SACRAMENTO, CA – Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) to reauthorize and reform the state’s Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) program was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown. The program was set to expire at the end of 2017 absent legislative action. The legislation, Senate Bill 249, will strengthen environmental protection measures within the OHV program.
“The reforms signed into law today represent a fair approach that strengthens protections for natural resources and habitat that are degraded by OHV riding, while still allowing OHV enthusiasts to enjoy this recreational activity,” 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 enactment, 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 protects natural and cultural resources and uses best available science 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 plants, wildlife and habitat. The new law will take effect January 1, 2018.
The governor signed a companion measure, SB 159, which permanently extends a portion of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation program’s funding that is set to expire at the end of the year. This funding, which makes up about a third of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Division’s revenue, is derived from the fees paid by off-highway motorists when entering OHV parks or registering their vehicles, and it goes directly to the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund. The remainder of the funding for this program comes from a portion of the gas tax. SB 159 makes no changes to how the revenue is collected or used, or where the money goes.
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