Nov. 10, 2017 – CNS Budget

Nov. 10, 2017 — Week 10

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or  cepak@msu.edu.

For other matters, contact Dave Poulson: poulsondavid@gmail.com.

Here is your file:

SNOWMOBILE:  Warm weather and a cool economy mean fewer snowmobile riders on state trails — and less money in the pockets of those who rely on them. There were 283,884 snowmobiles registered in Michigan in October, down from 2007 when there were 390,168. Lack of snow, a slow economic recovery and expensive machines have depressed numbers. Local retailers say that rentals are increasing. We  hear from a Calumet store, DNR and the Michigan Snowmobile Association. By Carl Stoddard. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, CHEBOYGAN, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY AND ALL POINTS.

w/SNOWMOBILE-TABLE: By the numbers, snowmobile registrations in Michigan

w/SNOWMOOBILE-GRAPHIC: Michigan Snowmobile Registrations

FOODFORSCHOOLS: More Michigan students can enjoy local fruits and vegetables with the expansion of a Traverse City program that supports buying them. The state program pays certain schools 10 cents a meal to buy local food. It has served 3.8 million meals and is expanding to include 32 school districts. By Jingjing Nie. FOR ALL POINTS. EDITORS NOTE: CNS SCHOOLS NOW IN THE PROGRAM INCLUDE HARBOR SPRINGS PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF PETOSKEY, TRAVERSE CITY AREA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HOLLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, GLEN LAKE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS, KALEVA NORMAN DICKSON SCHOOL DISTRICT

…AND ALL POINTS

STORMWATER: Communitiess are looking to use more trees to act as urban umbrellas to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff expected to increase as the climate changes. When rainwater falls on impervious surfaces such as parking lots, rooftops and roads, it sweeps contaminants into lakes and rivers. A leafy strategy slows the flow and helps put some of that moisture into the air, experts say. Projects are for Traverse City, Elk Rapids, Bellaire, Kingsley, Northport, Kalkaska, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and other communities. By Kaley Fech. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, HARBOR SPRINGS, LEELANAU AND ALL POINTS.

LANDCAP: Some counties are unhappy about public land purchases and so a proposed bill would grant local governments more power when DNR buys land, while also making sure the state pays its tax bill on time. Critics say the bill restricts statewide land management decisions. Counties with more than 40 percent of state land: Crawford, Dickinson, Cheboygan, Luce, Roscommon and Kalkaska. We talk to a senator from Escanaba, U.P. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Association of Counties, DNR and Michigan Environmental Council By Jack Nissen. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, CRAWFORD COUNTY, CHEBOYGAN, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS

RECOUNT: Losers of Michigan elections would have to suffer narrow losses and pay more to qualify for a recount under legislation proposed in the wake of a Green Party challenge to the state’s presidential election. Sponsors are from Park Township and Sherman Township. The Ottawa County clerk opines. By Stephen Olschanski. FOR HOLLAND, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

UPBOOKS: Two new books shed light on U.P. identity and culture. One is about Yooper dialect and the other an anthology of U.P. writings, including poetry and songs. We interview the authors, one a Grand Valley State professor and the other a writer raised near Marquette. By Steven Maier. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, CHEBOYGAN, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

           w/UPPHOTO1: “Yooper Talk” cover. Credit: University of Wisconsin Press.

           w/UPPHOTO2: “And Here” cover: Credit: Michigan State University Press.

Bills would make recounts harder in lopsided votes

By STEPHEN OLSCHANSKI
Capital News Service

LANSING — Losers of Michigan elections would get a recount of the votes only in close races that they have a reasonable chance of winning under a bill proposed in the Legislature.

Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, hopes to tighten Michigan law after Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed for a recount in Michigan even though she lost the election by more than 2 million votes.

The legislation would change Michigan recount law to say that a candidate must have a reasonable chance of winning. Currently, the law allows any candidate to file for a recount.

Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sherman Township, cosponsored the bill and said the decision to craft it was because of Stein and the hassle the recount presented to local clerks.

“Everybody agrees it was a nightmare, it was unneeded, it was a lot of work for nothing no matter what side they were on,” Miller said. “It was just a logistical nightmare.”

Miller said the bill would add another hurdle before a candidate could consider filing a recount.

“Just preventing something that was unreasonable from happening in the future was the goal of this legislation,” Miller said.

The recount filed by Stein was allowed after the Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 that it  should take place. Attorney General Bill Schuette had asked the Michigan Supreme Court to block the recount because he felt it would cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

The state Court of Appeals later ruled the recount should not take place. It was stopped by a federal judge three days after the recount began.

The bill passed  the House 98-10 and referred it to the Senate’s Elections and Government Reform Committee.

The Michigan Association of County Clerks did not take a position on the bill, said Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck, who sits on the association’s legislative committee. He said he understands the need for clarifying language.

The bill does not change how election clerks administer recounts, he said.

“We certainly process a recount petition filing and move forward with the recount process the same as we always have,” Roebuck said.

The bill could benefit clerks as it sets a standard of what constitutes a candidate with a legitimate gripe about an election, Roebuck said.

“I just think that’s good public policy in my personal opinion in terms of using taxpayer resources,” he said.

Fiscal analysis paired with the House bill said Stein would have paid $973,250 for a recount and the state would have paid almost $1.3 million.

Another bill introduced in the Senate would increase the cost candidates pay for recounts and save taxpayer money, Roebuck said. The bill recently passed the Senate and is now awaiting a vote by the House.

“From the clerk community, we kind of see that recount fee as a deterrent as well for someone who is truly not (aggrieved),” Roebuck said. “If you’ve lost by a significant margin, I think it would be difficult to reach the threshold of alleging that you truly could have won the election.

“I think that recount fee increase is sort of helpful for setting a standard as well for why a candidate would actually come to file,” he said.

A candidate who loses by more than 50 votes or 0.5 percent of the total votes now must pay $125 a precinct for a recount. The bill would require a candidate that lost by more than 75 votes or 5 percent of the total votes cast to pay $250 per precinct.

Miller said the Legislature almost tied the House and Senate bills together so he believes both should pass the opposite chamber easily. He also said he believes the governor will sign them into law.

Candidates who lose close elections shouldn’t be deterred from recounts, Roebuck said.

“We certainly want a candidate who has lost by a slim margin (to file a recount) and there’s a potential there for even a simple mistake to potentially overturn an election,” he said. “We want that candidate to be able to come to the table and make sure they have the right to a recount.”

New tool against pollution is ancient: tree canopies

By KALEY FECH
Capital News Service

LANSING — Trees may be the answer for Michigan communities looking to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff.

For one thing, their leafy canopies work like an umbrella over the pavement, keeping rainwater from flowing across the ground and into larger bodies of water.

“Trees can reduce stormwater runoff in multiple ways,” said Heather Smith, Grand Traverse Baykeeper at the Watershed Center, Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City.

“Trees can capture rainfall in their canopies, which can later evaporate back into the atmosphere. The roots can help promote infiltration of stormwater and the roots can also trap sediments, nutrients and other pollutants.”

The Watershed Center is working to increase the tree canopy in five communities, including Elk Rapids, Bellaire, Kingsley, Northport and Kalkaska.

Other cities are also looking for help from this leafy strategy, including Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

Grand Rapids has set a canopy cover goal of 40 percent, and the city is currently near 34 percent, according to Audrey Hughey, a geographic information systems specialist or Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Just one sugar maple tree in Ann Arbor can capture 1,763 gallons of stormwater runoff in a year, according to the city’s website.

Stormwater runoff– rainwater that falls on impervious surfaces such as parking lots, rooftops and roads — is not soaked into the ground. Instead, it flows across the ground and ends up in lakes and other bodies of water.

