Red and Green Sticker Seasonal Riding Areas for California OHV Program

Feb. 01, 2006 By Mike Hobbs
 April 1, 2002
Off-Highway Vehicle Questions and Answers What You Need To Be Legal! By Mike Hobbs and MXOffroad Staff
 San Bernardino National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Cal.
Page 1
What You Need To Be Legal!
Page 2
Seasonal Riding Areas
Page 3
Regulations for Off-Highway
As an OFF-ROADER, you have responsibilities to adhere to while riding on public land, even if you're unaware of them. When you go out and buy an off-road motorcycle -- more than likely -- the dealer you purchase it from won't tell you the laws that must be followed. Most won't even tell you whether your bike is awarded the red (stricter than death) sticker or green (hit the lotto and ride year round) sticker. The "Stricter Than Death Sticker" In California, this "Stricter Than Death Sticker" creates a problem, because red sticker bikes are supposedly (If This Is Fact, No Need For "Supposedly") restricted to certain times of the year. Here lies part of the predicament that a new rider faces, but unfortunately, ignorance of the laws won't get you out of a ticket. However, knowing about the laws in respect to off road motorcycling in the National Forest just might. Keep in mind, that to the non-riding public you are perceived as a wide-eyed nut case. So, for the most part, they could care less about your plight and what laws you need to follow. This in turn means you're not going to see a public service announcement on the television letting you know what it takes to be a legal dirt biker. Although your friends here at ORC are about to open a can of legislative slugs, which we'll probably regret and will probably never be able to seal up again. From my own personal experiences and encounters with other riders, we just want to ride, have a good time, and not be bothered by pesky rangers. On the other side of the coin, the Forest Service has a job to do. If you're like me, your stomach knots up tighter than a rat's sphincter each time you deal with law enforcement types on the trail. This is why; I make sure to be legal. Even though, I still feel hassled at times. This feeling might be due to environmental groups that want to put an end to off-road motorcycling in it's entirety. This causes some of us to view rangers as being on the other side and against us because one of their tenets is to protect the environment. Not that destroying the environment is something we want to do, but a red flag goes up when we hear words like that. There's no telling for sure the loyalties of a particular agency or agent you might have contact with, but one thing is for sure, you'd better be legal or a day before the judge may be in your crystal ball. With that said, I called a truce with the U.S. Forest Service, specifically in the San Bernardino National Forest to see if we could come to some common ground regarding what is expected of us as "off-roaders." Please don't take this as the "law of the land," think of it as a Pow-Wow gathering or a "trailside chat." We'll try and clear up all of the issues that face dirt bikers wanting to ride and enjoy the National Forest trails. Before we dive into details, here's a minimum list of things to know to legally ride in the National Forest. 1. Forest approved spark arrestor. U.S.F.S. approved spark arrestor should be stamped somewhere on the muffler. If you don't have any markings, the pipe probably isn't legal. 2. California off road registration-green or red sticker 3. If riding in the Los Padres, Angeles or San Bernardino National Forests, you might be smacked with a fine if your tow vehicle is not in possession of a parking permit. Look for signs as you enter the riding area. Now on to our conversations with the San Bernardino Forest Service Q: There's some controversy over the green and red sticker. If a bike like
a 1999 KDX 200 with a "C" (designates red sticker) in the eighth digit of the VIN number has been given a green sticker at time of initial registration, will he receive a ticket? Assuming he would, how is it the owner's responsibility to double check DMV?
A: I've gotten the general impression, from several sources within several
agencies, that until the DMV can show a more consistent and accurate system
for properly and correctly issuing green and red stickers, the various land
management agencies are not going to place a high priority on enforcement
of the red sticker restrictions. That is not to say that an individual
"ranger" couldn't issue a citation if he chose to -- since the necessary laws
are on the books. Reading the relevant statute, the law does not
mention whether an OHV was issued and is displaying a green or red
sticker, it speaks about specific models of OHV's that do not meet the
current State emissions standards and therefore can only be operated during
the appropriate seasons. In plain English, the law applies to the actual
vehicle (designated by the "3" or "C" in the eighth digit of the VIN) not what type of registration sticker it is displaying. So, by law, any non-complying OHV
could be cited for operation outside the appropriate season regardless of
the sticker it is issued by DMV. So ultimately it is not what sticker you
have, it is what model OHV you're operating. And that is accurately
determined by the VIN. As for "double checking the DMV," I guess that would be an example of the old adage, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
Joe Meyer
OHV Volunteer Program Coordinator
San Bernardino National Forest Association

