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SAWS News: After 10 Years Of Fighting For Snowmobiler Access, SAWS Says Goodbye

Published online: Aug 17, 2014 News
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SAWS would like to thank all of you that became members of SAWS to support snowmobilers’ right to ride. We are extremely humbled by the number of snowmobilers that supported our effort. Thank you so much. 

That said, it is with great sadness that the SAWS volunteers have unanimously voted to say goodbye and disband the organization effective Sept. 1, 2014, which also just happens to be our 10-year anniversary.

When SAWS was launched in the summer of 2004, we had grand ideas of what could be accomplished with enough assistance from snowmobilers. Nothing like SAWS had ever been done before in the snowmobiling community—a multi-state, pro-snowmobile access organization with ZERO membership fees and an all-volunteer staff. We felt with free membership, there would be no reason not to join SAWS. We had also expected to easily find dozens of volunteers in multiple states.

One of the primary reasons we formed SAWS was to make information easy to find regarding potential closures to snowmobiling areas. Our volunteer staff researched the information, deciphered it and delivered a meaningful message with clear action items that was intended to engage snowmobilers in the process. Given the vast amount of information available from well-funded, anti-motorized organizations such as Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Wilderness Society and many more localized groups, it seemed realistic that a similar model for communication should work for snowmobilers. 

SAWS was very successful in achieving a large membership. We have more than 4,000 members, made up of individuals, clubs, organizations and associations from across the country. If we were to include the individual members of all of our member groups, SAWS probably has tenfold the 4,000 members that receive our information. It is impossible to count how many non-member snowmobilers gain valuable information from our website. On this front we were enormously successful.

Our position from the beginning was to be the ONLY snowmobile organization that would take the firm position of “No More Wilderness,” as we felt the existing 104.5 million acres at that time (2004) was plenty. Unfortunately, there are now 109.5 million acres of wilderness in the U.S.

SAWS was never an organization that cared to only protect snowmobile use on groomed trails. We believed the majority of our members were more into backcountry off-trail riding—although access to the backcountry riding area by means of groomed trails was also important.

Some existing organizations were always willing to give up some riding areas here, if the anti-snowmobile groups would agree to let them keep a small riding spot over there. We didn’t fall for that rouse. The opposition would always come back for more and more after agreements were penned. Obviously, this is ultimately a losing position, as 50 percent of 50 percent of 50 percent of snowmobile riding areas lost would eventually result in only a few small areas left open to legally ride. 

SAWS supported Webster's definition of a compromise. That is "a settlement in which each side makes concessions." We never believed in coming to the table to discuss how much we were willing to give up. Instead, we believed the discussions needed to start from the standpoint of what new areas our opposition was willing to open for snowmobilers, in exchange for closing non-preferred areas currently open to snowmobilers. But when have you ever seen the anti-snowmobile groups willing to compromise on much of anything?

Our SAWS Mission was to “provide education regarding public lands policy and outdoor recreation ethics in order to preserve and protect access to traditional trails and terrain on public lands, so that future generations will be able to enjoy nature through snowmobiling as generations have done in the past.” We certainly achieved the “education” portion of our mission statement.

Why did SAWS finally come to the decision to disband? Our No. 1 reason was the lack of volunteer assistance. The majority of our current staff have volunteered for SAWS since the very beginning, which was just more than ten years ago. All of our volunteers, past and present, have put in numerous hours—too many hours to even try and count. Hours spent at the computer researching issues; writing and communicating news and alerts to our members; writing and responding to articles in numerous publications; attending meetings, rallies, and conferences. Many of us have missed too many days riding fresh powder; only because there was a time-critical issue that needed to be researched.

SAWS volunteers have also been on the receiving end of some negative comments from time to time, particularly from those against our cause and efforts for snowmobilers’ right to ride on public land. But we brushed them off and kept up the good fight. All this effort over the last decade was also without a single dime of compensation for our time, as all donations to SAWS were and will be in the near future donated to the efforts and lawsuits to keep snowmobiling riding areas open.

But quite frankly, we are burned out and have other life events that need to be addressed and interests we would like to have the time to enjoy. We have also lacked the kind of support needed from industry companies and partners that would have helped keep this energy strong and growing. So we feel it is now time for us to move on.

As we have always promised, our member’s personal information, including e-mail and/or physical addresses, will always remain private and not be shared outside our organization. In keeping with that promise, we will purge all member information from our systems on Sept. 1, 2014.

SAWS will also be donating our remaining funds to the following worthy organizations in (alphabetical order):

o    BlueRibbon Coalition

o    Citizens For Balanced Use

o    Forest Access for All

o    Idaho Recreation Council

o    Idaho State Snowmobile Assoc Legal Fund

o    Washington State Snowmobile Assoc Legal Action Fund

These are all organizations that SAWS has worked with on potential closure issues in the past, and we know the funds previously donated to SAWS by our members will be put to positive use by these organizations in the future to support snowmobiler access to public lands.

We will most certainly see some of you on the mountain in the future. Ride hard, or go home.

Sincerely,

SAWS Volunteer Staff;

Scott Chapman

Dave Hurwitz

John Jones

Susie Rainsberry

Mindy Walker