State extends off-road enforcement program

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently approved spending $300,000 to extend a program aimed at enforcing regulations for off-highway vehicles.

The state’s pilot program uses law enforcement officers from Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to monitor traffic in areas previously identified as environmentally sensitive or in areas earmarked for nonmotorized recreation.

According to State Trails Program Manager Tom Morrissey, law officers last year spent about 90 percent of their time on designated off-highway vehicle routes and contacted 10,000 riders. Less than 5 percent of them were issued warnings or citations, Morrissey said, the majority for failing to properly register their vehicles.

Morrissey said officers saw little evidence of off-trail damage but did report a significant need for increased trail maintenance and better signage to identify designated routes.

Commissioner Jim Pribyl said the program had a successful first year.

“The project has clearly shown that law enforcement visibility deters illegal off-trail riding and increases compliance,” he said.

The off-highway vehicle law enforcement program was initiated in March 2011 after the state parks board received numerous complaints about perceived and actual violations.

The key components are a seasonal law enforcement detail under the direction of the Parks and Wildlife law enforcement units; Forest Service and BLM law enforcement details; and a citizen-based, peer-compliance initiative and trail-condition-monitoring regime organized by the Responsible Recreation Foundation.

When commissioners unanimously voted to fund the program for 2012, they included directed rangers to focus on new compliance check areas and use of remote sensing equipment, such as trail monitors and game cameras, to monitor illegal or user-created trails.

Colorado’s OHV Trails Program is funded through the sale of off-highway vehicle registrations and use permits. More than 160,000 off-highway vehicles were registered or permitted for use in Colorado during the 2010–11 registration years.

■ In other business, the commission voted 7-4 to deny a petition that hunters be allowed to use air guns of .22-caliber or larger to hunt fur-bearers.

Parks and Wildlife staff raised several questions against allowing air guns, Regulations Manager Brett Ackerman said. Chief among these was whether an air-powered pellet would be have enough range and be sufficiently effective to prevent unnecessary wounding.

Hunters are allowed to use pellet guns to hunt blue grouse, ptarmigan and various other small game animals.

■ The commission also heard a proposal for two additions to the Colorado Natural Areas Program, a cooperative, voluntary effort to conserve ecosystems, species, geology and fossils that represent unique resources in Colorado.

The areas proposed are the 6,300-acre East Lost Park area east of Fairplay, which hosts the state’s largest population of Porter feathergrass, found in South Park only; and the 73-acre Hoosier Ridge area, a high alpine site in the Pike National Forest, recognized as one of the richest botanical sites in Colorado.

The commission next meets April 12–13 in Pueblo.


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