Q: I've heard that in Northern California they are randomly checking bikes with a decibel meter. Again, how is someone supposed to know if his or her bike is too loud or not? Let's face it, someone buying a used bike has no idea about modifications that the previous owner did. A: As for the sound issue, you're right. There is no easy way for a rider to
know whether his aftermarket exhaust system meets or exceeds noise standards
without either getting it tested or consulting with someone who has
experience with the noise levels of various bike/exhaust combinations. To
the best of my knowledge, all stock exhaust systems do meet CA's 101 dB
limit for OHV's. Conversely, many if not most of the aftermarket racing
exhausts for the new breed of performance four strokes (YZ/WR 400/426,
DRZ400, XR650, KTM RFS, etc.) exceed the limit and are in the range of 103
to 107 dB. Noisy bikes are a personal pet peeve of mine and I have been
and will continue to work to help educate the riders and promote "quieter
is better." Both of my bikes, a heavily modified DR350 and a 2001 KTM MXC
520, are running with stock exhausts, and I have no plans to change that.
Here on the San Bernardino National Forest, we've begun to offer educational
sound checks at OHV staging areas such as the RR tracks in Cajon Pass and
the Pinnacles Staging Area north of Lake Arrowhead. Hopefully, we'll have
more of these opportunities for riders to get their bikes checked for sound
levels and maybe we could even make a better effort to preannounce these
opportunities so the riders could make plans to go riding and get their
bikes checked. I, myself, would also like to do more of this at the local
organized dual sport rides that travel the San Bernardino. We also sound
check every single bike that competes in the Checkpoint Enduro, most
recently held last September. My advice/opinion is simply, "Keep it
stock." I'm glad to hear that FMF has come out with their "Q" series and I
hope they perform as advertised. On the other hand, from my limited
experience, it seems the Big Gun "Quiet Core" units only make a passing
attempt at reducing noise output from "obnoxious" to "not quite so
obnoxious." Trail riding is just that, recreational riding for FUN, not
racing where every last HP counts.
So, in closing, I'd like to let you know that personally I'm a huge
advocate for OHV recreation, since I ride and race as often as I can, but
I'm also a big proponent of following the rules and being responsible users,
and that is only accomplished through knowledge of those rules. So I hope
I don't come off as a "stick-in-the-mud" when it comes to OHV regulations.
I've just seen over the years how the OHV community has harmed itself
through disregard or manipulation of the law.
Joe Meyer
OHV Volunteer Program Coordinator
San Bernardino National Forest Association

Q: A few guys I rode with last weekend told horror stories about harassment from one of the rangers in the San Bernardino National Forest. The ranger told one of the guys that his XR650R with a license plate wasn't street legal. (They weren't on the street so he took the blinkers off for the dirt). The ranger still demanded proof of insurance. A: I talked with my folks about the complaints regarding the conduct of Forest Protection Officers on Baldy Mesa. I'm not too clear on just what transpired, but I have a couple of comments. We are making every effort to provide an OHV opportunity on Baldy Mesa while protecting the natural resource. I think we can do both. We want the riders to have a good time up there but we expect them to follow the rules, confusing as they may be. Our main concerns are beating up the land by riding off trails, and fire protection. We also have an obligation to enforce the rules of the green sticker program. We get kind of frustrated when riders show up with a California license plate on their bike, no green sticker, but not meeting all the street legal requirements. One set of rules or the other need to be adhered to. I expect my officers to behave professionally and to keep in mind that we are serving the public as well as protecting the land. I believe they are all well motivated to do that, but if there was a slip, then I am very concerned about that. For my part, I am working on establishing a well-defined trail system on Baldy Mesa that will be well marked and signed (including clear regulations), and that will be a fun experience to use. We aren't there yet but I expect to be by the end of next summer. I'm sorry that for the time being we are providing an inadequate trail system while still having to enforce all the regulations. Please bear with us for now. Again, in addition to providing recreational opportunities, our main concern is fixing damage to the land up there and preventing additional damage, and preventing fires (spark arresters). We all need to keep that in mind. Thank you for all the work that you and your organization are doing. It is
a tremendous help and we do appreciate it.
Bob Wood, Recreation Officer
Front Country Ranger District
San Bernardino National Forest

