American Council of Snowmobile Clubs
Chequamegon-Nicolet National State Forest/Plan Revision
Public Land News
National Wilderness Institute
Wilderness Act Reform Coalition
Wisconsin State Representatives
If you don't know who your US representative is, then click here to find out who they are.
Exceeding 50 mph will cost nighttime snowmobilers $150
By MEG JONES
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Madison - Snowmobilers will no longer be able to speed across frozen lakes or zoom over trails at more than 50 mph at night under an emergency rule passed by the Natural Resources Board on Wednesday.
In response to a record number of snowmobile deaths, which numbered 38 last season, alarmed DNR officials proposed several ways to make the sport safer, such as increasing the number of wardens to enforce snowmobile laws, toughening drunken snowmobiling laws and creating a nighttime speed limit of 50 mph.
But a snowmobile enforcement bill died in the Legislature earlier this year, which left the Natural Resources Board as the last resort to make snowmobile trails safer this winter season.
The speed limit goes into effect as soon as a legal notice is published, which probably means that as of Dec. 14, snowmobilers will have to throttle back their engines as soon as it gets dark, said Karl Brooks, DNR snowmobile and ATV administrator.
The speed limit is in effect only for this winter season. Board members said they hoped the Legislature takes up the issue at its next session. If it doesn't, the DNR board can pass another emergency rule next year.
Of last season's 38 deaths, 10 were attributed to speeding while 14 others could have been avoided if drivers had slowed to avoid hazards at night, Brooks told the board. Of the 24 speed-related deaths, 21 involved alcohol. The number of fatalities could have been higher, because the season lasted only seven weeks.
"From the start of the first fatal crash to the last fatal, one snowmobiler died every 40 hours in Wisconsin," Brooks said. "As you may recall, the snowmobile season was abruptly halted by unusually warm weather in February. Had this warm spell not occurred, it is estimated the death toll would have been 50."
Board member Catherine Stepp criticized a nighttime speed limit, saying the majority of law-abiding snowmobile enthusiasts will be penalized for the actions of a few who drink too much before getting on their machines.
"I do not understand how imposing a 50 mph speed limit will prevent people from partaking of alcohol and killing themselves," said Stepp, who said she enjoys snowmobiling with her family.
"What I'm worried about is we'll start with a nighttime speed limit and then soon there will be a daytime speed limit," said Stepp, adding, "I don't think regulations will change people's behavior."
Brooks said Minnesota has had a 50 mph speed limit both day and night for snowmobiles since the late 1960s. Last season there were 17 snowmobile enthusiasts killed in Minnesota, less than half the number in Wisconsin.
Brooks also said that a Minnesota study showed that a snowmobiler driving at 40 mph would need an average of 220 feet to stop while the machine's headlights allow the driver to see only 200 feet. Wisconsin snowmobile organizations such as the Wisconsin Association of Snowmobile Clubs are backing a night speed limit. Snowmobile groups have recognized that something must be done to prevent so many injuries and deaths, said Mark Larsen, chairman of the state Snowmobile Recreation Council.
"It's coming down from the Legislature that if we don't do something to police ourselves, they'll do it for us," Larsen said.
The problem with driving a snowmobile too fast at night is that snowmobilers often over-drive their headlights or don't see hazards such as ice chunks, tree stumps or open water until it's too late. Of the deaths in Wisconsin in the last nine years, three-quarters occurred when it was dark, said James Langdon, vice chairman of the snowmobile council.
But Stepp said the speed limit will have little effect on the death toll. "I see this as a Band-Aid that's not really solving the problem," she said.
However, board member Trygve Solberg said a speed limit will give wardens a reason to stop snowmobilers who are driving too fast and check to see whether they're drunk.
Driving a snowmobile too fast while it's dark will cost speeders $150. The DNR defines the hours of darkness as half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise. There were 550,000 snowmobile users in Wisconsin last year with 214,000 registered machines, according to the DNR.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 7, 2000.
The trail has been closed due to the damage done by carbides and stud equipped machines. This portion of the trail was paved for the "roller bladers" and "bicycle riders". Previously the trail consisted of hard packed crushed limestone. Hard packed crushed limestone makes for a multipurpose use trail, by paving the trail, use is now limited to a select few. All of the other multipurpose trails in the state are made of crushed limestone. Bicycle riders are able to use this type of surface, however, roller bladers are not.
