MT BHA for Larger Licence Plates on ATVs

SB 383

Chairman and members of the Committee

I represent Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, with membership across Montana.

There are many reasons provisions of this bill are needed.

This bill promotes responsibility and accountability.   Numbers of ATVs continues to increase.  While many use these machines appropriately, abuses are also widespread.  These abuses endanger other people when used on our public roads, damage public land resources , illegally penetrate areas closed to their use to protect resources or allow other people who seek quiet and solitude.

Private landowners are increasingly frustrated with trespasses and abuses of these machines on their ranches and properties.

People with the most to gain with this bill are those who own and ride these machines responsibly.  ATV users image is currently  tarnished by irresponsible riders.

Full sized plates are needed:

Enforcement of existing laws cannot rely only on law enforcement officers.  Currently public lands in Montana only have 1 law enforcement officer for each 620,000 acres.  Providing the tools for ordinary citizens to identify irresponsible users is essential as a deterrent to those who know they can be reported and prosecuted.  On the Bitterroot National Forest 200-300 formal complaints are filed about ATV abuses, but only less than one are prosecuted , in part because of lack of proper identification of the violator.

Large plates are consistant with all other 4 wheeled vehicles in use on our public roads.  Some ATVs seat passengers side by side and very much resemble the Willys jeeps I grew up with.

Plates are needed both front and back because identification may only be possible from one angle or the other as machines pass someone.

Large plates are simply easier to read at longer distances.  Large plate numbers are still smaller than those required for Boats.  Size requirements for boat numbers were chosen for their visibility at reasonable distances.(SHOW Display)

Large plates can easily be accommodated by ATVs used today.  They can be easily attached by metal or plastic clips on both the front and back tubing grills that exist on virtually all ATVs used today.(reference handouts of photos with plates)

I want to relate one particularly frustrating incident.  I was district ranger for 300,000 acres west of Missoula.  On my day off in my own pickup I observed 3 ATV riders cutting a new 4 strand barb wire fence we had required the grazing permittee to erect to correct some resource damage.  As I approached these three men, they told me in colorful language to get out of the way….they were coming through.  I had to get out of the way to avoid being run over and they gave me the one fingered salute as they rode off.  They had no plates….only the small registration sticker.  There was no way to identify these irresponsible riders.

In closing, I ask you to support this bill.  Having readable identification will be a deterrent to those who are tempted to do irresponsible or illegal acts.  It improves the image of responsible riders by holding irresponsible riders accountable.  It will help all of us who want safe roads and respect for public lands.

About Caitlin Thompson