“When it goes over impervious surfaces like roadways and rooftops, it’s going to pick up different pollutants that may not necessarily be visible to the eye but that are invariably there,” said Jennifer Buchanan, watershed projects director at the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in Petoskey. “It’s coming from all kinds of different surfaces in the landscape.”

Both Buchanan and Smith said a changing climate is increasing the number and severity of rainstorms, resulting in larger amounts of stormwater runoff.

“The volume of water and the rate of runoff is an issue because it’s these big rushes of stormwater that are entering into lakes and streams,” Buchanan said. “We can’t do much about the weather, but what we can do is try to get the stormwater to soak into the ground as locally as possible.”

Smith said stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of stormwater pollution.

“I think we’ve been thinking more about trees and other vegetation in managing stormwater in the last few decades as we realize that we can’t just pipe untreated water into the nearest lake or stream,” she said. “We need to start treating stormwater, using natural processes.”

As an area becomes more urban, the problem of stormwater runoff increases.

“As development increases, and the amount of impervious surfaces we have increases, the more stormwater becomes a problem,” said Tom Zimnicki, the agriculture policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council.

Tree canopies can  slow down rainwater and allow it to soak into the ground. Trees also hold a lot of rainwater in their leaves and bark, reducing the amount of water that reaches the ground.

“The best plants are deep-rooting plants,” said Buchanan. “Those deep roots help form channels in the soil, so they form little conduits for the stormwater to travel down into the soil. And the more root surface you have, the more nutrients that potentially can be removed.”

Smith said the positive impacts of tree canopies can be immediate and continue to increase as  trees mature.

Smith said all regions can benefit from maintaining a healthy tree canopy to help manage stormwater.

“We are encouraging individuals and communities to plant and retain a tree canopy,” she said. “We are working with our local municipalities to initiate tree planting campaigns and develop and amend ordinances that favor retaining trees or planting new trees.”

Some cities, like Petoskey, are focusing on other stormwater management practices, such as rain gardens.

With these various techniques, Hughey said she is optimistic progress will be made in reducing pollution from stormwater runoff.

“With combined efforts of increased trees, rain gardens and other runoff diversion efforts, hopefully we will see significant improvements in coming years,” said Hughey.

Buchanan said stormwater management is the responsibility of both citizens and local governments.

“I think the more we can do as citizens as far as personal properties having the trees using more of those kinds of techniques is important, she said “I think it really has to be a combination of efforts between individuals and governments.”

In Grand Rapids, residents work with the city to improve the tree canopies.

“Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has over 90 certified citizen foresters that are in the city and trained to look at the canopy and promote trees in their neighborhoods,” said Hughey. “We realize as a city and an organization that climate change will affect us in the future and we are doing our best now to plan and plant for a more sustainable and resilient city. “

Bill would let some counties veto state land purchases

BY JACK NISSEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Counties with lots of public land are looking to take some control over state land purchases.

A pending bill would grant local governments more power when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) buys land, while also making sure the state pays its tax bill on time.

The proposed change is in response to the local governments that are upset the state has too much control over northern Michigan land, said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, a cosponsor of the bill.

“I always hear the reason the state wants to own the land is so you and I can enjoy the land,” he said. “Yet in my area, far too often, land was gated up or fenced off and access was cut off.”

Critics say the bill restricts statewide land management decisions.

Casperson worries it’s too difficult for people to buy land from the state. The Michigan Association of Counties, which supports the bill, wants counties to be able to veto state purchases. And groups like the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance take issue with how the DNR allocates land.

“If conservation is the wise use of resources that benefits the most people for the longest time, then that’s not what is happening,” said Dale McNamee, the former president of the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Parts of the bill guarantee sportsmen they will have land where to hunt.”

McNamee says the DNR often doesn’t take advantage of public land by prohibiting mining, fishing and hunting. The alliance promotes recreational experiences and encourages conservation of natural resources in the area, he said.

