Local townships around Norway want more flexibility over whether to allow snowmobile use in their areas, not least as a means of attracting winter tourists. The state government is considering easing restrictions, but that's strongly opposed by environmental and outdoors organizations.
"We are very critical towards expansion of the transport law and especially to allowing recreational use (of snowmobiles)," Arnodd Håpnes of Norway's chapter of Friends of the Earth (Naturvernforbundet) told news bureau NTB.
Håpnes fears the peace and quiet of wide open areas could disappear if snowmobiling is allowed, and his organization doesn't believe there's been enough research into which areas would be especially vulnerable.
The environmental group has the support of Norway's biggest outdoors organization, DNT (The Norwegian Trekking Association), which firmly believes that snowmobiling doesn't belong in Norwegian tourism. DNT fears that if new areas are opened up for snowmobile routes, they'll be hard to close, and that routes instead would most likely be expanded.
Snowmobile enthusiasts, however, have fought for years for the rights of local municipalities to decide whether and where snowmobiling can be allowed. Currently it's mostly found in Finnmark in the far north, where snowmobiles are viewed as a necessary means of transportation. Several townships farther south are keen to establish route networks, both as a transport option for local residents and to attract tourists.
The issue is up for review by the state Environment Protection Agency (Miljoverndepartement), which already has invited 40 townships around Norway to submit proposals for route networks that could be used as part of research for a trial four-year period.