New Mexico has requirements for off-highway motor vehicles. The law requires all OHV users to register their OHVs if used on public land.

New Mexico residents must purchase OHV registration decals from the Motor Vehicle Division.

The new paved road decals allowing operation of all-terrain and recreational off-highway vehicles on authorized roads are obtained the same way. No local municipality or Valencia County have passed ordinances allowing ATV or ROV operation on paved roads.

The following questions were sent to Christopher Johnson, the off-highway vehicle education coordinator for NMDGF. These are his answers.


Q: Does an OHV registration allow drivers to take their vehicles on roads — paved or dirt — or are they restricted to riding them on public land?

A: The OHV Act allows operators of ROVs and in some locations ATVs to drive on paved roads only in jurisdictions where a paved road ordinance has been enacted. The vehicle must be registered as an OHV and have a paved road decal as well.

There are also equipment requirements — headlight, taillight, brakes, mirrors and mufflers — and the operator must have a drivers’ license, as well as proof of financial responsibility (i.e., liability insurance).

The operator must wear approved eye protection — goggles, safety glasses or a helmet with a faceshield attached. An operator under the age of 18 must wear a helmet and eye protection.


Q: Valencia County and local municipalities have not passed ordinances allowing ATVs and ROVs on paved roads. Can these vehicles operate on dirt roads without the decal?

A: Private dirt roads, yes with the owner’s permission. Public dirt roads, no. Local authorities may prohibit OHVs on dirt roads in areas within their jurisdiction.


Q: The MRGCD issues permits to users who can operate OHVs on their ditchbanks — farmers and irrigators — so, they have the right to prohibit other riders even those with registered OHVs and paved road decals, correct?

A: The OHV Act exempts agricultural users on public lands. On private land the act does not apply. MRGCD can prohibit recreational riding on property they own, even if the operators have otherwise legal OHVs.

No vehicles are allowed on MRGCD ditchbanks
(Click image to read article.)

Prohibited uses:

It is illegal for any person to use an OHV to:

  • Destroy signs, windmills or other property.
  • Operate any OHV in a way that damages environment, plants, animals or creates excessive noise.
  • Harass, pursue or hunt wildlife or domestic animals.
  • Operate any OHV where prohibited or on private land without permission.
  • Operate an OHV on paved roads or highways except as allowed by local authority or the state transportation commission.
  • Negatively affect livestock and/or agricultural practices.
  • No one, regardless of age, may drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


For more information, visit

Source: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.