Under the bill, counties with more than 40 percent of their land owned by the state would have approval power over any additional state land purchase in their county. As of 2016, six counties fit that description: Cheboygan, Crawford, Dickinson, Kalkaska, Luce and Roscommon. Of the almost 4.6 million acres the DNR owns, 85 percent is north of the Mason-Arenac line, an invisible line that stretches across counties north of the Thumb.  

The Michigan Environmental Council opposes several parts of the bill.

“Our issue with that is these are statewide land management decisions that are supported by a lot of people,” said Sean Hammond, the council’s deputy policy director. “This would allow a single county to hold up a statewide land management decision. We think that’s not the appropriate way to make these decisions.”

The council disagrees with restricting the DNR’s purchasing power if the state isn’t current on payments it makes in lieu of taxes. When the state buys land, not only is the county getting money for the initial purchase, but to offset the property taxes it isn’t receiving, the state pays what are called Payments In Lieu of Taxes or PILT.

If the state fell behind on these payments, the bill would allow a cap on how much land the DNR could purchase would go into effect. The council disagrees with this because, while the DNR purchases land, the payments are appropriated by the Legislature, not the department itself.

“We’re questioning why we need to tie those together when they are completely separate entities,” Hammond said.

While payments have been late in the past, the DNR says the state doesn’t usually miss PILT payments.

Both the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs oppose the bill.

Sponsors hope to improve local business opportunities impeded by public land ownership, Casperson said. In 2014, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, a big money-maker for Luce County, was looking to purchase land held by the DNR.

Instead, the business had to buy 160 acres the state wanted, then swap it for the land it preferred, which took years, Casperson said. More than half the county is owned by the state.

“When we can’t even help little businesses like this and there is so much economic turmoil in the region, it’s really unfortunate,” Casperson said. “There may be benefits to the state owning public land, but not through the local economy.”

That’s where the environmental council sees it differently.

The philosophy behind these bills is the state has too much public land and that doesn’t help the economy, Hammond said.

“Well, we see it the other way. We see tourism and recreation growing at huge rates. Trail running, mountain biking, birding, these are all industries that are growing, and where’s the best place to do them? On the state’s public land.”

The DNR says the  legislationl wouldn’t have much effect on the way it does business, because it  already uses many of the practices the bill mandates.

“We recognize there was justifiable concern that the DNR was making decisions about local land ownership without fully considering the interests or needs of local government officials,” said Ed Golder, the DNR’s public information officer. “So we’ve changed that engagement model.”

When a new land strategy was developed in 2013, DNR director Keith Creagh met with many northern county officials to gauge how they felt about how the government uses public land.

Since then, it’s become standard practice to seek approval from local governments and to seek agreement on the footprint of state-managed public land, Golder said.

It’s a practice that officials with the Michigan Association of Counties say they appreciate.

“We support the bill and we support the DNR working with counties,” said Deena Bosworth, the director of governmental affairs at the association.  “This bill codifies the relationship they have been working on for years now.”

The bill passed the Senate in mid-October and has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

State program boosts school nutrition with local foods

By JINGJING NIE
Capital News Service

LANSING — More Michigan students can enjoy fruits and vegetables from local farms because of the expansion of a state program that supports buying them.

The 10 Cents A Meal program is administered by the Department of Education.The state offers up to 10 cents per meal for schools to purchase Michigan grown or processed food.

Sixteen school districts joined the program its first year in 2016, serving more than 3.8 millions meals to 48,000 students, according to the program’s legislative report.

The state recently announced that 32 school districts will receive the funding this year. More than 90,000 students will benefit from it.

Almost 80 schools applied for the program this year, according to the Department of Education. Criteria for choosing them includes whether they are near farms, distributors and food hubs.

The grants are for foods such as local fruit, vegetables or dry beans, said Diane Golzynski, the interim state child nutrition director at the department.

