UPDATED: March 13, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.
According to an announcement by the Maine Snowmobile Association (MSA), the Legislature's Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee will be holding a public hearing on two snowmobile bills on Thursday, March 9, at 1:00 pm EST. Here is the information on the two bills:
UPDATE: LD-483 was approved by the IF&W Committee right after the public hearing and is now on to the full Legislature, where it is virtually assured of passage.
LD-483: "An Act To Improve Enforcement of Snowmobile Noise Levels"
Submitted by Rep. Jeff Timberlake at the MSA's request, this bill would require that any snowmobile exhaust manufactured 2007 or later be unaltered and have a SSCC seal affixed to it. Altered or exhausts without the seal would be considered to be in violation of the state's 78 db sound requirement. This would enable law enforcement to quickly determine if a sled is in compliance without using a decibel meter.
The MSA supports this bill based on the following talking points:
- Noisy sleds are causing trail closures in many in-town areas across the state.
- The current decibel meter enforcement is inefficient and subject to too many variables
UPDATE: The IF&W Committee worked bill LD-506 after the public hearing and has agreed to kill it. They will have another discussion on issues that are unrelated to reciprocity, but for all practical purposes, this issue is dead.
LD-506: "An Act To Allow Reciprocal Recognition of New Hampshire and Maine Snowmobile Registrations"
Sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome of York County, this bill would reinstate reciprocal registrations with New Hampshire, which were eliminated by the Legislature in 2001. According to the MSA, this would have a disastrous effect on the Snowmobile Trail Fund, Capital Equipment Program and IF&W. On average, almost $300,000 of program funding per year would be lost, resulting in cuts to club and municipal grants statewide.
The MSA opposes this bill based on the following talking points:
- Maine’s 14,000 mile snowmobile trail system is maintained almost exclusively by volunteers.
- The Maine Snowmobile Program is funded entirely by user fees – snowmobile registrations and a small portion of the state gas tax. Under the program rules, clubs can receive reimbursement for up to 70% of their allowable costs to maintain their trail systems, subject to available funding. In reality, the average reimbursement is about 50%. Clubs are required to raise the additional funds they need locally.
- Registration reciprocity with New Hampshire was eliminated by the 120th Legislature in 2001. It was not a unique case. Between 1995 (when non-resident registrations were enacted) and 2001, registration reciprocity had been ended with a dozen other states.
- During the winter of 2015-16 (a poor year) non-resident registrations from New Hampshire added over $263,000 to the Snowmobile Trail Fund. This is the equivalent of 60 fully-funded club trail grants. It also funded the Capital Equipment Grant Program ion the amount of $13,975 – this leveraged almost $35,000 in club equipment purchases.
- New Hampshire claims 7,000 miles of snowmobile trails statewide, although the state is almost cut in half due to terrain and the White Mountain National Forest, making connectivity difficult. In fact, Maine passed special legislation to allow New Hampshire riders to use ITS-80 in Evans Notch without a registration because it is the only way they can travel south-north on the eastern border of their state.
- New Hampshire only offers a season registration for $86/$116 (club member/non-member) Maine non-resident Maine offers non-residents a 3-day for $49, 10-day for $75, and a season registration for $99. Maine offers a higher quality product at a lower price. Maine residents who may wish to take a short trip to New Hampshire are forced to pay a high rate to do so.
- Hundreds of businesses serve snowmobilers statewide and benefit from the terrific trails that Maine clubs produce. The businesses do a great job, but most of them realize that what is driving traffic to them is the opportunity to ride our world-class trails. If clubs were forced to club back their operations due to a lack of funding, their businesses would suffer.
The MSA is urging snowmobilers and other interested parties to contact members of the IF&W Committee and legislators to ask them to support LD-483 and oppose LD-506. You can also leave a voice mail message for your legislator at the following toll-free numbers:
House - 1-800-423-2900
Senate - 1-800-423-6900
For more on the MSA, click here.