A bill now before the Massachusetts House would step up enforcement against illegal Off-Highway Vehicle use on public and private lands. It’s about time.

I should say at the outset that I’m no fan of SUVs, OHVs, ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes or anything else that wantonly tears through the landscape. That being said, they’re legal in designated places and that’s where they should stay.

Therein lies the problem.

Too many of these riders think they can go wherever they want. Up to now, legal or not, there hasn’t been much to stop them. They ignore conservation area signs prohibiting riding, in some cases cutting trees and brush that are in their way. As a result, they often go crashing through sensitive areas that have been set aside for wildlife, causing damage to ecosystems that may never recover.

The bill stiffens the fines for illegal riding and increases funding for enforcement. It also includes funding for developing areas where OHV riding would be permitted.