Tuesday, June 18, 2013
BY CATHY GENTHNER
The Maine Snowmobile Association is supporting L.D. 1613, "An Act To Strengthen the Relationship between Land Users and Landowners," sponsored by Rep. Andre Cushing, (R- Hampden), as initiated by the Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM).
PLACE TO RIDE
Name: Saint John Valley Trail
Location: Aroostook County
Local club: Madawaska Snowmobile Club
Contact information: Mike Guerette, president, 728-7097 or www.madawaska100.com
What’s offered: Beginning on ITS 85 in Madawaska, head west to Fort Kent for breathtaking views of the Saint John Valley, featuring rolling hills, rivers, lakes and farms.
"Landowner relations are incredibly important. Without the landowners we have nothing," said Bob Meyers, the executive director of the MSA. "It is critical that we be sensitive to the needs of the landowners and do everything we can to ensure that they are successful with whatever management plans they have for their land."
Snowmobilers have a keen interest in positive landowner relations because most of Maine's 14,500 miles of trails are on private lands. The bill would increase education about landowner relations during safety courses offered by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, as well as when people are registering a snowmobile, boat or ATV, or buying fishing and hunting licenses.
"With 95 percent of the state privately owned, public access to private lands is crucial to a natural resource-based economy," said Mark Latti, the coordinator for the landowner relations program at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "If this bill passes, it provides a framework to revitalize the landowner relations program at the department. It gives the department flexibility to create a program that works."
Without the generosity of private landowners, Maine wouldn't have the excellent trail system that attracts snowmobilers from across the Northeast and Canada. Private landowners include individuals who own a few acres to companies that own several thousand acres. Maine's excellent trail system is crucial to the winter economy, keeping businesses such as gas stations, restaurants and hotels open.
"I am always seeing trucks with snowmobile trailers with out-of-state plates on the interstate and turnpike because I do a lot of traveling," said Latti. "Right now, even though we haven't had the greatest winter, there are a lot of snowmobilers headed to the western and northern sections of the state, where there's a lot of snow and good riding. I see most of the trailers on Thursdays and Fridays on their way to the trails."
The bill also supports increased marketing of Maine's landowner relations program. "I want to expand the program by marketing it better, so that you see more signs and brochures promoting good landowner relations," said Latti. "A big part will be getting more volunteers involved in helping maintain landowner relations and making sure the rights of landowners are respected."
Maine snowmobilers do a great job when it comes to landowner relations, with clubs often hosting dinners for those who allow sections of their land to be used for trails. The Maine State Landowner Appreciation Day is held once a year, this year on Sept. 15.
Those who use the land can ensure that the land is kept open by respecting the rights of landowners. That means staying on marked trails, treating the land with respect, not leaving trash and picking it up when you see it, and thanking the landowner after you have used the property. All of these efforts can go a long ways toward keeping Maine's snowmobile trail system one of the best in the country.
Cathy Genthner is licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to guide snowmobile trips. She is the owner of River Bluff Camps, located off of ITS-83 in Medford. She can be reached at: CathyGenthner@maine.rr.com