Ecologically balanced bill that greatly improves the management and funding of the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Program is signed into Law
Support for this bill came from both the OHV and environmental community.
BAKERSFIELD, CA (October 22, 2007) - On Friday October 12, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed S.B.742 into law. This bill reforms the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) program and extends the date it is scheduled to sunset for ten years. The OHMVR program has been a source of contention for off-roaders and environmentalists alike. It has even been the subject of an audit by the State of California. The audit brought to light the fact that the management of the program, as organized, with a commission that was given the majority of the funding authority was dysfunctional. The commission, in recent years, as appointed by the legislature and Governor, had not shown its commitment to fulfill the mission of the program. During the last grants cycle the OHMVR Commission only approved $365,000, from an allotment of $18 million, for on the ground maintenance of trails. The OHMVR program has historically gone to great lengths to manage its OHV areas in an ecologically balanced manner. This bill continues that tradition while at the same time providing the needed funding for maintaining the existing OHV areas in the state.
This bill is the product of long and comprehensive negotiations with all concerned parties. It was authored by California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. Off-road recreation is often a controversial issue and all parties involved in this process are to be commended for their dedication to the negotiation process. The end product is a piece of legislation that continues the OHMVR Division’s tradition of environmental protection while at the same time providing the necessary funds to manage an increasingly popular form of family recreation. This bill is a winner for all Californians!
Some key changes made by this legislation are:
The OHMVR Commission, which previously held the majority of the funding power, now has an advisory role. It has also been expanded from seven members to nine. The two additions are to be appointed by the Governor and will require Senate confirmation. Grant funding decisions will now be made by the OHMVR division.
Fines for excursion into areas closed to OHV operation have increased from $35 to $50 for the first offense and for the second offense within seven years being increased to $75. The third offense will not exceed $150. The OHV community understands the importance of protecting Wilderness areas.
With regard to Roadless Areas, all inventoried system road and trail routes existing on or before January 1, 2009 are not only protected as legislatively intended legitimate routes but are also available for state funding.
Program funding will no longer be decided by fuel tax studies. The Revenue & Taxation code clearly states that the funds transferred to the OHV Trust Fund will be equal to the percent transferred in 2007. Adjustments will be made every five years based on OHV recreation use.
The sunset, or end of the program, is the longest period in recent history: ten years. All involved in this process believed that the bill was a good compromise and did not feel the need rewrite the program again in a short time period.
The cost of “Green Sticker” registration will increase from $25 to $50 every two years. The increase of $25 goes directly into the OHV Trust Fund. During negotiations this was a controversial issue. The increase agreed upon in the end was significantly lower than originally proposed.