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Jim Duke,Snowmobiling

Friends of Snowmobiling

By Jim Duke, Contributing Writer

The term “Friends of Snowmobiling” is rather ambiguous and might be applied to any number of businesses, or social organizations that support that particular wintertime recreation. Certainly, clubs and councils that gain some sort of benefit from the activity would be considered friends of snowmobiling, but what about common citizens who may, or may not, occasionally engage in snowmobiling activities?

In my several miles of travels and from the many interviews with individuals within the several snowbelt states, I was amazed at the number that have absolutely no concept of how their wintertime recreation of choice is constantly being challenged by an even larger number of individuals opposed to the very popular motorized sport of snowmobiling, and that number is growing at an alarming rate. Much of it is due to a conflict of opinions for who should be allowed to use any public lands and to a lesser degree, some of it is due to those folks that simply don’t like the sound or smell of a combustion engine. But history tells us more than half the time, the opposition is brought about by the disrespectful and inappropriate actions within our own ranks.

What is also surprising is the number of snowmobilers who have no idea that they may be violating a state law or local ordinance just by riding their snow machines where, or when, it’s prohibited. In discussions with law enforcement officials, most say they try to be compassionate and right the wrong without legal intervention, unless the infraction has caused physical or material damage or, in a few isolated cases, the offender is rude or combative and thinks attempting to argue their way out of a citation is their best defense, which by the way never works.

Almost as often as the question arises about where anyone can legally ride, the question of by which agencies authority is specific lands restricted from recreational use, and in some cases access is completely prohibited. Researching this issue I’ve found that authority overseeing public lands may fall on multiple agencies, and is always referred to as “what best serves the common good” and/or “what is best for overall preservation of the environment”. Basically, it all boils down to location and, is it by community ordinance, county statute, state law, or federal regulation? In many cases, there may be permission by one or more while being restricted by others, and for the same piece of real estate.

Regardless of which agency is responsible, there will always be those, as mentioned in the first paragraph, that simply doesn’t want motorized or mechanized conveyances to invade the sanctity of the wilderness. In most snowmobile clubs and associations, these individuals are referred to as greenies, tree-huggers, or just radicals, but what many are not aware of is the clout they can muster when they band together! Once they establish an anti-motorized agenda and initiate litigation, it may be only a matter of time until snowmobilers and other motorized recreationalists find themselves on the outside looking in! That’s when we discover we need some help, but who can we turn to?

The answers may be as varied as the questions, and as it is with the majority of snowmobilers who just want to get out on the trails or backcountry and play, the task of doing legal battle is left to the few who realize that the value lies in organized clubs, councils, and associations. But as important as it is to support the local and state clubs and associations, those organizations seldom have the contacts or clout to deal with such problems beyond their own state borders or within their own state legislatures. If, for any reason, the regulatory agencies that control recreational activities on public lands is unwilling or incapable of resolving the conflicts, it might be time to expand the arena and get the national snowmobile organizations involved.

As reluctant as the local and state associations may be to ask for help, assistance is always available and just a phone call away.

The American Council of Snowmobile Associations has dedicated dollars in a legal defense fund for just such occasions, and when the legal battles escalate from state courts into federal jurisdiction, their contact list at the federal level, and of friendly lawmakers is invaluable. Not all elected officials are snowmobile friendly, and many are openly opposed to any kind of motorized recreation and almost always side with the radical groups, so to make sure at least some of the legislators at the federal level recognize snowmobiling as a viable recreational activity enjoyed by millions of individuals across the country, snowmobilers have united and formed a national organization, and have established a political action committee as the Friends of Snowmobiling.

These unique groups serve multiple purposes and practically every state where snowmobiling is recognized as a legitimate form of winter recreation.  The organization, simply known as ACSA, was formed in 1995 and with the support of the snowmobile manufacturers, has implemented a number of programs to benefit its member state associations equally and without bias. Considered the Snowmobiler’s watchdog in Washington, DC, as well as entering into court proceedings and assisting with litigations pertaining to snowmobile access to public lands in several different states. The Friends of Snowmobiling Political Action Committee, known as FOSPAC, is designed to raise funds for snowmobile friendly candidates running for federal office, or for those serving in office and seeking reelection.

Both ACSA and FOSPAC are non-profit organizations, and while the first is a member driven organization and depends on annual dues from the several categories of membership and the sale of cash calendars for operating capital, the second is a fund raising and distribution organization whose members are snowmobilers with an interest in maintaining trails and responsible snowmobiling activities., dependent on donations from snowmobilers, other recreational trail user groups, and concerned citizens, as well as sale of the Internationally recognized Friends of Snowmobiling T-shirts. The primary source of funds, however, is derived from the FOSPAC event held annually at the International Snowmobile Congress.

The 2022 ACSA Cash Calendars are available now for just $20 each at all member State Association offices or from the ACSA office located at P.O. Box 1670 in Brighton, MI 48116, Cash prizes are awarded for each day of the year and $5 from each calendar sale goes back to the state association for the state sold in. To check on availability of the Friends of Snowmobiling long sleeve T-shirts, contact FOSPAC at the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association office, 1640 Haslett Road, Suite 170, Haslett, MI USA 48840.

I strongly recommend all snowmobilers join and support both ASCA and FOSPAC in their most worthy plight to preserve our recreational freedoms. Without their continuing efforts, snowmobiling activities could, and most likely would, suffer at the hands of those wishing to eliminate motorized recreation on all public lands. We simply cannot let that happen. As we begin this snowmobile season, please respect our private landowners wishes and ride only where it is legal to do so and remember, trespassing will cause loss of trails. Have a safe and enjoyable winter.

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