Ethics and Tips for Minimum Impact and Common Courtesy
Using the backcountry for solitude, recreation, and adventure is an Arizona tradition going back hundreds of years. Everyone using the state's public lands should do their part to ensure that these lands remain available for future generations to enjoy. Many areas attract a variety of backcountry users; regardless of what mode of travel you may choose, remember that we all have a responsibility to the environment, to others, and to ourselves. Responsible use of off-highway vehicles, OHV fund assistance to land managers, and respect for nature are the keys to the future of motorized recreation in Arizona. Please do your part and leave the land the same as or in better condition than you found it.
Hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and off-highway vehicle recreationists all have certain things in common such as a love of the outdoors and the use of a motor vehicle to get where they are going. Knowing how to Tread Lightly! with your vehicle is the responsibility of all vehicle operators.
When you encounter wildlife in the backcountry, appreciate it, respect, and LEAVE IT ALONE. It will return the favor. Keep your camp clean; bears and other animals are attracted to smelly, messy camps. If you observe a game law violation, OR wildlife harassment contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 1-800-352-0700.
If you observe destruction of the environment or private property while in the outdoors you may notify the proper authorities by calling the Arizona Game and Fish Department's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-VANDALS (1-800-826-3257).
The guidelines below were developed primarily for those who venture into the backcountry with a four-wheel drive. However, these guidelines also apply to anyone who travels into the backcountry. Adventurous recreationists need to be prepared for the unexpected.
Be thrifty with cargo space and plan accordingly. Here are some tips for a safer trip:
Off-Highway Vehicle Rules, Laws & Guidelines
- Always tell a responsible person where you're traveling and when you'll return. Give them a specific map if possible, or at least a general area if you intend to explore as you go.
Don't go alone. Two heads are always better than one and so are two backs if labor is required to free a stuck vehicle. A second person also can be a great help guiding a driver through difficult spots.
- Water, water, and more water! Take at least 5 gallons in each vehicle, plus a minimum of 1 gallon per day per person.
Stay with the vehicle if it's stuck. A vehicle is much easier to find than a person on foot.
- Walk out for help only if you know exactly where you are and how far it is to help.
- Know your vehicle. Take a safety class. Read the owner's manual. Use common sense. If a road looks too tough for your skills, it probably is. If you get in a bind, don't panic; stop the vehicle, get out and assess the situation.
Each agency that manages public land has its own rules, regulations and laws. Before using public or state lands, check with the local land management agency office about current rules and requirements. Become aware about changes in OHV regulations. Most areas restrict OHV use to established roads and trails. Some areas have seasonal closures because of wet roads or wildlife breeding or nesting areas.
- Leave gates the way you find them, either open or closed.
- Vehicles must travel on existing roads and trails.
- Camp at least 1/4 mile from any livestock or wildlife water catchments, tanks, etc.
- Obey posted signs, respect closed areas.
- If you pack it in - pack it out, don't litter.
If you ride a motorcycle or ATV always wear a helmet, eye protection, and gloves at a minimum. Long sleeve shirt, long pants and boots are also strongly recommended.
Children and ATVs
Most ATVs have big long seats. So big that it looks like two kids can share one easily, but that's not true. In fact, more kids get hurt sharing an ATV than for any other factor in ATV-related injuries. Parents are responsible for their childrens' safety. Make sure your kids ride with only approved safety equipment.
Proper Size ATV
ATV "Size" and "Minimum Ages" recommended by the ATV Safety Institute and ATV manufacturers:
- Under 70cc 6 years and older
- 70 - 90cc 12 years and older
- Over 90cc 16 years and older
The ATV RiderCourse Developed by the ATV Safety Institute provides hands-on training in the basic techniques for riding an all-terrain vehicle. The course also covers protective gear, local laws, finding places to ride, and environmental concerns. If you bought your ATV after 1986, you may be eligible for free training. Those not eligible for the free training may take the course for a small fee.
The ATV RiderCourse is available nationwide. To sign up call: 1-800-447-4700.
Alcohol and Drugs
The operation of an off-highway vehicle requires skill and good judgement. Drugs and alcohol impair both. You become a danger to yourself and others when you operate your OHV and take drugs or drink alcohol. Laws regarding DUI apply everywhere in the state, even if you are on a backcountry trail. And, the penalties are the same, including jail and the loss of your driver's license.
License and Registration State motor vehicle laws apply on many Forest Service and BLM roads, meaning your vehicle must be registered and you must be licensed. A good rule of thumb is if a passenger car can use the road, your vehicle will need to be "street legal". Some roads and trails are open to unlicensed recreational motor vehicles. Check with the local land manager for information on road status.
The "Off-Road" or "RV" plate on your ATV or trail bike is only an indication that the machine has been titled in the State of Arizona. It is NOT a registration plate and does not allow you to ride on roads that require your vehicle to be registered. The Arizona "Off-Road/RV" plate does allow operation of OHVs in California. Arizona Residents must obtain a $20 annual pass in order to legally operate un-registered OHVs in California.
Contact the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department for more information on the equipment and inspections needed to register ATVs on paved roads. ATVs are not designed to be operated on a paved surface. They are difficult to maneuver and increase the danger of an accident. If you must cross a paved road, cross at a 90 degree angle where there are no obstructions and your visibility is good.
* Provided by Arizona's State Parks.
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