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A great way to visit New Mexico’s backcountry is by using an off-highway vehicle (OHV). This short article is intended to provide general knowledge about OHV use to keep people safe and keep OHV access available.

To make sure OHV use is done safely and responsibly, the state legislature passed the OHV Act regulating use on public lands. Much of the Act focuses on keeping kids on OHVs safe. Whether operators or passengers, all youth under 18 are required to wear helmets and eye protection and be supervised by parents or other responsible adults. 

Responsible OHV recreation keeps backcountry routes open for use. Some important tips include: 

•Using OHVs on paved roads is always illegal unless the local authority has passed an ordinance or resolution authorizing OHV usage on paved roads in their jurisdiction.

•Always have a map and other navigation devices to stay on designated roads, trails and areas. Having tools and survival gear along is a really good idea as well.

•Only operate quiet OHVs. The limit is 96 decibels, which all OHVs intended for trail use meet when they come from the factory.

•Wildfire is a huge concern – OHVs for trail use must be equipped with a spark arrester approved by the U.S. Forest Service. 

Whether used for hunting or fishing access, birding or sightseeing, as long as OHV recreation is done responsibly and safely, it’s a wonderful way to explore the New Mexico backcountry.

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