Posted:Issues in the sport 2-17 Maine Snowmobiler
MSA Scholarship Deadline
Obama creates Monument
If it seems like it has been busy on the trails this season, it's not your imagination. In spite of the weird twists in the weather for the past three months, Maine has one heck of a snowmobile season going on. As of February 8, when the monthly update was released, snowmobile registrations totaled 64,389. The bar set last year was certainly low, but the numbers represent a 60% increase over the previous season. Resident registrations were up 52%, and non-resident registrations were up a whopping 90% over last year. In fact, early February totals were over 5,000 higher than where the season ended last year. In spite of how challenged Maine clubs felt they were by this year's erratic weather patterns, many other areas in the Northeast, particularly New York, saw far less snowfall than average.
Given the conditions and the efforts clubs needed to make this year to maintain our high-quality trail system, it is likely that the Snowmobile Advisory Council will address the possibility of supplemental grants when they meet in the spring.
The 128th Legislature is slowly starting to gear up with committee hearings, and bills are working their way through the pipeline. The Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee will be hearing both of the snowmobile bills on Thursday, March 9 at 1 p.m.
LD-483, "An Act To Improve Enforcement of Snowmobile Noise Levels," is an MSA bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Timberlake of Turner. It would aid in the enforcement of snowmobile noise complaints by linking compliance to the Snowmobile Safety Certification Committee (SSCC) seal found on all legal exhausts manufactured since 2007, rather than decibel levels. All exhausts that have the SSCC seal are 78 db or less, as required by law.
A lot of effort is being put into LD-506, "An Act To Allow Reciprocal Recognition of New Hampshire and Maine Snowmobile Registrations," sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome of York County. This bill is the latest effort to reinstate registration reciprocity with New Hampshire since it was eliminated by the 120th Legislature in 2001. All previous efforts have failed, and the MSA Directors voted at their January meeting to oppose it once again. The reason is simple math. Over the past ten years an average of almost 3,600 snowmobilers from New Hampshire have purchased non-resident registrations in Maine generating an average of over $285,000 per year for the Snowmobile Program and IF&W. The loss of that income would create a serious drop in available grant money to clubs across the state. To put it into perspective, the loss in revenue would effectively eliminate all the gains in funding that were realized by the increase in registration fees last year. In addition, it would likely significantly increase the traffic in Maine adding to the clubs' burden. An e-mail alert with details on this bill will be sent early in the week of March 5. Members and clubs are strongly encouraged to contact their legislators and urge them to oppose this bill.
The two Landowner Liability Law bills that were heard in February are still pending before the Judiciary Committee. LD-39, "An Act To Clarify Landowners' Liability Regarding Public Access;" and LD-112, "An Act To Further Limit the Liability of Landowners Who Permit the Use of Land for Outdoor Recreational Activity," have had two work sessions and are still unresolved due to conflicts between landowners and recreational interests. At the last work session the Committee analyst was instructed to work with the various stakeholders and try to draft compromise language that is acceptable to both sides. If agreement cannot be reached, it is likely both bills will die.
Things will start happening quickly now that the Legislature is in full swing. To keep up to date and participate in the legislative process, members are encouraged to sign up for the MSA Alert List by e-mailing the MSA. The alert list management was switched to Constant Contact this year, but all addresses from the original list have been transferred.
MSA Scholarship Deadline
The deadline for completed applications for this year's MSA Scholarship to be received in the MSA Office is April 1. Application forms are available on the MSA web site on the 'For Members' page. To have a printed copy of the form mailed to you, contact the MSA office, 207-622-6983, email. Two $1000 scholarships will be awarded.
MSA Annual Meeting
Mark your calendars now for the MSA Annual Meeting and Luncheon. The event will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Penobscot County Conservation Association clubhouse on North Main Street in Brewer.
The day begins with a brief Executive Committee Meeting at 9:30a.m. The Directors' Annual Meeting follows at 10a.m. Election of MSA officers for the 2017-2018 season, approval of the annual budget, and membership recruitment award presentations will be on the agenda.
The MSA Pot'O Gold will be drawn from among the clubs who have an MSA Director or Alternate Director in attendance, which means one of the represented clubs will win the $200 pot!
MSA recognitions will be presented following lunch (meal reservations to email, 207-622-6983).
