The session is over and legislation was passed that affects snowmobiling. Thank you to all who contacted legislators regarding the continued public use on private forest lands in Northern Minnesota. The Omnibus Tax Bill (HF677) included language to remove a $100,000 cap on the payments under the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act. This cap was the reason Molpus Timberlands threatened to close gates to the public on their lands last fall. The bill also has a provision to protect motorized recreational use on roads and trails where landowners have more than 1,920 acres of land in the program. Landowners with conservation easements will have added limitations to participate in the program. The bill was signed by the Governor on May 23rd..
The Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Bill (HF976) has also passed the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor on May 23rd. The appropriation relating to the grant in aid program remains at $8,424,000 which is identical to the past few years. The $315,000 grant program for county sheriffs also remains the same. An additional $13,000 is appropriated from the snowmobile dedicated account to help fund a conservation pre-employment education program. The total appropriation for the program is $250,000 with most funding coming from the game and fish fund.
MnUSA was not successful in preventing a reversal of its legislation last year that created one registration fee for snowmobiles. HF976 provides that the following subdivision will be added to Minn. Stat. 84.82:
Subd. 2a. Nontrail use registration. A snowmobile may be registered for nontrail use. A snowmobile registered under this subdivision may not be operated on a state or grant-in-aid snowmobile trail. The fee for a nontrail use registration is $45 for three years. A nontrail use registration is not transferable. In addition to other penalties prescribed by law, the penalty for violation of this subdivision is immediate revocation of the nontrail use registration. The commissioner shall ensure that the registration sticker provided for limited nontrail use is of a different color and is distinguishable from other snowmobile registration and state trail stickers provided.
With the shortage in the dedicated account this season that created a 10% loss to the grooming clubs, MnUSA will be working with the DNR to mitigate the loss of registration fees due to this change.
The Off Highway Recreational Vehicle Odometer Tampering Prohibition legislation (HF971/SF556) was stalled in committee and did not make it into in any of the omnibus bills.
MnUSA was also working with a recreation coalition concerning a bill that was introduced that would limit waivers of liability (HF792/SF768). The initial bill would have had a great impact on waivers signed for rentals such as snowmobiles. The coalition was successful in amending the language of the bill to require gross negligence before the waivers are unenforceable.
MnUSA was closely watching the transportation bill with regard to the gas tax that goes to the snowmobile dedicated account from snowmobile use. Although there were proposals from the Senate to increase gas tax, this did not materialize.