2015 Legislation Update: MSA Proposes Changes to Snowmobile Law Including Changes to Trail Permit

As previously reported, the Michigan Snowmobile Association (MSA) has been working on several changes to the Michigan Snowmobile Law. Those changes were submitted in draft form to the Legislative Services Bureau (LSB), they take all of the information provided by MSA and incorporate it into what’s called a Blue Back. Once the Blue Back is complete we will shop it to multiple legislators for introduction into the House or Senate.

MSA has proposed legislation that would see members of MSA received discounted prices on snowmobile trail permits. This legislation would increase funding for snowmobile trails and equipment.

Changes would also solidify the definition of a snowmobile and to make sure the people using our snowmobile trails are purchasing trail permits and paying their way just as snowmobilers always have. We are also working with our legislators on legislation that would see the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) established into that Snowmobile Law.

MSA Members Would Receive Discounts on Trail Permits

The MSA considers itself the voice of the Michigan Snowmobiler! We feel that our members have molded the Michigan Snowmobile Trail Program into the best snowmobiling in the Midwest. While we were doing planning for the system, our neighbor states were figuring out how to reach their state snowmobilers to educate them on safety, clubs, trail news, trail etiquette, and other important information. Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, all passed legislation to offer trail permits to the members of the state association at a discounted price.

Current legislation reads:

The fee for a snowmobile trail permit sticker shall be discounted $25 if all of the following apply: The purchaser is a member in good standing of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, a nonprofit corporation, with an individual or family membership. In the case of a family membership, only the purchaser of the membership is considered to be a member for purposes of this subsection. The Membership is an individual or family membership. The sticker is sold by the Michigan Snowmobile Association as the department’s agent under subsection (8). An individual shall not purchase under subsection (2) more than the following number of discounted stickers for the same 1-year period unless the individual owns a number of snowmobiles equal to or greater than the total number of discounted stickers purchased: (A) If the individual has an individual membership in the Michigan Snowmobile Association, 2 stickers. (B) If the individual has a family membership in the Michigan Snowmobile Association, 4 stickers. (4)  The Michigan Snowmobile Association may require an individual to submit snowmobile registrations and vehicle identification numbers to verify the number of snowmobiles owned by the individual for the purposes of subsection (3)

Note: Permits will be $60 each; the discounted cost to an MSA member will be $35 if purchased through MSA, a certified Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agent.

The cost of a MSA membership is $25, add that to the cost of a $35 permit and both are equal — $60.

The incentive to be an MSA member is you can buy multiple permits at the discounted rate. MSA members will also get continuous updates on safety, education, new trails or closures throughout the year.

The Definition of a Snowmobile

We are asking for an addition to the definitions section of the Snowmobile Law.

The proposed new section would read:

“Snowmobile” means any motor-driven vehicle manufactured solely for travel primarily on snow or ice of a type that utilizes two sled-type runners or skis, does not exceed 48″ width at the ski spindles, an endless belt tread, or any combination of these or other similar means of contact with the surface upon which it is operated, but is not a vehicle that must be registered under the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 to 257.923.

The reasoning for these changes is simple. Many different types of off road units are now being built that have been outfitted with skis and tracks that exceed 4 feet in width. The snowmobile trails in Michigan are groomed at a minimum of eight feet wide. We have many private property owners who will not let our clubs groom any more than the 8 feet in width, nor let ORV’s access their land! So a five-foot six-inch wide side-by-side with skis on the front and tracks on the back is hazardous to snowmobiling’s health and well being. Again, we also want to make sure those using the trails have purchased trail permits and are paying for their fair share.

SAW Needs to Be Law

MSA is also proposing legislation that would see the new Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) established into the Snowmobile Law. The old Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SAC) was abolished by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The new SAW committee was established as a sub group under the Michigan Snowmobile and Trails Advisory Council (MSTAC), and is not established by law.

Proposed legislation would read:

The Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup (SAW) is created in the department. The committee shall consist of seven individuals appointed by the director for two-year terms. The members of the existing SAW serving on June 1, 2013, shall serve on the committee until the expiration of their terms on the SAW. The director shall appoint one member of the committee as chairperson and that member shall serve as chairperson at the pleasure of the director. The membership of the committee shall consist of the following:

(a) Three persons representing the Michigan Snowmobile Association, one from each of the department’s three regions.

(b) Two persons representing trail sponsors; one from region 1 and one from region 2.

(c) Two persons representing at-large trail users.

(2) The workgroup shall meet four times each year and at the call of the committee chairperson as needed.

(3) The Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup shall advise the department regarding all of the following:

(a) The development of criteria for safety education and training programs.

(b) The allocation of funds from the recreational snowmobile trail improvement subaccount.

(c) The promulgation of rules affecting snowmobile use in this state.

(d) The development of annual updates to the comprehensive plan for implementing a statewide recreational and snowmobile trails system.

(e) Implementation of the recommendations made by snowmobile users regarding trails that should be designated for snowmobile use.

(f) The development of a comprehensive plan for the use of snowmobiles in this state.

(4) As used in this section, “workgroup” means the Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup.

Wheeled Vehicles Don’t Belong on Our Trails

MSA would like to see something in the Snowmobile Law to keep unwanted wheeled vehicles off the marked groomed snowmobile trails. The snowmobile program spends millions each year of the snowmobile fees to keep the snowmobile trails smooth and safe for snowmobile use in the winter. Many of these trails are on forest roads, seasonal roads, and private property trails. With the advent of ATVs, UTVs, (side-by-side vehicles) jeeps, mudders, fat tire bicycles, you name it and they are on the trails. Some do extensive damage to the groomed surface endangering snowmobilers with sudden rutted trails. Another surprise to us also endangering our wellbeing is the new fad, fat tire cycling. (The instinctive part of driving will have us avoid the truck, ATV, bicycle, and go off the trail)

The proposed new section would read:

From December 1 through March 31, a person shall not operate a wheeled vehicle on a state –designated, groomed snowmobile trail with more than 4 inches of snow, unless the vehicle is an emergency vehicle or a vehicle used to maintain the snowmobile trail.