Sacramento, CA – Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) to reauthorize and reform the state’s Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) program passed the legislature today. The program was set to expire at the end of 2017 absent legislative action. As part of the reauthorization, Allen sought to strengthen environmental protection measures within the program. Senate Bill 249 was approved by the state Senate on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote of 40 – 0.
“Our goal from the start was to craft improvements to the OHV program that preserve this form of recreation while adding stronger protections for the natural resources and habitat that have been degraded by it for decades. I am very pleased to say that we reached a reasonable balance between these competing interests,” Senator Allen said.
The bill was the product of months of stakeholder negotiations involving representatives of the OHV rider community, environmental organizations and state agencies responsible for overseeing the program.
“SB 249 was always about finding a win-win for California,” says Greg Suba, Conservation Director for the California Native Plant Society. “With its passage, we’ve made good progress in improving conservation standards without penalizing responsible riders. Nobody wants to see California’s natural beauty destroyed, so we’ve got to keep working together to protect the places where we have fun.”
The reforms in SB 249 include a requirement that the OHV Division with the state Department of Parks and Recreation protect natural and cultural resources and use best available science and when developing management and wildlife habitat plans for lands within state OHV parks. The bill also requires the Division to implement rigorous monitoring and adaptive managing policies, and compile inventories of native plans along with wildlife and habitat. The bill limits state funding to only authorized trails and better integrates the Division’s activities with the Department’s overall mission and vision while enhancing public participation in the program.
SB 249 now goes to the governor who has until October 15, 2017 to sign it into law.
# # #