Colorado House votes to tighten rules for off-road vehicles
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Colorado lawmakers voted to tighten the rules for off-road vehicles Tuesday despite objections that the state is taking away access to federal lands.
“This is not a privilege, this is a right to use your land, and it’s being turned into a privilege,” said Rep. Ray Rose, R-Montrose.
The measure (House Bill 1069) would prohibit motor vehicles from using public lands, trails, or roads unless it’s authorized by a sign or other means. A violation would be a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. People who violate the law while hunting, fishing, trapping would also have 10 suspension points applied to their licenses.
Violations in designated wilderness areas would carry a $200 fine and 15 license suspension points.
The bill passed on a voice vote and faces a third reading and a recorded vote before it goes to the Senate.
Supporters defeated an amendment that would have made the trails open to use unless they are specifically closed. Instead, people would be given maps to tell them which ones are open, or they could check the signs.
“We feel the responsibility is on the riders,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who sponsored the bill.
Opponents argued it’s wrong to use state funds to enforce laws for the federal government.
“We’re spending state tax dollars to enforce a federal regulation. This bill is far more than an enforcement bill. We have a change of access,” Rose told the House.
Rose said off-roaders could inadvertently break the law if they get an old map and later find the rules have changed.
Supporters amended the bill to stipulate that ranchers and others with permits for access to federal land are exempt.
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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.