New grants to promote more snowmobile trails

Capital News Service
LANSING – Expansion of snowmobile trails could boost local economies, but may lead to conflicts about crossing private land as well, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said. In a move to head off such conflicts, a new state grant program will allow local governments and organizations to purchase permanent easements for snowmobile trails that cross private property. According to DNR recreation specialist Ron Yesney, half of Michigan’s snowmobile trails are on privately owned land. And although easements are necessary to use those trails, that use is at the discretion of the landowner. Twenty-five percent of the trail system is on state forest lands that are open to snowmobiling.

Lower alcohol levels for snowmobilers advances safety efforts

Capital News Service
LANSING — A new law lowering the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for snowmobile drivers is a step in the right direction for the Michigan Snowmobile Association. The association has discouraged snowmobilers from consuming alcohol since 1999, and by reducing the legal limit from .1 percent to .08 percent — the same as the motor vehicle limit — beginning March 1, legislators have brought more awareness to the issue, executive director Bill Manson said. Manson said many snowmobilers are already limiting their alcohol consumption or not drinking at all while snowmobiling. Since 2004, snowmobile crashes involving alcohol have dropped 65 percent to 17 crashes in 2012, according to the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning. Overall snowmobile fatalities, including fatalities related to alcohol, have been decreasing over the past 10 years, according to Dan Moore, Eastern Upper Peninsula recreation specialist at the Department of Natural Resources (DNS).

More snow means more snowmobiling, but not an increase in accidents

Capital News Service
LANSING — Despite the near-record snowfall in Michigan that created a banner year for snow-related sports, snowmobile fatalities haven’t climbed with the piles of snow. Nine snowmobile fatalities were reported this season as of mid February, said Cpl. John Morey, the Department of Natural Resources off-road vehicle and snowmobile coordinator. By about this time last year, 13 fatal snowmobile accidents had taken place. An additional fatal accident not yet on the department record happened Feb. 19 in Luce County, according to the sheriff’s department.