Keep Asking Questions: Discussions Will Turn to Action!

December 2015

For all those people asking why should I do anything in support of MSA and the proposed Trail Permit funding legislation? Simply put,  if MSA doesn’t have the membership to sustain itself, and MSA fails, the state bureaucracy will take over the maintaining and grooming of your Michigan snowmobile trails. If that happens, it won’t take long until the program is back to a bidding process and grooming is only done Monday through Friday.

Last month’s Call to Action has led to  calls alright, calls to the MSA office.  Many of you have contacted me to voice your opinions and to ask questions about the new proposed Trail Permit bill. Some are in complete support, some are angry, and some are confused.

What MSA officials are hoping will happen is that discussions will turn to action. This month, I am once again going to discuss our proposed legislation. The legislation  is written, but we can’t find a legislator, in either the House or Senate, to sponsor it. They are all afraid of raising taxes. Let me stress, our proposal is not, would not, be a tax increase. It is a “pay to play” system, and we already do that. We support our sport, and just want to assess ourselves differently. We have always paid our own way.

Our proposal is to raise the trail permit fee for those riders who are not members of MSA. Perhaps a better way to put it is a new discounted trail permit for MSA members. Again, we have not been able to secure a sponsor for our bill. We need you to keep calling, writing, and emailing. If enough snowmobilers unite in support of this, we will get it approved.

Just Some of the Accomplishments of MSA

Most of you realize the importance of MSA, but there are many more snowmobilers who just don’t know what MSA does. Here is a list of just a few things MSA has achieved. When you call your legislator or you’re talking to that buddy who just refuses to join MSA let them know just how important MSA is.

MSA facilitates the more than $10 million snowmobile program, that is funded 100 percent by you – the snowmobiler. Michigan offers the finest snowmobile trail system in the country, and  MSA is directly involved in maintaining, preserving, and enhancing that trail system.

Since the inception of MSA, 2,500 miles of quality trail have been added to our state trail system that now boasts of over 6,500 miles of marked and groomed trails and over 30,000 more miles of undeveloped trails in state and federal forests where snowmobiling is permitted.

MSA is your voice in Lansing and Washington D.C. — monitoring regulations and proposed legislation that will affect snowmobiling

To further your voice in Lansing, MSA has a full-time legislative consultant and a full-time office staff, all working on snowmobile-related issues — locally, statewide, and in Washington, D.C.

MSA has a large presence on the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW), a state board that makes recommendations on our trail program.

AND if that isn’t enough, the following are some specific accomplishments of MSA.

MSA lobbied the state legislature for the passage of the Recreational Improvement Fund. Two percent of the tax on all gasoline is deposited into the fund. Through MSA’s constant efforts, 14 percent of those funds are now put into the Snowmobile Trail Improvement Fund.

MSA has also worked to revise snowmobile registration to direct funds to law enforcement and trails as well as helping to pass legislation to give landowners who allow trails on their property more protection from lawsuits.

The MSA worked to establish the Snow Country Trails Conservancy, which now holds easements for snowmobile clubs across private property. Without this Conservancy, Trail 8 would have been closed.

Because of MSA, snowmobiles are allowed on the Chocolay Township Railroad grade as well as the Gaylord to Cheboygan railroad grade along Mullett Lake.

MSA was directly responsible for the passage of Proposal 1, which constitutionally protects funds in the Snowmobile Trail Improvement Program.

These are just a few of MSA’s many accomplishments on behalf of snowmobiling in Michigan. Make no mistake, without MSA’s involvement, continued monitoring and influence, you wouldn’t have a trail system!

Proposed Legislation

Below is the proposed legislation as written. Again, it does not have a legislative sponsored and has not been introduced.

Proposed 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.

It is important to note that other neighboring snow states have similar legislation in place. Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New York,  and Vermont, all passed legislation to offer trail permits to the members of the state association at a discounted price.

ALL Snowmobilers Need This Legislation

The reasons why we need this legislation continue to be the same. The cost of grooming equipment and maintenance continues to rise while funding for the Snowmobile Trail Improvement Program continues to remain the same, even decrease.

The average cost of all grooming tractors (Pisten-Bully and John Deere), fully equipped with Soucy tracks now costs more than $265,000. This year, we had to  dip into next year’s equipment budget to purchase all of the equipment needed this year.  If we don’t get this legislation approved, we will be forced to cut down on equipment purchases next year.

Equipment is also aging. Our equipment ranges from 20 years old to new this year. All of that equipment has to be maintained, repaired, and replaced. Cutting the equipment budget will hurt smooth trails in Michigan.

We also have to include expansion and improvements to our trails. Both cost money, money that is not in our snowmobile program budget.

We’ve made substantial cuts  in every MSA budget during the past few years, and we are at the point where drastic changes are going to have to be made if we don’t get this legislation approved.

You Can Make a Difference

When snowmobile legislation has been stalled in the past, we have asked you to contact your state legislators, and they have heard your voices. In fact after our last Call to Action, we were contacted by several legislative offices and asked what they could do to stop the phone calls and letters.

What they can do — is sponsor our trail permit legislation. We need all of our members to call, write, and e-mail THEIR Michigan House Representative and Senator. Tell them to support this legislation.

It’s an issue of utmost importance, if we don’t have legislation  passed during this fiscal year (before Sept. 31) funding will decrease. Cutbacks will be made in equipment, new trails, and on the number of times each trail is groomed/grooming frequency.

To find contact information for your senator visit, http://www.senate.michigan.gov/senatorinfo.html. To find contact information for your representative visit, http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/frmRepList.aspx.

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Editor’s Note: The followed appeared in the October edition of the Legislative Column. Please see the text in yellow. It is the current and most accurate information available.

Additions to the Trail System

Yet, another thing to consider is the continued expansion of our trails system. Every year we strive at bettering our trail system. This year we have two new trail expansions — both brand new trails.

The first is a 25 miles will run from Mesick to Copemish on the Benzie and Manistee trails connector which includes a bridge repair over Manistee river to tune of $1.5 million (This is being cost shared by other users.)

NOTE: DUE TO  A MISSING BRIDGE AND CULVERT THIS TRAIL MAY NOT BE COMPLETE FOR THIS SEASON

The second is a 15 mile connector north of Topinabee over to Pellston, connecting North Central trails and North Western Trails.

NOTE: DUE TO PRIVATE LAND ISSUES THIS CONNECTOR WILL NOT BE OPEN THIS SEASON.