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Thread: Trails association gives Utah 'average' grade

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    Trails association gives Utah 'average' grade

    April 14th, 2011 @ 8:16pm
    By Amy Joi O'Donoghue

    ARLINGTON, Va. — Utah received an average grade from a national trails association that assessed all 50 states on what laws or policies are in place to promote responsible OHV riding habits.

    Although Utah is among 37 states in the country that require some sort of visible identification on ATVs and other off-highway vehicles, it was dinged for not requiring large decals or plates with letters 3-inches tall.

    The Visible ID Report released by Responsible Trails America, a non-profit organization based in Arlington, said such identifiers reduces the veil of anonymity that can come with back-country OHV use in remote areas.

    "Visible identification solves one of the biggest obstacles to stopping illegal riding -- identifying the rider. Many people we've heard from, especially law enforcement and private property owners, believe that the sense of anonymity on the trails fosters illegal riding." -Trails association report
    "Visible identification solves one of the biggest obstacles to stopping illegal riding — identifying the rider," the report said. "Many people we've heard from, especially law enforcement and private property owners, believe that the sense of anonymity on the trails fosters illegal riding."

    Overall, Utah received a score of 75 out of a possible 100, along with 16 other states. Five states, including Arizona and Nevada, received perfect scores. Thirteen states received a zero for lacking any of the five possible programs, such as having an OHV oversight board or provisions in which riders pay registration fees to help with trails management.

    The group said it issued the report in response to what it says is a growing problem of OHV abuses among a minority of riders. Increasingly, there have been confrontations with law enforcement officers or private property owners who have reported livestock being hassled, fences destroyed or other property damaged.

    Bob Turri, an ATV rider and former Bureau of Land Management employee, rejected the notion that larger identifying tags on vehicles will curb abuses.

    "I think there are land users in many groups who violate the principles of taking care of the lands," said Turri, who is on the board of directors for San Juan Public Entry and Access Rights (SPEAR).

    "I firmly believe the users across the state do a good job of policing themselves. They know before they go, what's closed and what's open." -Chris Haller
    SPEAR, Turri said, promotes responsible ridership, which includes staying on trails and respecting the rights of others. The decals now are the same size as those required on boats and are adequate, he added.

    "They work well for us."

    Chris Haller, the state's OHV program coordinator, said Utah had a law in place requiring identifying tags with 1-inch letters and numbers, but it was deemed more problematic than useful and was rescinded after just a short time on the books.

    To issue citations, law enforcement officers in general have to either personally witness the violation, or have a victim that is aggressively willing to pursue the case, Haller said. An ID tag, simply identifies the owner of the machine, not necessarily the operator, which can impede effective identification of abusers, he added.

    "I firmly believe the users across the state do a good job of policing themselves. They know before they go, what's closed and what's open," Haller said.

    Mike Swenson, executive director of Utah Shared Access Alliance, said the bigger problem is lack of access.

    "People are just looking for places to enjoy the outdoors and ride their machines. The ID plate is like giving a person an aspirin for a headache caused by a bigger medical condition."

    Swenson added it is a mistaken assumption that better identification on ATVs will deter reckless riders.

    "The type of person that will willfully break laws, such as those that recklessly drive their OHVs off legal trails or trespass on private property, are not going to be deterred by an ID plate or decal," he said. "It's like assuming people won't drive their cars while under the influence of drugs or alcohol because they have a license plate."

    Email: aodonoghue@ksl.com.

    Article: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=15149336


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