UPDATE NV BHA Opposes AB 293: OHV Overhaul

April 3, 2013

Dear Chairman Carillo and Committee members,

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is a national non-profit conservation organization of outdoor enthusiasts who prize the tradition, challenge and solitude of America's backcountry. We believe the backcountry is the most valuable and healthy wildlife habitat, thus also the best hunter/angler habitat.

NV BHA Board members participated in the many years of contentious deliberations it required to finally come to a consensus with all stakeholders and get the OHV registration bill passed. I'm sure a number of you remember those deliberations all too well. AB 293 will negate much of the hard work to establish the current OHV registration regulation.

NV BHA has a vested interest in the effectiveness of the OHV registration legislation. Many of our members own and use OHVs to access the boundaries of our unroaded wildlands to recreate in a traditional non-motor-focus fashion. Yet our recreation experience is impacted by irresponsible and even illegal ORV use. Traditional hunts and the wildlife are disrupted by irresponsible OHV use. Key wildlife habitat suffers negative impacts from OHVs that spread weeds, create unauthorized routes and increase incidence of fire.

Our primary concerns have been for a highly visible ID on OHV vehicles and memorandums of understanding for enforcement between all entities: state, county and federal. These 2 factors are the single most effective ones to reduce the problems and conflicts our members experience on our public lands. Nevada's public lands are vast, enforcement entities are few and far between. Visible ID can assist in citizen reports of irresponsible and/or illegal use of OHVs.

I am writing to express our strong opposition to the numerous negative changes to the existing OHV registration regulations currently proposed in AB 293, as follows:

Sec. 2 , #1: Makes registration a secondary offense, disallowing an officer from stopping a vehicle for non-compliance. This essentially takes all teeth out of the mandate to register vehicles.

Sec. 2, #2: Allows non-compliant people to potentially evade compliance until stopped for some other reason (as, according to #1, they cannot be stopped for non-compliance) and then be given registration application documents. This will not be effective in assuring that people take the registration of their OHV vehicles seriously, as currently we do for all other vehicles.

The cumulative potential effect of Sec. 2, #1 and #2 is to render existing OHV registration law irrelevant and thus encourage wholesale non-compliance.

Sec. 2, #2 through Sec. 3, #1 & 2: providing optional OHV registration in the field requires, in turn, the subsequent, numerous and highly complicated provisions related to registration applications: how to track them, follow-up compliance, issue receipts, etc. We question the cost, effectiveness, fiscal and “manpower” impacts to NDOW and the counties which will be only enforcement entities mandated to provide this service (as per Sec. 2, #1&2) .

Sec 4, #1: The proposal that all vehicles 500 cc power and below can be exempted from regulation is unacceptable. It is our understanding that the intent was to exclude mini-bikes, yet such vehicles are usually well under 100 cc in power. A large number of off-road motorcycles range between 50cc and 450cc. These are potentially problem vehicles as, due to their small size, they can go nearly anywhere. The ridership of these vehicles tends to be younger, less aware of responsible riding, thus more likely to cause land damage. One reason for registration is to provide $$ for restoration of land damage. Registration of these vehicles will provide tread Lightly Education to those who most need it. This provision as written, is FAR too lenient. Even small children need to understand the responsibilities of operating a motor vehicle; that even mini-bikes cause damage if used irresponsibly.

Sec. 5: Strips authority from any federal officer to stop non-compliant persons in the field. First, we question the legality of this proposal. Further, the state does not have the personnel or funds to be the sole enforcement entity on public lands. Nevada's public lands are vast; enforcement capability has always been an issue for both the state and feds. Thus, the intent of the registration legislation was that all entities with LEOs in the field (primarily public land) would have MOUs to share enforcement capability. This is done in several other western states. As written, this provision would eliminate that sensible approach.

Sec. 6, #3 c: Question: does this mean that any person can buy and register an OHV in another state, keep it in NV and never have to register it here, leaving only NV registrants to foot the bill for OHV opportunities and/or redress of damages?

Sec. 6, #4: registration every 3 years is very bad idea. The purpose of the low yearly registration fee in the OHV registration bill was that it not be a burden, yet cover the cost of the program and begin to form a fund. Spread over 3 years, that fee would come to less than $10. No one is going to take registration seriously at that amount, the costs of the program would be unsustainable and a fund (for both mitigating impacts and providing opportunities) would not be accruing.

Sec. 7, #2: The single most important issue for our members is the size of the ID and the location of the sticker. A highly visible ID will reduce the single biggest conflict between motor and non-motor recreationists by enabling effective enforcement and citizen reports of irresponsible or illegal ORV use.

Provision #2 makes no mention of the size of the ID on the sticker. All parties involved in the legislation worked long and hard to come to agreement on this issue. The intent of the motorcycle plate size sticker was not the size of the sticker itself, but the size of the ID. For visibility reasons, the size of the ID must be, at a minimum, the size of the ID on a motorcycle plate. Further, this most important detail should be written into the legislation and not at the discretion of the NCOHV.

Secondly, the sticker location should be in the most highly visible place: the rear of the vehicle. Other states have devised solutions to the concerns for safety and damage to a rear-mount. These include flexible mounts and an exception for removal during races. The decision for placement should not rest with the full commission, but with the NV Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, with input from the other federal and state enforcement entities. These are the entities that know best what placement location will result in the most effective enforcement and enable citizen reports.

In summary, AB 293 is riddled with so very many problematic provisions, that even if amended, we fear it will still have a negative weakening effect on the existing OHV registration regulations. Please allow this bill to die, it creates more problems than it solves.

About Caitlin Thompson

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