MSA Set to Propose Changes to Snowmobile Law
In January 2015, MSA will propose several additions and changes to the Michigan Snowmobile Law. We are working to solidify the definition of a snowmobile and to make sure the people using our snowmobile trails are purchasing trail permits and paying their way just as snowmobilers always have.
We are also working with our legislators on legislation that would see the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) established into that Snowmobile Law.
At the present time your MSA has in-hand a draft of legislation to amend several areas of our state Snowmobile Law. We were looking to introduce that legislation this fall, however our state snowmobile champion (the legislator who was going to introduce the legislation) lost in the state’s primary election.
We were left asking “Where do we go from here?” We chose to hold off asking for these additions until our newly elected legislature takes office in January. If we had introduced it and it wasn’t approved by the end of the December, our legislation would die and have to be introduced again.
It’s also worth noting that this time of year is the most dangerous time for special interest groups who are trying to get their legislation approved. Outgoing legislators sometimes try to push their agendas as a lasting legacy. We are monitoring that situation right now, and currently there aren’t any threats to the snowmobile program. In the past these special interest groups have tried to reduce our funding and riding areas. We will continue to watch our legislature, while we look forward to introducing these additions in January.
It’s Time to Define a Snowmobile
First, we are asking for an addition to the definitions section of the Snowmobile Law.
The proposed new section would read:
“Snowmobile” means any motor-driven vehicle designed for travel primarily on snow or ice of a type that utilizes sled-type runners or skis, does not exceed 48″ width at the ski spindles, an endless belt tread, or any combination of these or other similar means of contact with the surface upon which it is operated, but is not a vehicle that must be registered under the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 to 257.923.
Our reasoning is simple. Many different types of off road units are now being built that have been outfitted with skis and tracks that exceed 4 feet in width. The snowmobile trails in Michigan are groomed at a minimum of eight feet wide. We have many private property owners who will not let our clubs groom any more than the 8 feet in width, nor let ORV’s access their land!. So a five-foot six-inch wide side-by-side with skis on the front and tracks on the back is hazardous to snowmobiling’s health and well being. Again, we also want to make sure those using the trails have purchased trail permits and are paying for their fair share.

SAW Needs to Be Written Into Law
MSA is also proposing legislation that would see the new Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) established into the Snowmobile Law. The old Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SAC) was abolished by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The new SAW committee was established as a sub group under the Michigan Snowmobile and Trails Advisory Council (MSTAC), and is not established by law.
Proposed legislation would read:
The Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup (SAW) is created in the department. The committee shall consist of seven individuals appointed by the director for two-year terms. The members of the existing SAW serving on June 1, 2013, shall serve on the committee until the expiration of their terms on the SAW. The director shall appoint one member of the committee as chairperson and that member shall serve as chairperson at the pleasure of the director. The membership of the committee shall consist of the following:
(a) Three persons representing the Michigan Snowmobile Association, one from each of the department’s three regions.
(b) Two persons representing trail sponsors; one from region 1 and one from region 2.
(c) Two persons representing at-large trail users.
(2) The workgroup shall meet four times each year and at the call of the committee chairperson as needed.
(3) The Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup shall advise the department regarding all of the following:
(a) The development of criteria for safety education and training programs.
(b) The allocation of funds from the recreational snowmobile trail improvement subaccount.
(c) The promulgation of rules affecting snowmobile use in this state.
(d) The development of annual updates to the comprehensive plan for implementing a statewide recreational and snowmobile trails system.
(e) Implementation of the recommendations made by snowmobile users regarding trails that should be designated for snowmobile use.
(f) The development of a comprehensive plan for the use of snowmobiles in this state.
(4) As used in this section, “workgroup” means the Michigan Snowmobile Workgroup.
Keeping Wheeled Vehicles Off Our Trails
MSA would like to see something in the Snowmobile Law to keep unwanted wheeled vehicles off the marked groomed snowmobile trails. The snowmobile program spends millions each year of the snowmobile fees to keep the snowmobile trails smooth and safe for snowmobile use in the winter. Many of these trails are on forest roads, seasonal roads, and private property trails. With the advent of ATVs, UTVs, (side-by-side vehicles) jeeps, mudders, fat tire bicycles, you name it and they are on the trails. Some do extensive damage to the groomed surface endangering snowmobilers with sudden rutted trails. Another surprise to us also endangering our wellbeing is the new fad, fat tire cycling. (The instinctive part of driving will have us avoid the truck, ATV, bicycle, and go off the trail)
The proposed new section would read:
State sponsored groomed snowmobile trails are for snowmobile use only between Dec. 1 and April 1. All other vehicles are banned except emergency vehicles and designated maintenance vehicles. Violators would be subject to yet to be determined fines.
MSA is also proposing that all fines throughout the Snowmobile Law be looked at and increased where needed. We are seeking misdemeanor and civil infractions with the law be defined and outlined specifically.
Finally, MSA is currently studying a new Wisconsin law that will go into effect during their 2015-16 snowmobile season. We are looking at the viability of getting a similar law approved in Michigan. Essentially the law states that everyone riding the snowmobile trails in that state must have a trail permit. The cost of a trail permit is reduced to those snowmobilers who are members of the state snowmobile association. New Hampshire, New York and Vermont have similar laws.
We are only at the fact-finding stage at this point. Look to future issues of the Michigan Snowmobile News for further details.