“We’re just very excited about this program,” Golzynski said. “It’s really exciting and we’ve seen Michigan farms be able to get additional funding to help them grow and provide more products to local schools.”

This is the fifth year that Traverse City schools have participated in the program because it started there as a pilot program.

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District partnered with the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities to launch the initial version, said Tom Freitas, food service director for the district.

The local program prompted Sens. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, and Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s K-12, School Aid, Education Subcommittee, to initiate a statewide program two years ago.

“We are pleased that this is something that is being seen as a win-win by legislators for investing in the health of our kids and the health of Michigan’s economy, and we’re pleased that it is getting bipartisan support,” said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit organization based in Traverse City.

“The 10 Cents a Meal program is helping expose children to locally-grown produce options in the school setting and is creating partnerships between school districts and their local agricultural producers,” Hansen said in a news release.

And students apparently notice.

“Kids can tell differences. When the food service ran out of Michigan apples, they can tell the difference and say ‘what’s going on with the apple?’” Conners said.

Freitas agrees: “If you get a Honeycrisp apple versus a Red Delicious apple, they just like Honeycrisp much better, which is more of a local apple.”

Traverse City Area Public Schools receives produce almost everyday, Freitas said.

Even in the winter, when there is nothing growing in Michigan, schools still have supplies of frozen cherries, blueberries, strawberries and apples from local processors.

James Bardenhagen is the owner of Bardenhagen Farms. His farm and his co-ops sell apples, potatoes, grapes, apricots, nectarines, plums, leafy greens, carrots, kohlrabi to schools in Leelanau County and Traverse City.

Kids now want to eat at school rather than bring their own lunch, said Bardenhagen.

10 Cents A Meal means a new market for him.

“It’s a great program, and it benefits the farmers and school and the kids,” he said.

“Our hope is to get it across all of Michigan,” Freitas said. “Every time it grows a little bit, that is a good thing not just to schools but the Michigan economy and the farmers.”

Districts now in the program include Alanson Public Schools, Bear Lake Schools, Benzie County Central Schools, Boyne Falls Public School District, East Jordan Public Schools, Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools, Glen Lake Community Schools, Harbor Springs Public School District, Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools, Manton Consolidated Schools, Onekama Consolidated Schools, Pellston Public Schools, Public Schools of Petoskey, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Belding Area Schools, Coopersville Area Public School District, Grand Haven Area Public Schools, Hart Public School District, Holland Public Schools, Lowell Area Schools, Montague Area Public Schools, Saugatuck Public Schools, Shelby Public Schools, Thornapple Kellogg School District, Whitehall District Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Bedford Public Schools, Dexter Community School District, Hillsdale Community Schools, Jackson Public Schools, Monroe Public Schools, Ypsilanti Community Schools.

CNS community:

Harbor Springs Public School District, Public Schools of Petoskey, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Holland Public Schools, Glen Lake Community Schools, Kaleva Norman Dickson School District

 

Books celebrate Upper Peninsula language and literature

By STEVEN MAIER
Capital News Service

LANSING — The Upper Peninsula has been omitted from at least two maps of the country this past year.

When an online ticket marketplace left it off an interactive map in June, a customer support representative joked on Facebook that they “got the important part of Michigan.”

A month later, Walmart forgot to include the U.P. in a graphic.

The snubs aren’t without precedent –- a WhiteHouse.gov page did it in 2013. The peninsula was even omitted from a state tourism campaign graphic in the 1980s, said Kate Remlinger, a Grand Valley State University English professor.

It’s easy for UP residents to feel unappreciated. Two recent books attempt to set the record straight.

Remlinger’s newest book, “Yooper Talk: Dialect as Identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95) is the synthesis of a two-decade study of a peninsula that’s been stigmatized in part because of how its people speak.

