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A Season Of Change

Published online: Mar 01, 2009 Column
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The national elections are done and over and now we just have to wait and see what kind of impact a new administration will have on our sport. I feel the winds of change blowing and I'm not sure if those winds will be favorable or not.

 

One thing I am absolutely sure of, though, is that it's more important than ever to be involved at the grass roots level of our sport. Yea, I know, you've heard that before and most likely you'll continue to hear it. But, more often than not, that's where the work gets done-at the local level with passionate snowmobilers involved.

 

The Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho are a good example of what can be done at the local level. As many know, this area of central Idaho has been targeted for a new Wilderness area and the wrangling between both sides has gone on for years. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has been pushing for the Wilderness area-pushing far from the state he represents-from the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C. Despite what was going on in Washington, D.C, we have managed to preserve snowmobiling in that part of Idaho during the Wilderness push. Yea, we might still lose that great riding spot, but we've held the enemy off for years. That's saying something. And it happened because the motorized community stepped up to the plate and took on the environmentalists and federal government.

 

Grass roots efforts can and do work. If anything, the environmentalist/preservationist community has proven that over the years.

 

One of the most effective, and actually the easiest, weapons we can employ at the grass roots level is to continue to be diligent in pointing out to others that we are not villains or land wreckers. We are good stewards of the land. When the snow melts, you won't find any evidence that snowmobiles have been in an area.

 

I recently read a great line about that very thing in the 2008 Winter Visitor's Guide that is published by Big Sky Weekly. In his article titled, "To Snowmobile or Not?" author Kerry White wrote, "Snowmobiling is a healthy and fun family sport that has virtually no impact to the resource. When the snow melts in the spring, no trace of the user can be seen or found."

 

That is the message we need to continue to preach again and again. It's easy to tell the truth.

 

I am the first to admit we've got our work cut out for us. But fortunately there are many snowmobilers who aren't afraid of rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to help on all fronts of the snowmobile debate. All these folks are volunteers, giving freely of their time and money to help preserve the sport we all love to enjoy.

 

The road ahead, depending on where you like to ride, looks a little daunting-and that doesn't even take into consideration what's happening on the economic front.

Environmental groups are lined up with lawsuits, ready to challenge just about everything. We need to continue to patiently but emphatically tell the truth. Leave the lies to them.

 

If you think I'm just blowing smoke and overacting about the environmental movement-which has definitely been energized after this last presidential election-then I refer you to the recently passed Omnibus bill that locked up more than 2 million acres of new Wilderness in 80 different locations. Oh yea, all of that new Wilderness is in the West. It's real alright.

 

I can just about assure you that I will get a letter to the editor challenging me on that last statement-about the threat to our public lands. And chances are, a letter or two or even more will come from those claiming they are snowmobilers. They very well might be, but I say they're not passionate snowmobilers. There is a segment out there who are what I'll classify as "recreational" snowmobilers, people who can take or leave snowmobiling. If we lose an area to snowmobiling and they like to ride there, they'll just leave their sleds parked. Or sell them. You know what, that's fine. I just ask that they don't work against us as we work hard to preserve the riding areas we now have.

 

Ask yourself this. When was the last time the snowmobile community filed a lawsuit to open a vast swath of land for snowmobiling? Or the flip side, how many lawsuits have been filed to take away vast swaths of land from motorized recreation. Exactly. We're not greedy. We just want the opportunity to enjoy winter time on public lands from the seat of a snowmobile.

 

Again, I know the challenges are out there. Some of those challenges come from within our own ranks.

 

Despite those challenges, I believe we have a chance to be successful in preserving our right to ride. We won't win all the battles, but we'll win some of them. A passionate snowmobiler is willing to fight for that right to ride. But it has to take place at the local level, with your own county commissioners, local forest service officials and other local government agencies.

 

If you haven't got the time or energy to take up the fight yourself, then there's no better time to give your $20 or so to join your local club or state snowmobile association and let the dedicated folks there do the work for you.

 

Generally speaking, the reason we're able to ride where we can is because of our local clubs and state associations-the real grass roots level of our sport.

 

Our sport could look vastly different by the time the snow flies next winter.

 

I think one of the biggest questions that stands out most to me for the upcoming year is: Are there enough passionate snowmobilers to make a difference for our sport?

 

Let's hope there are.

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