This is an unacceptable decision to close a portion of the trail to snowmobilers. It was the snowmobilers and their clubs that built the trail. Snowmobilers paid for and put in all the bridges and other improvements neccessary on this trail. To then take it away from snowmobilers is unfair to say the least. This is a public use trail and should be open to everyone to use, not paved and then limited to a select few.
The Wisconsin DNR has an opportunity this year to pave an additional portion of the Drumlin Trail (Wales to Dousman) which would surely close that portion as well to snowmobilers. This option is on hold until either a statewide policy is developed through the meetings of trail users or through working with local snowmobile users for an acceptable solution that will protect important links to club and county trails.
People, we need to act now to protect the Glacial Drumlin Trail from any future paving. Don't think for once that since you might not use this trail that paving of trails is limited to the Glacial Drumlin Trail. Many other trails in Wisconsin are being considered for paving and thereby limiting use to a select few by closing it to snowmobilers. If you are not a member of a snowmobile club, then join one and get involved. Protect your sport! Below is a list of people to contact about this, call everyone and let them know.
The below links open a new browser window, simply close that window when done by clicking the small "x" in the upper right corner of the new window. Do not forget to let your State Representative know as well. Simply click on the name of your representative to obtain their phone number or email them. If you don't know who your representative is, then click here to find out who they are.
Paul Sandgren, Supt.
Southern Unit - Kettle Moraine
State Forest Team
Western Drumlin Contact
Eastern Drumlin Contact
President of Waukesha County Snowmobile Association
Written: Jan. 23, 2000
With hundreds of acres of prime farmland and woodlands being lost to development each year in Waukesha County, snowmobilers are finding it harder to conduct their winter sport on rural trails.
The recent announcement by the state Department of Natural Resources to ban snowmobiles for the first time on seven miles of a state-paved trail in Waukesha County also has focused attention on decreasing miles of snowmobile trails.
"We're losing trails to subdivision and expansion of communities," said George Edwards, former president of the Dousman Snowtroopers Snowmobile Club.
The loss of the seven miles on the Glacial Drumlin Trail only makes matters worse for snowmobilers, he said.
The ban on snowmobiling on a portion of the 48.5-mile Glacial Drumlin Trail from Waukesha to Cottage Grove was prompted by damage to the asphalt paving and decking on wooden bridges from carbide studs on snowmobile tracks.
The studs on the snowmobile tracks create grooves and ruts in the pavement and chew up wooden decking on bridges.
With another six miles of the Glacial Drumlin Trail scheduled to be paved from Wales to Dousman this year, snowmobilers fear that trail and additional routes will be lost.
"If they (DNR) pave the trail into Dousman, they will cut off one of our outlets to go from Dousman to Highway 67 into the Oconomowoc-North Lake-Ixonia area," Edwards said.
He predicted "that trail will be shut down" by the DNR when the paving is complete.
The condition of the trails has pitted the snowmobilers against in-line skaters and roller-skiers, who rely on smooth pavement for their sports.
"When you are going down the trail and you hit that bumpy stuff, it gets kind of treacherous," said Dennis Krueger of Wales, a roller-skier. "We want to stay off the road as much as we can. We need smooth pavement.
"We pay trail fees to have smooth asphalt. It seems to be not fair if we are paying $10 and don't have decent trails and have to go back on the roads where it's dangerous."
But Edwards also raised the fairness issue.
"I think the snowmobilers have done a lot of work on the (Glacial Drumlin Trail)," Edwards said. "You don't see the bikers, walkers and roller-bladers working on them. The snowmobilers are getting short-changed."
Edwards noted that the Snowtroopers supplied the labor and the hand tools for building two bridges on the Glacial Drumlin Trail.
"The Snowtroopers built two bridges so we had something to go across between Dousman and Jefferson," Edwards said. "Before that, they were just railroad trestles."
Snowmobilers also note they help the Sheriff's Department in snow emergencies. In past years when snowstorms have stranded people on highways or in their homes, snowmobile riders have taken people to safety or to hospitals for emergency care.
Paul Sandgren, superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, said the DNR and the Waukesha County Snowmobile Alliance are working to find a parallel trail on private land adjacent to the paved portion of the Glacial Drumlin Trail to accommodate snowmobile users.
"We're working to find an alternative route," Sandgren said.
Harold Butschke, a member of the Waukesha County Snowmobile Alliance, said snowmobilers from throughout the area are concerned about the continued loss of snowmobile trails in Waukesha County. Since 1981, he said, the county has lost 70 miles of trails to development.
According to the Waukesha County Snowmobile Alliance, there are 109 miles of snowmobile trails in the county on private land and 56 miles on state lands in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. County parks feature another 10 miles of trails.