It’s a dialectic concoction arising from the interactions of the native Ojibwe peoples, transplanted East Coast and Midwest residents and the British, Western and Central European, Scandinavian, Finnish, Russian and Chinese immigrants who settled there.

The dialect is mocked by some who associate it with the backwoods and backwardness, Remlinger said. Some students from the U.P. change their speech to avoid teasing, she said.

“If you want to find out which groups are stigmatized in a society, look at which dialects are stigmatized,” she said. “There’s a one-to-one correspondence.”

Remlinger first visited the U.P. in the late 1990s as a graduate student in sociolinguistics at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. She began to talk to friends she met from the peninsula about how they talked differently from where she had lived in Kentucky and Ohio.

The book is a product of those and other conversations over the years–an exploration of the U.P.’s identity and the Yoopers who live there.

“I’m especially interested in identity and how people use dialect as kind of a badge of identity, of who they are,” she said.

Remlinger’s book explores U.P. identity with clarity, driven by anecdotes and historical accounts. She goes beyond speech analysis, providing enough narrative and peninsula history to engage readers lacking a linguistics background.

Another new book celebrates the Upper Peninsula’s often-overlooked literature.

Ron Riekki grew up in Palmer and Negaunee, adjacent towns 15 miles southwest of Marquette. He’s now a successful author, poet, playwright, screenwriter and anthology collector. His newest collection, “And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017” (Michigan State University Press, $29.95), is partially a response to the lack of pride his teachers showed in U.P. identity.

Someone once asked Riekki if he called himself a “Michigander” or a “Michiganian.”

“My response was that I’m a Yooper,” he said. “And as a Yooper, I grew up with a strong sense of a lack of U.P. literature. As I grew older, I realized it existed; it just wasn’t taught in the schools.”

Local bookstores didn’t promote it, he said. Many Michigan anthologies left U.P. writers out. They might include authors who wrote about the U.P., but many of them weren’t natives.

There was almost no inclusion of classic peninsula writers like the acclaimed literary writer Bamewawagezhikaquay, also known as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, an Ojibwe woman born in Sault Ste. Marie in 1800.

The anthology compiles short stories, poems and even the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It includes established names like Ernest Hemingway, Steve Hamilton, Thomas Lynch and Emily Van Kley. And it contains local authors and poets.

Writers like Kathleen Heideman welcome the exposure.

The anthology includes one of her poems, an excerpt from a series inspired by the brokenness she felt during interviews with the people of Negaunee, a former mining community. The mines are long dry, but ore can still be found scattered on the ground.

Heideman isn’t from the area but eventually moved there from Minnesota after she fell in love with the peninsula’s can-do spirit. She now lives in Marquette.

“When you fall in love with the Upper Peninsula,” she said, “you feel like you can’t live any other place in the world.”

This is Riekki’s third U.P. anthology – the first focused on new writings, and the second, published in 2015, featured U.P. women writers like Andrea Scarpino, a poet who moved to Marquette in 2010. Now the two are working on a Great Lakes anthology set to publish next year.

The U.P., Scarpino said, isn’t what people often think it is. Her family and friends thought she was moving to empty wilderness, not a town where the summers are filled with art shows.

“People always ask me, ‘What’s going on up there?’” Scarpino said. “And they’re surprised that we have such a vibrant writing community and artist community.”

Riekki wants his U.P. to be recognized for the things that set it apart, even from the other part of its own state – an identity that developed independently, largely separated from its southern sister until the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957.

Stephen Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Snowmobile sales rebound but less snow, fewer riders slow recovery

By CARL STODDARD
Capital News Service

LANSING — Warmer weather and a cool state economy have teamed up to mean fewer snowmobile riders on state trails — and less money in the pockets of those who rely on them.

A snowy winter at the peak of the snowmobile era could pump nearly $1 billion into economy of the state, with its nearly 300,000 registered snowmobiles and thousands of miles of snowmobile trails.

But snow hasn’t always been a sure thing in Michigan’s winter wonderland recently.

