Off-road Vehicle Legislation Coming Up In May
Pat Sziber
Conservationists have been waiting years for legislation in New Jersey that will help protect our public lands from the damage caused by off-road vehicles, which includes all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. An Assembly vote scheduled for mid-March was put on hold due to preoccupation with budget woes and the fact that two of six members were absent from the Senate Environment Committee meeting. Now it appears both bodies will take up the bills again in mid-May. The companion bills in the Senate and Assembly establish mandatory registration and tags for all off-road vehicles and increase fines and penalties on public land. Having tags on the vehicles will help conservation and law officers hold illegal riders responsible for damaging activities. There will be stricter penalties for repeat offenders. Those of us who love nature and respect our open spaces know that ORVs destroy habitat, injure and kill slow-moving species such as snakes and salamanders, disturb nesting and forage areas and interfere with quiet enjoyment of passive recreation. We also know that enforcement and restoration work is costly. Thousands of acres of public land are negatively impacted by these vehicles. What you can do: There are a number of things you can do to help expedite passage of these bills and help in efforts to further protect public lands from the illegal operation of ORVs. First, urge your state legislators to vote for passage of the bills. The Senate version of the bill is S2055 and the Assembly one is A823. You can find your State Senator and your two Assemblypersons, and even email them directly, at www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp. The site is easy to search by entering your home municipality. Some additional actions are suggested by the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, an organization that has been a top advocate of this legislation. They recommend writing letters to the editor and, as an added layer of protection, ask your municipality to adopt a local ORV enforcement ordinance, a measure that would also be greatly appreciated by local landowners, especially farmers whose fields suffer illegal ORV damage. The organization is compiling a comprehensive database of trail damage. Nearly everyone carries a digital camera or cell phone camera these days. Send photos of ORV activity and damage you see on trails to www.nynjtc.org/webform/illegal-usage-problem-report.

 

 

 

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Last revision: Wednesday, April 22, 2009