Meanwhile, the demand for the trails remains high. Waukesha County ranks third in the state with 8,914 registered snowmobilers, up about 100 compared with 20 years ago. And many out-of-county snowmobilers use trails in Waukesha County.
Statewide, the number of snowmobile owners has grown to 214,600, up from 176,0000 in 1980.
The Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs recently took a position against future paved trail development on abandoned railroad rights of way if the trails can't be used by snowmobilers.
The issue of banning snowmobiles from a state trail sparked the interest of legislators, including Republican Reps. Steve Nass of Whitewater and Dan Vrakas of Hartland.
In a letter to DNR Secretary George Meyer, Nass complained about the closing of the paved portion of Glacial Drumlin Trail to snowmobilers.
"As you can imagine, the prohibition of snowmobiles on this trail has caused great concern among the numerous citizens that use the trail for this purpose," Nasswrote. "I believe your review of this situation is necessary to protect the interest of snowmobilers."
Vrakas, who represents the area in Waukesha County with the Glacial Drumlin Trail, said he hoped snowmobilers and other recreation users of the former railroad right of way don't get involved in a conflict over who funds trails and their use.
"There are a lot of good trails," Vrakas said. "We should be able to come up with a reasonable solution for motorized use and non-motorized use of the trails.
"Obviously, if carbide studs are damaging asphalt, we need to come up with a solution. The snowmobilers do pay a lot for trails that are used by many."
Vrakas said, however, the majority of fees paid on the Glacial Drumlin Trail come from warm-weather users such as bicyclists and in-line skaters.
For the most part, snowmobilers insist the studs make it safer to ride by allowing for quicker stops and easier turns.
But Clarence Wahlforth of New Berlin, who has driven his snowmobiles on Waukesha County trails for 30 years, said he sees no need for studs.
"There's a very small percentage of riders using studs," he said. "They want high performance and speed. For trail riding, I have never seen the need for studs."
While $20 snowmobile registration fees go toward state trail maintenance and construction, none of the snowmobile money was used to pave the Glacial Drumlin Trail four years ago.
The $180,000 for paving the trail came from the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and from the state's Stewardship Fund for recreation and conservation purposes.
The federal fund is aimed at promoting alternate transportation to highway and freeway use by promoting bicycle use on former railroad beds.
The Glacial Drumlin Trailis maintained and patrolled by wardens through the sale of $10 annual user passes, purchased by bicyclists and in-line skaters.
In 1996 before the trail was paved, $44,000 in trail passes were purchased by bicyclists. Once the trail was paved, Sandgren said, bicyclists and in-line skaters purchased trail passes totaling $68,000 in 1998.
Sandgren said the passes purchased by bicyclists and skaters give them a stake in how the trail should be managed.
"We realize that this is not a simple trail problem," he said. "Our Bureau of Parks is going to be gathering informationfrom a variety of trail users to try and determine a policy on paving of trails and the use of carbide studs on snowmobiles."
Sandgren said the public is invited to send comments on the issue to him at the DNR's Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest office at S91-W39091 Highway 59, Eagle, WI 53119.
Snowmobile Groups File Lawsuit to Overturn
The Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Snowmobile makers and enthusiasts sued to end a ban on the machines in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
The groups filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday against the National Park Service, which announced the ban last month to protect the parks' natural beauty and wildlife.
"The federal government's decision is badly flawed. There is no basis in fact or law to totally eliminate snowmobile use," said Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobiling Manufacturers Association.
The ban is expected to cost the region $16.5 million and about 400 jobs.
The group said snowmobiles do not disrupt wildlife and emit less pollution than the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that pass through the park each summer.
In a report released last year, the Park Service found that snowmobiles produce nearly all the air pollution in Yellowstone. Snowmobiles emit 100 times as much carbon monoxide and 300 times as much hydrocarbons as automobiles.
John Catton, a spokesman for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition conservation group, called the lawsuit unfortunate but not unexpected. He said the snowmobile ban is "rooted in science, law and extensive public comment."
Recreational use of snowmobiles was already limited at nearly all national parks, recreational areas and monuments. Teton and Yellowstone had been exempt.
Snowmobile use will be phased out beginning next year and will be banned by winter 2003-04. The only motorized, recreational access to the parks will be by snow coaches, which usually carry eight to 10 passengers.
To all Snowmobilers,
The National Park Service is announcing this week new
restrictions on the use of snowmobiles for recreation at more than
two dozen parks, monuments, recreational areas and other federal
park units, government and private sources said. In some cases
snowmobiles may be banned, according to sources, who asked
not to be identified further.