And, according to the Secretary of State’s office, registrations have been falling over the past decade.

In October, 283,884 snowmobiles were registered in Michigan, said Laura Lehman, a communications representative for the Secretary of State. That’s down from October 2007, when 390,168 snowmobiles were registered..

A three-year registration costs $30, the Secretary of State says.

Snowmobilers need an annual state-issued trail permit sticker to ride on public roads “where authorized,” and on public lands and trails, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

An annual trail permit is $48. Snowmobile trails i officially open Dec. 1 and close March 31.

During the 2016-17 winter season, about 130,000 trail permit stickers were issued, said Paul Gaberdiel, a trails specialist with the DNR in Newberry. That’s down from about 200,000  issued in the 2006-07 season, Gaberdiel said.

He said he blames the downturn on the cost of snowmobiling, inconsistent temperatures and snow, and the Great Recession of 2007-09, which hit Michigan especially hard.

“It just hasn’t rebounded from there,” Gaberdiel said.

Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, says snowmobiling depends on disposable income, and there has been less of that since the recession.

But he is optimistic about the future of snowmobiling in Michigan.

“We’ll come back,” said Manson, whose 17,000-member organization is based in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

In the late 1990s, sales of new snowmobiles in Michigan reached about 20,000 a year, he said. By 2008, sales had plunged to about 3,000 units a year, he said, but rebounded to about 6,000 last year.

“There’s a good feeling among hard-core snowmobilers that this is going to be a good winter,” said Manson, who counts himself among those hard-core riders.

“We’ve stabilized. If we have a good winter, I think we’ll see permits, sales, registrations all go up,” he said.

Back in 2007, before the recession hit, snowmobiling was a $1-billion-a-year industry in the state, he said. These days, the industry has slipped but still contributes about $800 million a year to the state’s economy, he said.

Sales, permits and registrations account for much of that impact. In addition, the average snowmobiler out on  winter trails will spend about $150 a day for gas, food, lodging and other expenses, he said.

State officials don’t break down how much is spent on snowmobiling but do know how much vacationers spend overall in the state in the winter months.

Last winter, leisure travelers in Michigan spent nearly $3.9 billion, out of $15.3 billion for the entire year, said Michelle Grinnell, director of media and public relations for the state’s Economic Development Corp. Travel Michigan program.

At Copper Country Rentals in Calumet, about 10 miles north of Houghton and Hancock, snowmobile rentals have been on the rise, said owner Susan Bushong.

“I see that trend toward renting” and away from buying snowmobiles, Bushong said.

With renting, she said, snowmobilers avoid a lot of expenses, but still “get a new sled every year.”

Bushong, who has 30 snowmobiles available for rent, said it already is snowing in the Upper Peninsula, but she expects business to pick up by late December as the snow starts piling up.

In Michigan, wetter-than-average weather is expected in the coming months, according to the most recent winter outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).That same report said Michigan has an equal chance of being warmer or colder than normal this winter.

Blame the uncertainty on La Niña, which is “potentially emerging for the second year in a row as the biggest wildcard in how this year’s winter will shape up,” NOAA said in its  report. During La Niña, parts of the Pacific Ocean are cooler than normal, affecting the weather in North America.

The 2018 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a warmer than normal winter, with slightly above normal precipitation in most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the tip of the Lower Peninsula, the almanac says, winter will be warmer than normal, while precipitation and snowfall will be below normal.

The Pure Michigan website says Michigan’s more than 6,500 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails “are one of the most extensive interconnected snowmobile trail systems in the nation, made even better by the state’s abundant and dependable snow.”

About 3,000 miles of the trails are in the remote, rugged and typically snowier Upper Peninsula.

According to the Otsego County Historical Society, the first U. S. patent for a snow machine, the predecessor of the modern snowmobile, was awarded in 1916 to Ray H. Muscott of Waters, which is south of Gaylord.