Off-highway vehicle owners face changes

Whether you use them to haul your big game back to camp or for exploring Nevada’s backcountry, owners of off-highway vehicles soon will have a little more paperwork to complete before they can take their motorized toys out for a spin. With the passage of Nevada Senate Bill 394 during the recent legislative session, state law will mandate the registration and titling of off-highway vehicles.

The legal definition of an off-highway vehicle (OHV) is “any motor vehicle that is designed primarily for off-highway and all-terrain use, including, without limitation, an all-terrain vehicle, an all-terrain motorcycle, a dune buggy, a snowmobile or any motor vehicle used for recreational purposes on public lands.” That covers just about everything.

When state laws are passed, they include a specific date to be enacted. SB 394 had two effective dates, the first providing a time period to establish an administrative infrastructure to implement the law, and the second date establishing when the titling and registration requirement goes into effect.

The administrative portion of the OHV law went into effect June 2. It provides for the creation of a state commission on off-highway vehicles and the adoption of regulations to govern implementation of the law. These regulations are where the details will be laid out.

The commission will consist of 11 members appointed by the governor, each chosen to represent a specific interest group: authorized dealers, sportsmen, ranchers, the Nevada Association of Counties, law enforcement, conservation, OHV users who use the vehicles for purposes other than OHV riding and OHV users who use their vehicles specifically for off-highway recreation. The latter will include users of ATVs, off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles along with off-highway motorcycle racers. Commissioners will serve a maximum of two three-year terms.

Titling and registration requirements will become effective July 1, 2011. Anyone who acquires an OHV on or after that date must apply for a title and registration within 30 days of making the purchase or otherwise taking ownership. Someone who acquires ownership of an OHV before the effective date will have the option of titling his vehicle, but registration will be mandatory. Those who fall into this category will have one year to apply for registration.

OHV owners who register their vehicles will be issued a sticker or decal to display much like a license plate on an automobile. Registration won’t be required for OHVs owned by government entities, those registered in another state and present in Nevada for less than 60 days, or for OHVs used in bona fide agricultural purposes overseen by the OHV’s legal owner.

SB 394 limits the fee for titling an OHV to no more than the amount imposed for titling a vehicle as outlined in chapter 482 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. Currently that amount is $20. Given the state’s dire fiscal situation, my guess is the titling fee won’t be any less than that. The annual registration fees will be determined by the new commission. By law, those fees must be from $20 to $30.

A portion of the fees collected through the program will be placed in the Fund for Off-highway Vehicles. Any money directed to the fund must be used only for projects related to OHVs. The law states that 60 percent of the money may be used for things such as studies or planning for OHV trails and facilities, mapping and signing trails, acquisition of land for trails, trail construction and maintenance and restoration of areas that have been damaged by OHV use.

The remaining 40 percent of the funds can be used for OHV safety training and education (15 percent), law enforcement (20 percent) and administrative costs (not more than 5 percent).

I recommend that anyone interested in OHV use read SB 394 in its entirety, though I have to warn you it can be a bit of a snoozer. You can find it online at http://leg.state.nv.us/75th2009/Reports/. Click on the Senate Bills link and scroll down to SB 394.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at dougnielsen@att.net.

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