Snowmobiles are allowed in more than 40 park units from Acadia
National Park in Maine to California's Sequoia National Park and
numerous parks in the Northwest and Alaska.
As the vehicles have grown in popularity in recent years, however,
a growing number of complaints have been filed by park visitors
annoyed by their noise and pollution. Some opponents of
snowmobile use say the vehicles also do damage to the parks.
An announcement on "measures to halt recreational use of
snowmobiles" in national parks is to be made at a news
conference Thursday, the Interior Department said in an advisory,
adding that the aim is to "halt the escalating recreational use of
snowmobiles" within the park system.
Additional details about the decision were unavailable.
Environmental groups and the National Parks and Conservation
Association, a private park advocacy group, have argued that the
Park Service has failed for years to enforce existing regulations
against recreational snowmobiling at many national parks.
Under regulations dating from the 1970s, the Park Service is
required to monitor off-road vehicle use, including snowmobiles,
and prohibit such uses if it is determined that they cause
environmental damage, said Kevin Collins of the National Parks
and Conservation Association.
Instead, the Park Service has allowed virtually unrestricted access
to snowmobiles in many of the parks, "with almost no analysis of
environmental effects," Collins said.
The decision dealing with snowmobiles is likely to affect many of
the 28 parks outside of Alaska where snowmobiling now takes
place, those familiar with the issue said Tuesday. Alaska is likely
to be excluded from a snowmobile ban because parks in that state
are governed by different regulations.
In addition, Collins said, the Voyageurs National Park in
Minnesota is likely to be left out of the review because Congress
specifically permitted snowmobile use when it created that park.
Following are park units outside Alaska where recreational
snowmobiling is allowed, according to the National Parks and
Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Acadia National Park in Maine;
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana and
Wyoming; Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia;
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado; Cedar
Breaks National Monument in Utah; Crater Lake National Park in
Oregon; Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado;
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and
Pennsylvania; Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah;
Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota; Grand Teton
National Park in Wyoming; Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in
Iowa; John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway in Wyoming;
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National
Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, and
Ross Lake National Recreation Area, all in Washington state;
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial in Ohio; Pictured
Rocks National Seashore in Michigan; Rocky Mountain National
Park in Colorado; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in
California; Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin;
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; Voyageurs
National Park in Minnesota; Yellowstone National Park in
Wyoming, Idaho and Montana; Zion National Park in Utah.
April 27, 2000
National Scenic Rivers and Trails
National Recreation Areas
National Historic Sites
Apr 26, 2000
Next Winter's Snows Will Find Fewer Snowmobiles in Many National Parks
By H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - By next winter, visitors to many of the national parks may be limited in their use of snowmobiles and barred from using them altogether in some places.
The 27 national park units where snowmobiles are being banned immediately, according to the National Park Service:
The National Park Service is announcing this week new restrictions on the use of snowmobiles for recreation at more than two dozen parks, monuments, recreational areas and other federal park units, government and private sources said. In some cases snowmobiles may be banned, according to sources, who asked not to be identified further.
Snowmobiles are allowed in more than 40 park units from Acadia National Park in Maine to California's Sequoia National Park and numerous parks in the Northwest and Alaska.
As the vehicles have grown in popularity in recent years, however, a growing number of complaints have been filed by park visitors annoyed by their noise and pollution. Some opponents of snowmobile use say the vehicles also do damage to the parks.
An announcement on "measures to halt recreational use of snowmobiles" in national parks is to be made at a news conference Thursday, the Interior Department said in an advisory, adding that the aim is to "halt the escalating recreational use of snowmobiles" within the park system.
Additional details about the decision were unavailable.
Environmental groups and the National Parks and Conservation Association, a private park advocacy group, have argued that the Park Service has failed for years to enforce existing regulations against recreational snowmobiling at many national parks.
Under regulations dating from the 1970s, the Park Service is required to monitor off-road vehicle use, including snowmobiles, and prohibit such uses if it is determined that they cause environmental damage, said Kevin Collins of the National Parks and Conservation Association.
Instead, the Park Service has allowed virtually unrestricted access to snowmobiles in many of the parks, "with almost no analysis of environmental effects," Collins said.
The decision dealing with snowmobiles is likely to affect many of the 28 parks outside of Alaska where snowmobiling now takes place, those familiar with the issue said Tuesday. Alaska is likely to be excluded from a snowmobile ban because parks in that state are governed by different regulations.
