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Originally published June 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 9, 2008 at 5:05 PM

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Nevada urged to crack down on off-road vehicles

Nevada lawmakers urged to crack down on off-road vehicles as landscape is being torn up by a minority of reckless drivers

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ELKO, Nev. — A coalition of ranchers, sportsmen, conservationists and law enforcement authorities urged a state panel to end Nevada's status as the only Western state without a registration program for off-road vehicles.

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, chairman of the Legislative Committee on Public Lands, said his panel would consider drafting legislation after it holds a final meeting of the year in August in Lovelock.

At a hearing Friday in Elko, supporters said a minority of irresponsible off-roaders is tearing up Nevada's landscape and prompting a need for a registration program for all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and similar machines.

Backers said they think the registration law would make it easier to nab offenders, and stressed they are not opposed to responsible off-highway vehicle use for recreation and work.

"Some users are reckless and inconsiderate. They are damaging precious natural resources, and we need regulations," said Dan Gralian, president of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association.

Access to public lands is at risk because the federal government will close roads if the state fails to take action, Gralian added.

Jeremy Drew, a director with the Coalition for Nevada's Wildlife, agreed Nevada would pay the price without a law requiring the titling and registration of off-road vehicles.

He said a 2005 report showed 25 percent of OHV owners use their vehicles for hunting, and higher percentages use them for fishing, photography and other recreational uses.

"Population growth has resulted in this problem," said Drew, whose group includes sportsmen and conservationists. "It's a small percentage that hurt the rest of us."

Elko County Sheriff Dale Lotspeich, speaking on behalf of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said law enforcement can't enforce off-road vehicle laws without more funding.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has only 28 uniformed officers for Nevada, Lotspeich said. Eighty-seven percent of Nevada's land is managed by the federal government.

"It's a big land mass with few officers," said the sheriff, a longtime OHV vehicle owner. "It's a growing burden with a growing number of reckless drivers."

Lotspeich cited an incident in which men on quads chased deer through a dense wooded area. The men tried to get the deer to hit trees so they could knock off their antlers and sell them, he said.

Attempts to pass legislation establishing a registration program and adopting other rules for OHVs were attempted but failed last year, in 2005 and 2003.

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