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help...
  • OPERATIONS AND FINANCE MANAGER
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization led by women, seeks a resourceful, self-motivated, team player to serve as Operations and Finance Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) fosters community stewardship, education and awareness of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR AT WILDERNESS WORKSHOP
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...