Posted:Issues in the sport 12-16 Maine Snowmobiler
Sharing trail condition reports
Obama creates Monument
Large amounts of early snowfall in northern Maine have put an exclamation point on a busy fall and all signs are pointing towards a very busy winter. From the Maine Snowmobile Show to club and regional meetings and events, riders are showing that they're ready for a good one.
The season will kick off in mid-December with a new public relations effort to promote winter recreation in Maine across the Northeast. The MSA is partnering with the Maine Office of Tourism and Ski Maine to launch a weekly Snow Report, which will be similar in design and promotion to the popular fall Foliage Report that has been running for many years.
The weekly report will use photos, video and calendar listings to promote great riding and skiing opportunities as well as events that are occurring throughout the winter. It will be posted on a dedicated web site and distributed to primarily broadcast media outlets throughout the Northeast by the state's public relations firm, Nancy Marshall Communications. Clubs and members will be welcome to submit calendar items, photos and video clips for the weekly updates. The MSA will be coordinating efforts on the snowmobile portion of it and will soon be distributing instruction on how to participate.
Non-resident interest in Maine riding is strong this year and an MSA presence at several out-of-state snowmobile shows have seen brisk traffic.
The 128th Maine Legislature will begin meeting in early January, and while we don't have details yet, there will likely be issues to deal with. At this point the MSA directors have only acted on two items for the upcoming session. A proposal by a legislator for a bill to create a non-resident antique sled registration category was approved by the directors at their November meeting.
The directors also approved investigating the possibility of addressing snowmobile noise and aftermarket exhausts with legislation this session. It will likely be based on the SAE Certification Standards that have been in place for all snowmobile exhaust systems manufactured since 2007. All exhausts manufactured since that time that have an SAE seal comply with Maine's decibel level for snowmobile sound.
With many new legislators coming to the State House there will likely be proposals for snowmobile laws and other issues important to snowmobiling that we aren't aware of yet.
The MSA will keep members updated on all legislative issues as they move forward.
Sharing your trail condition reports
When grooming begins in your area, or when you enjoy your first groomed trail ride, you can let other snowmobilers know by sending your trails information in to the MSA. It will then be posted on the association trail conditions report page of the MSA web site.
Reports from all MSA family and business members are welcome. If you are a trailmaster, project director or groomer operator, more the better.
If you maintain a trails condition page on your own club site we will be happy to link across to it, and post some information from your reports on the MSA site.
Reports are updated weekdays during the grooming season, as the office schedule allows. Email your reports to the MSA office. Please remember to include your name and your club affiliation. Thank you.
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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