Colorado bill targets off-road vehicles
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Hunters and the state’s leading off-road vehicle group are teaming up to support a crackdown on people who ride snowmobiles and ATVs where they shouldn’t.
A bill in the Legislature would penalize people who ride all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles in prohibited areas on public land.
“We know a very small portion of the recreating and hunting population causes problems, and we’re going to get them reined in,” said Dennis Larratt, chairman of the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition.
Dave Petersen, a bow hunter who lives near Durango, said he saw plenty of elk on a scouting trip in August. When he returned with his bow a few days later, Petersen didn’t find any elk but he saw tracks from the ATV he figures scared them away.
“It completely ruined my hunting trip, and that just happens all the time,” said Petersen, who works on off-road issues for the conservation group Trout Unlimited.
A bill by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, would set a $100 fine for people who ride ATVs or snowmobiles on prohibited areas of state and federal lands. Fines would double in a wilderness area, and violators’ hunting and fishing licenses could be docked 10 to 15 points and eventually revoked.
House Bill 1069 would allow any law-enforcement officer, including state wildlife officers, to enforce the law on federal lands. Federal agencies don’t have enough rangers to police their lands, Petersen said.
The U.S. Forest Service will be happy for the help, said Janelle Smith, spokeswoman for the agency’s regional office in Denver.
National forests are changing their rules on motorized vehicles and will designate areas where ATVs are allowed, Smith said. “You need to be on a designated trail, route or area,” she said.
The Bureau of Land Management was consulted on the bill’s wording, BLM spokesman James Sample said.
A 1976 federal law governing how public land is managed gives states the authority to impose fines on people who violate regulations Sample said. But each state “may have to authorize it with its own legislation,” he said.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.