A 50/50 drawing will also be held, and the popular silent auction fundraiser returns again this year. Past auctions have featured everything from homemade whoopie pies to snowmobile helmets to a life-sized David Ortiz cut-out. To donate an item to the auction, please contact MSA Past President Aleta Rioux, 207-966-3699.
All MSA members are welcome at the meeting! It's a great opportunity to celebrate Maine snowmobiling with friends in the sport from across the state. More details to come - hope to see you there!
Monument declared as expected
On August 24, President Obama declared 87,563 acres of land east of Baxter State Park a National Monument following the transfer of the deeds to the property a day earlier from Roxanne Quimby's Elliotsville Plantation to the National Park Service. The designation is the first step in the campaign to Quimby's quest to have the former industrial forest become a national park. The move came after years of often bitter debate between local residents, environmental groups and a number of statewide organizations including the Maine Snowmobile Association. Other leaders in the opposition include the Maine Woods Coalition, Maine Forest Products Council and the Maine Professional Logging Contractors.
The campaign to create the monument heated up over the past several months, as Quimby pushed to reach her self-imposed goal of having the land under federal control by August 25, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. In April, Patten residents voted to oppose the monument 2-1 in an advisory referendum, mirroring similar votes in Medway and East Millinocket the previous year. In May, Senator Angus King hosted "listening sessions" with NPS Director John Jarvis in East Millinocket and Orono. The East Millinocket meeting was a frank discussion of the issue, but it was overshadowed by the circus-like Orono event where environmental groups bused in hundreds of supporters from as far away as Portland and turned the event into a pointless pep rally for a national park.
On June 1, Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, traveled to East Millinocket to hold a committee hearing on the proposed monument at the invitation of Rep. Bruce Poliquin. MSA Executive Director Bob Meyers presented testimony at that hearing. Around the same time, Poliquin successfully added language to the 2017 National Park Service budget that prohibited any funds from being expended on a monument in Maine. The budget is under consideration in the Senate.
The campaign has been led by Quimby's son, Lucas St Clair, since 2012. While the park goal never changed, St Clair was perceived as a more credible and reasonable proponent than his mother. St Clair first proposed the adjoining national recreation area, which would allow traditional activities like hunting and snowmobiling that were being prohibited in the proposed park. The area became a significant talking point for St Clair, although only 20% of the proposed recreation land was ever purchased by the group.
At stake for snowmobilers is the continuity of ITS-85 between East Millinocket and Shin Pond which runs through a portion of the property as it approaches the East Branch of the Penobscot at Whetstone Falls. Four of the thirteen deeds transferred to the Park Service mention snowmobiling as an allowed activity, so it appears in the near term that snowmobiling will be allowed to continue.
Reaction from Maine's political leaders ranged from strong opposition to tepid support. "While opposed to a unilateral decision, ignoring the votes in the local towns, the Maine Legislature, and Congress, I will continue to work with everyone to move this project forward in the right way in order to build a stronger economy that creates more and better paying jobs in the Katahdin Region and in Maine," said Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a statement.
Senator Susan Collins released a statement saying, "While I recognize that the President has the legal authority to designate national monuments, I believe he should not have used his executive authority given the objection lodged by the Maine Legislature, the lack of consensus among Mainers who live in the area, and the absence of Congressional approval. Bypassing Congress and taking this action without the support of the state and the local communities circumvented discussions of alternatives such as the creation of a national recreation area or management by the Forest Service Ñ proposals that might have had broader support than the President unilaterally designating a national monument."
Senator Angus King said, "I believe that the President's proclamation, along with the binding commitments in the deeds conveying the land, address the essential elements of those conditions, and that, as a result, the benefits of the designation will far outweigh any detriment and Ð on balance Ð will be a significant benefit to Maine and the region. This conclusion is confirmed by the comments made by Secretary of the Interior Jewell shortly after the designation was announced, explicitly mentioning hiking, canoeing, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing."
Far from being the end of the debate, the monument designation promises to be the beginning of the discussion over Quimby's ultimate goal of turning the land into a national park. The president created the monument via an executive order under the authority granted to him by the Antiquities Act. Any effort to create a national park would require an act of congress and to date, only Chellie Pingree, Maine's first district congressperson, has expressed support for that.
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