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SALT LAKE CITY — Electronic bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in Utah and across the country. However, state wildlife managers are warning some e-bike riders that their bikes are now illegal in off-road parts of wildlife management areas.
Class II and Class III e-bikes are now banned in off-road areas at all 193 wildlife and waterfowl management areas in the state, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. This comes after the Utah Wildlife Board approved a measure in August to reclassify Class II and Class III e-bikes as motorized vehicles, which means riders must obey the same restrictions as cars, trucks and off-highway vehicles.
Division officials explained that they altered the rule because some e-bikes were "ruining" habitat meant to protect the state's wildlife. They believe the rule change can help reduce habitat destruction.
"In areas where there is a lot of e-bike use, notable habitat damage is occurring," said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Capt. Chad Bettridge in a statement Thursday. "With the increased use of e-bikes, we are seeing these properties damaged, ultimately limiting our ability to manage them for their intended purpose."
The division had some limitations prior to this week's rule change. Officials only allowed Class I e-bikes on established roads and other authorized areas within waterfowl management areas. Class I e-bikes contain a battery and electric motor that can assist a rider to reach up to 20 mph when a rider is pedaling but don't contain a throttle, according to Bike.com. These types of e-bikes aren't impacted by this week's rule change.
Class II and Class III e-bikes do have throttle systems. Bike.com notes that a Class II e-bikes can allow a rider to reach 20 mph without pedaling, while Class III e-bikes can reach 28 mph through pedal assist. The website notes that some regions ban these types of bikes on off-road trails or mountain bike trails, much like the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has at its wildlife management areas.
Anyone caught riding a Class II or Class III e-bike in off-road areas will be cited with an infraction, according to Bettridge. The full list of the division's wildlife and waterfowl management areas can be found here.
"While we would like to provide recreational opportunities on our WMAs, these properties were purchased for the benefit of wildlife and wildlife habitat," he said. "These properties are public land, but they are not multiple-use like many other state and federally-owned properties."