By Lynn Blamires feature writer for My Local Utah
Utah House Bill 180 passed through legislation with virtually no opposition and will go into effect on January 1st. This bill gives the off-highway vehicle (OHV) Community the tools to protect their rights to enjoy public lands.
New Law Active January 1, 2023
Beginning January 1 every person who wants to ride an OHV in or out of state will be required to take a one-time online test. The test will cover trail etiquette and rules regarding respect for property both public and private. Also, regulations on noise, both machine and music, will be covered.
A Certificate Is Carried Like a Driver’s License
Passage of the test will generate a certificate which must be carried like a driver’s license. Should you be stopped and not have the certificate, the fine is $150. It is proof that you know the rules. If you are stopped for going off a designated trail where damage has been done, you will be required to pay for repairs. This includes hunters who go after the game off the designated trail. Anyone who rents an OHV is also required to have a certificate.
All OHVs Will Display a Plate for Identification
Those applying for an out-of-state sticker will be required to take the test and have a certificate. The plate applies to Utah residents only. Existing street-legal OHVs already display a plate, those who are registered for off-highway use only will receive a plate when they renew.
The plate displays black figures on a tan background to be easily identified and must be displayed on the back of the OHV. It will be the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle to be sure that anyone he allows to ride has a certificate.
Rules for Riders Under 18
It is a requirement for all riders 18 and over. Those under 18 will receive a certificate upon completing the Youth OHV Training course. The age restriction for eight-year-olds has been eliminated. As long as the rider can reach all of the controls and has adult supervision, he is allowed to ride.
New Law Will Help the OHV Community Protect Trails
House Bill 180 is enacted to show that the OHV Community cares about the environment. We want to protect the trails we ride and show that we are doing our part. It is our chance to police our own against the small number of irresponsible riders that don’t represent the OHV Community.
New Law Will Help Regulate Burgeoning Recreation
There are 22.8 million acres of public land which makes up about 42 percent of Utah. About 220,000 registered off-highway vehicles (OHV) reside in-state; this does not include jeeps. More than 34,000 out-of-state permits were sold in 2021. That puts 254,000 OHVs on Utah trails.
Not only are there more riders on Utah trails, but their machines have also become bigger and more powerful. They don’t all fit on our restricted-width trails.
People both inside and outside of the state have discovered the beauties of Utah’s backcountry. We don’t have to travel long distances to enjoy the great outdoors. In addition, half a million people have moved into Utah in the past decade which puts more people recreating in the backcountry.
OHV Community Suffers Because of a Few
The OHV Community has been getting a bad rap because of a small number of riders misrepresenting a huge group of responsible ones. Consequently, the group as a whole is put in a bad light.
Organized groups exist who would like to see motorized recreation banned altogether. They are capitalizing on the actions of a few to advance their cause.
Management of Vast Public Lands Difficult
Because of the vast amount of public lands we have in the state, the task of management becomes very difficult. There are just not enough rangers to cover that many acres. Therefore it is easy for a rider to go wild in the backcountry and get away with it.
Pictures have been taken of the damage and presented to authorities over land managers responsible for public lands with accusations that they are not doing their jobs. Opponents will try to use this tactic to force the managers to close several trails.
OHV Community Has Hope in New Law
The OHV Community has had no defense against these attacks. That will change with this new law. Now when a person is observed damaging the land, OHV gates, or riding an OHV too big for the trail, he will be held responsible and not the whole community. If we see something, it is in our best interest to say something. We need to be taking our own pictures.
This is important now because the OHV Community is not showing signs of decreasing. Registrations in the state grew by 3.5 percent in the year ending 2021 and out-of-state permits grew by 16.8 percent. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and see this as an opportunity to root out the bad apples.