Question from Kevin Gorzny- ORC art director: "I would like a good explanation of how the whole "Green Sticker/Red Sticker" thing works. I have always known about it, but being from the Midwest, I never had to worry about it. Who needs what? Red? Green? Will I need one when I go to CA to ride (legally)? How do I get one if necessary?" A: When Ronald Regan was the Governor of California, he worked with a group of legislators and created the California Green Sticker program. In short, this program was organized as an effort to manage while providing legal opportunities for the states OHV enthusiasts. The Green Sticker is a form of license plate used for off road vehicles. It is a requirement for vehicles that are not legally able to obtain a street license plate. People who have street legal vehicles can acquire a green sticker if they so desire (i.e. they only operate the vehicle off road or they want to contribute to the Green Sticker fund by having dual registration, a plate and a green sticker). The dollars generated from these Green Stickers are combined with 1/10 of 1% of the California Gas Tax. The revenue that is generated is available to public land management agencies along with county, state and local entities in an effort to manage OHV recreation. Use of this money can be used for construction, maintenance, restoration, land acquisition, law enforcement, information/education and facilities. These monies are divided up through a competitive grant application process by the California Green StickerCommission. The red sticker was developed through the California Air Resource Board (CARB). With an ever growing population, California is trying to improve the air quality state wide. The restrictions become more stringent every year. In 1997, CARB wanted all 'gross polluters' to become ineligible for registration in California. This meant all two strokes and some four strokes would be banned from using public lands (having no registration). A group of stakeholders was formed including manufactures, dealerships, enthusiasts and land management agencies. Working together, this stakeholder group was able to come up with a compromise with CARB. In areas that have very good air quality, these 'gross polluters' would be able to ride year round. After all, the air quality meets all standards set by CARB themselves. However, in areas that have a history of bad air quality, the riding would be limited to "riding seasons." These riding seasons were established to limit the amount of additional particulates these gross polluters would produce. Now, the problem, our DMV has been issuing green and red stickers to all OHV's regardless of type. This has taken the integrity out of the green/red sticker ideology. According to the State, if a vehicle has a red or green sticker, it is legal to ride year round (due to the mix up). However, any law enforcement officer has the right to cite a red sticker vehicle for riding out of season (technically). The DMV has a "flag" for gross polluters. These vehicles should only receive a red sticker. The eighth digit of the VIN number is stamped as a "C" or a "3." I am sorry for going on so long about this, I wanted to illustrate why our state has such a complex registration system. The out of state rider needs to have all of the required equipment on
their vehicle that the state the vehicle is stored in requires. If they are staying less then two weeks they don't need any California registration. California had a temporary green sticker system for folks like this but it has since been abandoned. The riders do, however, need to have current registration from the state they came from (if the state registers their motorcycles and quads) and have identification to prove their state of residency.
Greg Hoffman
Forest Service Liaison
OHV Volunteer/Adopt-a-trail Programs

Here's a quick synopsis of what you need to know to stay legal in California: 1. At the time this article was published, the red sticker seasonal restrictions are not being enforced. Although, you could still be cited for riding a red sticker motorcycle during the time it's deemed unlawful to do so. If you're on a red sticker bike during the off-season, be polite if asked by a ranger to see your registration, it could save you from getting a ticket. 2. If you have an aftermarket exhaust system on your motorcycle, it's probably too loud. As of right now, the F.S. might check it to let you know how loud your exhaust system is but won't issue a citation.
3. With a dual sport registered bike you need to follow the same laws regarding equipment as if riding on the street. This includes proof of insurance. If you have a green sticker and license plate you need to follow the rules for one or the other.
4. Out of state riders are welcome to visit CA and ride in our National Forests without getting any special permits. Although, you'd better be able to prove you live outside of California.
See you on the trails,
Mike "Baja" Hobbs
 For More Information

Air Resources Board
(800) 242-4450 (USA only) or (800) END-SMOG (California only)
To contact in writing:
P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 95812

Page 1
What You Need To Be Legal!
Page 2
Seasonal Riding Areas
Page 3
Regulations for Off-Highway
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