SB 394 won’t close public land to OHVs

RCI employee Jeremy Drew wrote this editorial for the Reno Gazette Journal On May 29, 2009.

The Legislative Committee on Public Lands, chaired by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, sponsored Senate Bill 394, requiring titling and annual registration of off-highway vehicles. Sen. Rhoads and other rural legislators have received some misdirected criticism for their support of the measure.

While the proposal was submitted by the Public Lands Committee, the bill itself was developed by the OHV Working Group, consisting of the Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada, the Nevada Off-highway Vehicle Coalition, the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife, the Rural Nevada Alliance, the Nevada Conservation League and the Nevada Powersports Dealers Association.

Since the bill was introduced, there have been many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the intent. Many have said that the bill is a power grab by state government in an effort to raise money and close down public lands. However, the purpose of the OHV Working Group is to promote the continued responsible use of OHVs on public lands within Nevada.

SB 394 is a consensus bill developed by land users, conservationists and, most important, OHV owners and enthusiasts. It will require annual ($20-$30) registration in the form of a visible ID tag to provide accountability to the small percentage of irresponsible riders who give the majority of responsible riders a bad name. The majority of the money raised by the registration fee is deposited into an OHV Fund. The fund will be used to support OHV projects that include everything from planning, signs and mapping, to development and maintenance of trails and facilities. Money is also available for the restoration of OHV-damaged areas, OHV enforcement and OHV training. An OHV commission that is comprised of OHV enthusiasts and traditional public land users such as ranchers and sportsmen will grant the money to groups, individuals or agencies that develop quality OHV projects and programs.

There is nothing in the bill that will lead to the closure of public lands, and, in fact, it may very well help keep areas open for OHV use. It ensures that Nevada, as a state, can manage OHVs in an appropriate manner before OHV decisions are made at the federal level. This is a step in the right direction to help take care of Nevada’s public lands while maintaining a popular recreational activity, and, more important, it ensures that those critical decisions are made by the state for the state!

This bill has also been supported by the following groups: the N-4 Grazing Board, Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, Nevada Association of Counties, Churchill County, Elko County, Eureka County, Nevada Farm Bureau, the Conservation Priorities for a Sustainable Nevada (consisting of 17 conservation groups), the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Nevada Woolgrowers and the Nevada Snowmobile Association.

Jeremy Drew is coordinator for the OHV Working Group.