Colorado Legislation Targets ATV Scofflaws

As an increasing number of public land-use agencies struggle to find ways to manage growing off-road vehicle use, it will be interesting to see if innovative new legislation signed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last week will help keep motorized vehicles and their operators on designated trails and roadways.

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In a bill-signing ceremony held Thursday, Gov. Ritter praised the hard work of many outdoor-related organizations--including hunters, anglers and other ATV-user groups—to find common ground toward passage of the measure.

“This is an issue that has been percolating for a couple of years and it took that long for everybody to come together to meet consensus about how best to move forward,” Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, told the Montrose Daily Press.

House Bill 1069 sets new precedent in public land management, one which will likely be watched by lawmakers and land managers in other states looking for ways to deal with all-terrain vehicle riders who fail to respect off-road regulations and use only designated trails on federal property.

In addition to setting new monetary penalties for those using motorized vehicles in off-limits areas on public lands, the new law authorizes state game and fish officers, state police and county law officers to issue citations. It marks the first time non-federal law enforcement officers will be allowed to cite someone for ATV-operating violations on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands.

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“Because this is relatively new practice, we know that the eyes of the nation will be on Colorado to see how this unfolds,” Dreyer said.

Besides implementing fines of $100 and $200, the new law will also add suspension points to Colorado hunting and fishing licenses if the violator is hunting or fishing at the time of the infraction—another unique aspect of the measure.

The law becomes effective July 1, 2008.

House Bill 1069:

- Prohibits motor vehicle use on public areas unless the land is marked accessible by the controlling land management agency.

- Makes violation of the law a misdemeanor and establishes a fine of $100, and a penalty of 10 hunting license suspension points to violators who were also hunting, fishing or trapping.

- If violation occurs in federal wilderness areas, a penalty of 15 hunting license suspension points (where applicable) and a fine of $200 for violations will be assessed.

- Makes unauthorized removal, defacing or destruction of road signs a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $100 and 5 hunting license points, when applicable.