TRENTON - The 300,000 New Jerseyans who drive off-road vehicles would face harsh penalties for riding them in state parks under a bill pushed forward yesterday by Assembly legislators.

The proposal was endorsed by environmentalists, who say the vehicles are destroying pristine areas and endangering park staff and visitors.

Gylla MacGregor of the New Jersey Audobon Society said: "I've seen ATVs ride right through habitats, pulling up timbers that we put in place and riding right over where the snakes are."

Off-road vehicle users say they are being targeted for the shoddy actions of a few. They also say the state should provide more areas where they can ride legally.

The bill would amend a 1973 law that imposes a maximum fine of $200 for taking off-road vehicles onto state land. The new law would allow authorities to impound the vehicle for at least 48 hours and to charge owners $500, plus towing and storage.

It also would permit authorities to impose a two-year driver's license suspension on anyone who operates an off-road vehicle in a state park.