What Has MSA Done For Me, You, and Organized Snowmobiling?

October 2018- In today’s ever-changing, fast paced world, it’s common for those being sought to join any organization to ask — what’s in it for me? Recreation dollars are tight and all membership-based organizations are seeing a decline in numbers and seeking new ways to increase their membership. Those drops are causing budgetary constraints, and officials running organizations like the Michigan Snowmobile Association (MSA) are being faced with making financial cuts and finding new ways to generate lost revenue.

While volunteering at various snow shows and events, MSA officials are continually asked — What Has MSA Done For Me?  The following is a list of highlights that MSA has worked to accomplish through the years. It is by no means a compressive list, as those involved in organized snowmobiling know, the work both on and off the trail is a year round job. The list includes highlights of what MSA officials feel were of significance.

If you are an MSA member, who has asked the question  — What’s in it for me?  It is our hope that after reading these accomplishments you are reminded of the importance of MSA. If you know someone — a riding buddy, a neighbor, or a friend  — who isn’t a member of MSA; hand this magazine to them and ask them to turn to the center spread.

MSA doesn’t toot its own horn very often, but as we face that continued decline of membership; we would like to ask you this question — 

 If Not MSA, Then Who?

MSA was incorporated in June 1982. There were 36 individual members in September 1982.

In May 1995, MSA lobbied the Michigan Legislature for legislation giving landowners who allow trails on their property, more protection from lawsuits. This legislation was approved.

In September 1995, MSA membership rose to 14,000.

In December 1997, MSA voted to support studs and their use on trails. MSA hired Reith Reily to do research on stud-resistant asphalt.

In March 1998, state laws were change to allow a snowmobile trail along an active railroad; with the owner’s permission.

In June 1999, MSA introduced its “Zero Tolerance” while riding campaign.

In April 2000, it had been four years without a new route around Mullet Lake on the Gaylord to Cheboygan trail. MSA contacted the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and reminded them of their promise to find an alternative route (if snowmobile use could be curtailed along the lake trail in back of houses).

In March 2002, MSA membership rose to 20,650.

In September 2004, MSA began work establishing a non-profit organization for the creation of permanent trails.

In October 2004, the Snow Country Trails Conservancy was formed to hold easements (permanent trails) for snowmobile clubs across private property.

In November 2004, there was still no trail on the railroad grade along Mullett Lake, and therefore no connection for snowmobiles along Indian River to the Mackinac Bridge. MSA continued to work on a solution.

In October 2005, the legislature raided $3 million from the Harbor Development fund. MSA began to lobby other recreationists in Michigan and solicit signatures for a ballot proposal for the 2006 November election. If approved, this would constitutionally insure protected funds (the Harbor Development Fund) from any raids by the governor and legislature. Enough signatures were collected for Proposal 1 to be added to the ballot.

In December 2005, MSA’s work pays off. Snowmobiles are allowed on the Chocolay Township railroad grade with a 35 mph speed limit for the nine miles through the township.

In February 2006, MSA hosted the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) Enlightenment Ride and took the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service snowmobiling. As a direct result of this ride, snowmobiles were exempted from the new Travel Management Rule in all National Forests.

In October 2006, MSA’s work pays off and the governor directs the director of the DNR to allow snowmobiles on the Gaylord to Cheboygan railroad grade along Mullett Lake; with a speed limit and curfew.

In November 2006, Proposal 1 was approved by voters. Snowmobile funds are now constitutionally protected from a raid by the governor or the legislature.

In February 2007, the DNR announced that it was the last year they would groom the last five trails they had been assigned.  Four different clubs picked up that grooming. There were now 65 clubs grooming throughout the state, and no DNR grooming.

In October 2007, MSA turned 25 years old.

In January 2008, legislation to allow a stationary sound test was approved. The sound limit is 88db on the stationary test. Sleds louder than the limit are ticketed.

In December 2008, the governor signed fee increase legislation. The trail permit was increased for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons to $35. It was then increased to $45 for through the 2015 season. Currently, the permit is  adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for inflation. That legislation also increased snowmobile registrations from $22 to $30 for the three-year registration. The total $8 increase is put toward the permanent trail easement fund.

In October 2009,  Gov. Jennifer Granholm abolished the Snowmobile Advisory Committee, along with 25 other advisory groups. She ordered a replacement committee be formed — a seven member group made up of a hiker, biker, snowmobiler, skier, ORV’er, walker, and an equestrian. MSA objected to those five users, with no funding put in place to manage and advise the uses of the snowmobile and ORV funds.

In September 2010, MSA introduced a new one-time Historic Snowmobile Registration to the legislature.  As approved, it is now a $50 one-time, one-permit for         registration and trail permit per owner.

In October 2010, the Huron Manistee National Forest lost a lawsuit to a former Sierra Club attorney. Snowmobiling and hunting may be outlawed in those two forests because of the lawsuit. If allowed to stand, snowmobile trails in the Lower Peninsula would be closed due to lack of continuity.

In March 2012, after two years of meetings and public hearings, a Huron Manistee judge defended our position to allow a motorized trail through a primitive camping area.  The judge concurred, and the trail continuity stayed in place.

In December 2012, MSA worked with the Snow Country Trails Conservancy to save Trail 8, east of Three Lake; purchased land; and provided easements to Moose Country and Baraga grooming groups.

In January 2013, MSA worked on the committee regarding the Public Land Management Strategy Committee.

In July 2014, MSA took the lead to make sure that a fair reroute was put in place after the USFS closed Trail 614 near Irons in Lake County.

In December 2015, MSA fought to keep Trail 422 to Miners Castle open, a temporary use was allowed, and a reroute is in the works.

In October 2016, MSA was successful in getting a return of investment (ROI) from the state to purchase equipment from tourism dollars.

In October 2017, MSA and the DNR lobbied the Natural Resources Trust Fund to fund permanent easements and money for motorized trail maintenance.

In November 2017,  MSA went to bat to convince the DNR to buy a temporary bridge and install it over the Little Black River in Cheboygan. Doing so would keep riders on the Mid State Trail instead of a three-mile reroute on paved roads.

In December 2017, Trail 614 in the Irons area received an USFS Final decision of “No Significant Impact” for the reroute of the trail.

In January 2018, the Michigan Trail Improvement Program was awarded $928,600 for acquisitions of trails and $1,110,000 for development of snowmobile trails from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

In January 2018, MSA and the Indiana Snowmobile Association (ISA) had a joint state Ride In at the Casino in Brimley. It was a huge success. The two states have agreed to do another one in January 2019.

In June 2018, MSA met with the U.S. Forest Service and DNR to put together a plan to build 4,000 feet of new trail along a county road in a wetland. This will complete the reroute of Trail 614 in the Irons area.

More than 10,000 trail permits were sold when comparing 2017 to 2018, giving the program an added boost for trail maintenance programs.

Again We Ask–

If Not MSA, Then Who?