Repairing damage from off-highway vehicles no easy task

Nora Avery-Page, Cronkite News Service[Source: Nora Avery-Page, Cronkite News Service] — Surrounded by illegal off-highway vehicle trails, this one patch, with a replanted cactus taking root, marks an effort repair at least some of the desert near Mesa.  Boy Scouts planted the cactus and several others dotting this landscape, and groups representing riders, hikers and others often volunteer to help repair damage off-highway vehicles cause here.  “There’s a lot that can be done, but it takes a lot, lots of funding and manpower,” said Tammy Pike, OHV and trails coordinator for the Tonto National Forest.  “We try to reach out and have as many people help us as we can.”

Tonto sees more than 900,000 visits each year from off-highway vehicle riders, and land managed by the state and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management also is attracting more and more riders as Arizona’s population grows.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates that off-highway vehicle use has more than tripled since 1998.  A bill being considered by the Arizona State Legislature would create a registration fee for off-highway vehicles that would help fund, among other things, projects to repair damaged landscapes.  Damaged areas can be restored if there is sufficient money and effort, officials say, but the scale of the damage makes it makes it virtually impossible to repair everything.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Three legislators kill popular ATV bill (Tucson Citizen editorial)

[Source: Tucson Citizen] — When is three greater than 37?  When the Legislature starts counting votes.  A bill with wide bipartisan support in the Legislature and broad backing from groups that traditionally don’t get along with each other was killed this week.  The bill, which would have required that all-terrain vehicles be registered and owners pay a user fee, was co-sponsored by 37 legislators, more than one-third of the total.

HB 2573 easily passed the House 43-13, with four members not voting.  It was sent to the Senate and assigned to the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.  The bill died Wednesday on a 3-3 vote.  The only southern Arizona senator on the committee, Marsha Arzberger, a Democrat from Willcox, voted to support the bill. 

ATV safety and control legislation is a definite need in Arizona, and the bill had support on the basis of widespread concurrence on that point.  Off-road vehicle use has risen sharply, by 350 percent since 1998, the Arizona Game & Fish Department reports.  That has exacerbated the issues of rider safety and environmental damage.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Bill seeks off-highway vehicle fee to fund restoration

An illegal trail created by off-highway vehicles scars the Desert Wells Multi-Use Area near Florence Junction in fall 2007. Officials say a trail blazed by one rider invariably attracts more riders, eventually compacting the soil and destroying plant life. A bipartisan group of lawmakers backed by a diverse coalition including conservationists and riders groups is advocating for a bill that would make owners of off-highway vehicles pay a registration fee that would be used for cleanup, education and enforcement. The bill also would clarify and toughen the definition of illegal off-highway vehicle use. Photo by Jonathan Cooper, Tucson Citizen.[Source: Daniel J. Quigley, Cronkite News Service] — Owners of off-highway vehicles would pay an annual $20-$25 registration fee under a bill that supporters say would help repair damaged landscapes, promote responsible riding, and cut down on dust.  It’s the second straight year Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, has introduced a bill calling for an off-highway vehicle fee.  Last year’s failed by one vote in the Senate.

Weiers said this session’s version, HB 2573, stands a better chance because it has bipartisan support and the backing of groups representing riders, conservationists, vehicle dealers, and others.  It has nearly 40 sponsors and co-sponsors from both parties.  “Every year we wait damage is being done that’s going to take centuries to repair,” Weiers said.  “And we can’t afford, cannot afford, to keep putting this off.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]