In addition, Collins said, the Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is likely to be left out of the review because Congress specifically permitted snowmobile use when it created that park.
Following are park units outside Alaska where recreational snowmobiling is allowed, according to the National Parks and Conservation Association:
Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Acadia National Park in Maine; Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana and Wyoming; Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia; Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado; Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah; Crater Lake National Park in Oregon; Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado;
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah; Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota; Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa; John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway in Wyoming;
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area, all in Washington state; Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial in Ohio; Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California; Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana; Zion National Park in Utah.
April 27, 2000
National Scenic Rivers and Trails
National Recreation Areas
National Historic Sites
By Tom Vanden Brook
of the Journal Sentinel staff
The National Park Service announced a ban Thursday on snowmobile traffic, a move affecting dozens of major destinations, including more than 100 miles of the St. Croix River National Scenic Riverway in northwestern Wisconsin.
The announcement actually recognizes 1970s-era rules that closed public lands to off-road vehicles with some specific exceptions. A coalition of environmental groups had petitioned for enforcement of those rules, prompting Thursday's announcement.
The ban follows actions by the Clinton administration to put large chunks of public land off limits to recreational vehicles, and a recent decision to ban personal watercraft in most areas of the park system.
Snowmobile organizations derided Thursday's announcement, calling it a unilateral move out of proportion to their vehicles' impact.
But the announcement delighted Carl Zichella, Midwest regional staff director for the Sierra Club.
"There are plenty of places for people to go with snowmobiles," Zichella said. "But there are fewer and fewer places people can go to get away from those damn things and enjoy peace and quiet in the wilderness."
U.S. Interior Department officials, responding to the environmental group's petition, surveyed 42 units of the park system. They found that federal orders to monitor and safeguard sensitive areas from damage by off-road vehicles were being ignored routinely.
"The time has come for the National Park System to pull in its welcome mat for snowmobiling," Assistant Interior Secretary Donald Barry said Thursday. "Snowmobiles are noisy, antiquated machines that are no longer welcome in our national parks. The snowmobile industry has had many years to clean up their act, and they haven't."
Added Park Service Deputy Director Denis Galvin: "Quite frankly, we were surprised and disturbed by the results of the snowmobile survey. The survey graphically demonstrated that years of inattention to our own regulatory standards on snowmobiles generated the problem we have before us today."
Ed Klim, president of the International Association for Snowmobile Manufacturers, based in Michigan, dismissed the announcement as an overreaction to pressure from environmental groups.
Klim maintained that an appreciable amount of snowmobiling occurs in 14 of more than 300 units of the national park system.
"They've portrayed this as a situation where we just go in and raise hell in the parks," Klim said. "We don't. In every national park, we stick to the roads. They would have you believe that there are 100,000 snowmobilers in national parks all the time.
"It's not uncontrolled mayhem."
The St. Croix riverway, a 252-mile-long corridor that encompasses the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers in northwestern Wisconsin, is the only area affected by the ban in the state.
"I'm sure that this will be contentious," predicted park Ranger John Daugherty. "When the perception is that something is being taken away, people react to it."
The ban, Daugherty said, appears to affect two segments of the riverway: A 20-mile stretch of the St. Croix River north of Stillwater, Minn., to Osceola, Wis.; and an 86-mile portion from St. Croix Falls north to state Highway 35.
Daugherty stressed that a 25-mile stretch of the river from Stillwater to Prescott - managed jointly by the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota - would remain open to snowmobiling.
He added that existing trails that cross the riverway for brief distances would remain open.
Orv Langohr, president of the Association for Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, said the 29,000 members of his organization feared an erosion of access.
"It's a sad day for snowmobiling," Langohr said. "We always think of ourselves as environmentally friendly to the land. When the snow melts, our tracks are gone."
Elsewhere in Wisconsin, at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, with its 21 forested islands and 12 miles of mainland frontage, the effects will be negligible, said John Scott, acting superintendent. The lakeshore preserve generally has not allowed snowmobiling.
However, a small number of ice anglers typically cross park boundaries in the winter on their way to fishing grounds. Those anglers will likely be accommodated in the future, Scott said.
In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, snowmobiles will be banned from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The narrow park contains 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline but has a width of just five miles at its widest point.
The Park Service also noted two exceptions to the ban: Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and park units in Alaska. Congressional action enabled snowmobile use in those areas.
