SB1377 is working its way through the legislature and will be changing how the OHV fund is administered. This appears to be an attempt to slow the statewide issues developing between private landowners, ranchers, cities, and towns involving an increase in motorized access to public lands.
What does SB1377 do?
- Changes the term “Off-Highway Vehicle” to “Off-Highway Vehicle User.”
- Doubles the number of Arizona Game and Fish OHV Law enforcement from 7 to 14 officers.
- Increases the State Land Department allocation from 5% to 15% to increase access over state land and develop mitigation projects.
- Allows state land lessees reimbursement for damages caused by OHVs.
- Decreases funding for Arizona State Parks Board from 60% to 50% to administer the Arizona OHV fund.
- Requires the acquisition of land to be approved by the State Parks Board via a public meeting.
- Establishes 10% of the 50% allocated to State Parks, for law enforcement efforts.
- Establishes at least 10% of the 50% allocated to state parks for state land lessee impacts.
- Allows Arizona State Parks to approve projects that address impacts to state land lessees, non-federal projects, and projects between state, local, and the federal government.
- Requires the Off-highway Vehicle report to include the number and status of OHV injury claims.
- Removes the 30% allocation of OHV users fees to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund administered by ADOT.
The new Bill will amend Title 26, chapter 3, article 20 of the Arizona Revised Statute to add ARS 28-1182 that will compel OHV users and their passengers to respect private property. It also removes the obligation of landowners and lessees to maintain lands and trails for safe entry by recreation users or warn of unsafe conditions.
Article 20 will also be amended to add ARS 28-1183 that will compel any person who rents or sells an OHV to provide vehicle safety and environmental educational material approved by the Arizona Game and Fish, to the customer.
“Opperate or allow the operation of”
This new law could make passengers and other group members liable for the actions of others. By striking out the word “drive” and adding the language “or allow the operation of,” it may compel others to intervene to stop violations of state OHV laws. This would also target rental companies and require them to somehow intervene and not allow the operation of machines in violation of the law.
Violations of state OHV laws are class 2 or 3 misdemeanors and carry a maximum penalty of up to 4 months in jail and $750 in fines plus surcharges and probation. Likewise, a judge can order a defendant to complete 8-24 hours of community service or complete an OHV training course.
Section 7: Required training course before obtaining an OHV sticker.
Starting December 31, 2022, OHV users are required to complete a training course on OHV safety and environmental ethics before obtaining an OHV sticker. Users will be required to show proof of completing the course to the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicle while data between AZG&F and the DVM relating to persons who have completed the training course, will be shared.
Section 7 of SB1377 will be repealed after May 31, 2025, and requires the Department of Transportation to submit a report by December 1, 2024, containing the result of implementing the educational requirements and about the costs associated with the implementation.
The Department of Transportation will also make recommendations for legislative and administrative action to the governor, the president of the Senate, speaker of the house, and provide a copy to the secretary of state.
Lack of legislative involvement
Several people from Sedona provided testimony in favor of the legislation. One rancher emphasized the problems derive from rental UTVs before showing a video of several UTV roll-over accidents. The same video was shared on social media by Arizona Game and Fish without context telling UTV users, “don’t be a jerk!” Another woman started crying while explaining that UTVs are tearing up the roads, and killing the trees by blocking photosynthesis.
Several Republican lawmakers were in agreement with the measure and Senator Kurr acknowledged she wasn’t aware of the issue. She claimed that it was a complex issue and there has been no involvement by the 4×4 community.
Rebecca Antle from the Arizona State Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs was the only person to speak on behalf of offroad users and appeared to support the bill. She objected to the reduction of funding that goes to local clubs for grants and vowed to work with Senator Kurr to help her better understand the challenges of the offroad community.
This bill is being supported by the City of Sedona and anti-access groups pushing to restrict access to forest roads around Sedona and dispersed campsites around the Verde Valley. It is a direct result of the bad actions of novice public land users who don’t face the consequences of violating the law. Because a handful of users are causing disturbances, all public land users in Arizona will pay the consequences. The negative actions give anti-access groups the ammunition they need to campaign against the 4×4 community as a whole.
This is not the fault of any business or 4×4 group. It is the individual user who decides to become less desirable. A majority of us understand the importance of using public lands responsibly and we have fought to maintain a standard for several decades. We can not police the general public, rental users, or anyone else on public roads. That’s the job of law enforcement. We can, however, install a sense of respect and accountability to those around us and assist law enforcement.
These new requirements will not solve the problem which has become the focal point of this argument. Rental UTVs driven by novice users with the absence of law enforcement is the problem, and the answer is simple. Provide the funding needed for counties to put more deputies on the ground to hold bad actors accountable.
We support and encourage Sherriff Deputies and the enforcement of existing laws.