Chequamegon-Nicolet National State Forest/Plan Revision
Last year the stud ban was only one trail. This year it is state wide! What is turning out to be a shock to most Minnesota snowmobilers is that the Minnesota state legislature passed a law that will effectively ban the use of metal traction devices (studs) this season. To all those who thought it wasn't their problem last year when the Minnesota legislators talked about banning studs, it's your problem now! The ban was attached to a multi-purpose bill that included items from disposal of sheep carcasses to ethanol production. The metal traction device ban was only eight lines in this bill. The ban reads: "A person may not operate a snowmobile with a track equipped with metal traction devices on public lands, roads, or trails, or public road to trail right-of-way."
Why even waste tax payer money to pave trails. There are thousands of miles of paved roads for the roller blade and bike people to use. For the most part, all the bridges and trail maintenance money has come from snowmobilers (in the form of registration fees), gas taxes, and clubs! A good alternative to paving is fine crushed limestone. This material packs extremely hard and if necessary, a small roller can be towed along the trail in spring to pack it again.
The ban does allow current stud users to buy their way out of the ban for $50 this season, but that does not include paved trails that are off limits no matter what. This section will be repealed on July 1, 1999 thereby stopping all stud use as stated above! The $50 fee will go towards trail repairs.
This isn't just a ban against studs, but a way to limit snowmobile use altogether. Wake up People!
People can't believe it really passed. What the incredulous thing about this ban is, not that it was attached to an end-of-session bill that snuck out the door at the last roll call, but the fact that only after it became law did many snowmobilers get outraged.
"This is going to be a blow to the Minnesota snowmobiler, period," said Ralph Pribyl, president of Bottom Line Traction Products in Maple Lake, Minnesota. "Our concern is for safety of the snowmobiler. This is about safety more so than racing."
This is a blow to snowmobiling in general. This move by Minnesota to ban studs sets a dangerous precedent. This didn't happen in a western state, this happened in one of the biggest snowmobiling states in the Midwest! Here in Wisconsin, such a ban was recently considered, but defeated, this time. Wake up people! Join a club and stop this kind of senseless legislation from happening. Get organized through a club.
According to a recent survey by American Snowmobiler magazine of it's readers, nearly 64 percent of them add traction devices to their snowmobiles. A full 81.5 percent of them consider themselves "trail riders." So it seems obvious that these people use traction devices for added safety on the trails, not some high speed dare-deviltry. In the state of Minnesota, which is comparable to many of the other 20-plus snow states, more than 75 percent of snowmobilers do not belong to a snowmobile club or association. There are more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles in Minnesota with a state population of 4.3 million. That comes to one in every 20 Minnesotans could own a snowmobile. And this is the state where Artic Cat and Polaris were born and are based.
It would seem that the legislative body has lost touch because the non-club member snowmobilers didn't take this threat to their sport very seriously. Snowmobilers, if you want to enjoy the sport, you have to join a club and fight for it. Just like the many snowmobile club members who are already fighting.. By banning studs, Minnesota lawmakers disregarded scientific studies (not to mention common sense) that prove traction products shorten stopping distances and aid in cornering, things that could save lives. By limiting the use of traction devices, they may be creating a situation that could increase snowmobile related injuries and fatalities. They also ignored the pleas of stud manufactures and others who are currently hard at work attempting to find ways to lessen the impact of studs on paved surfaces. Michigan, which has taken positive steps toward protecting asphalt from stud damage, and the Michigan Department of Transportation and Snowmobile Educational Safety Research Association (SESRA) offered assistance to Minnesota, but it was refused.
This $50 user fee can be a window of opportunity to repeal this stud law. Some legislators have indicated their willingness to help. Hiring a full-time lobbyist is being considered. If people get together, join a club, and get organized, this stud ban can be repealed. If you give an inch, in any state, you will loose a mile somewhere.
Snowmobilers generate more revenue to resorts, hotels, resturants, gas stations, food marts, and general stores far in excess than any group of roller bladers! This doesn't even take into account the cost of the sleds themselves, the trailers and towing vehicles, all of which generate income, jobs, and taxes!
Concerned snowmobilers are urged to call the Minnesota state legislators and make their voices heard. The information line for the Minnesota Senate is 612/296-0504, and the House number is 612/296-2146.
This fall, when your legislator asks for your vote, ask them what they are doing to preserve your sport. Remember, this just isn't about sledding in Minnesota. Michigan and Wisconsin snowmobilers are going to face these same threats and more. If you don't join a club and fight to protect your sport, then don't complain when legislation is passed against your sport by non-snowmobilers.
Some excerpts for this article were obtained from the American Snowmobiler and Snow Goer magazines.
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