Snow machines and permits

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By Ward Samson

After many years of fighting trail permits, all MHAs with the exception of the MHA for St. Barbe voted to have enforced trail permits on roads and trails designated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation (NLSF) as groomed trails.

Since 2004, the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation (NLWF), of which I am past-president, have  been opposed to those permits.

We pursued court action but were effectively denied a court date because we were required to put up thousands of dollars to take the provincial government to court. We hired a lawyer and because we had no one with a ticket to act as a test case, we waited and waited.

Last year an individual, spending his own money, got a ticket and fought it, but just before he was to go to court the government withdrew the charges. It is now 2012 and again it is an issue. Since 2004, the government has been trying to force people on groomed trails and to pay for such.

Allow me to state categorically that the NLWF has never advocated against groomed trails — we feel that is an individual choice.

But, I state categorically, do not take existing woods roads, paid for with our tax dollars, and do not take existing trails that communities and cabin owners, hunters and trappers have used for many years and simply convert them to groomed trails.

Now the NLSF, a lobby group with sponsorships from snowmobile manufacturers and the federal and provincial governments, are effectively forcing snowmobilers onto groomed trails. The NLSF will take already existing trails and effectively force traditional users off their trails unless they pay a permit fee ($80+). This fee does not go to government and, subsequently, you are not afforded protection under the act. This fee goes directly to the NLSF.

The RCMP and the RNC already have legislation in place to impound snow machines and fine drivers if drinking and driving is occurring, as well as for offences like careless use of a motorized vehicle, and others.

From my understanding, none of this permit fee money will go to enforcement of the snowmobile act. It will go directly to the NLSF to pay for grooming and insurance for the groomers, etc.

I wish to state clearly that I will not purchase a trail sticker to travel on a woods road to access my trapping ground, cut wood, or get to my cabin.

If you want to charge trail permit fees, cut your own trails, designate them as groomed trails and I will not travel on them.

But do not take existing routes in the woods and deem them as groomed trails and subsequently charge me to use a trail that has been cut for years

or a road that was constructed by Bowater’s, DNR or Grand Falls Pulp and Paper.

Also, the groomed tail network includes the old rail bed, but that is an argument for another time.

Ward Samson writes from Main Brook.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, RCMP Bowater

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    February 11, 2013 - 19:33

    Mr. Samson, I support you 100%. We have a cabin that we have had for years. It is not in great shape but it is a place to go for a night to get away from everything. The cabin is hardly worth the $100 we pay the Newfoundland government each year to register it but it is a cabin my grandfather had and I hate to give it up. Unfortunately, our snowmobile is not one of those 10K+ snowmobiles that Eric mentioned, it's just an old 1989 Arctic Cat valued at about $200, but it works. I also pay the government for a wood cutting permit near my cabin each year. To some people an extra $120 for a trail permit may not seem like much but to us it's a considerable amount. I don't see why we should have to support a snowmobile club. I am very leery about this aggressive approach to collect money for a snowmobile club when you have dozens of other clubs on the Island....., golf clubs, ski-clubs, curling clubs, etc. Is this just a start of what is to come? The government has already given a million plus dollars of our tax money to the snowmobile clubs across Newfoundland. I don't feel that we as taxpayers should be forced to pay membership into any club that we don't want to. Some might say well don't use the trails. Well our cabin and trail, which we maintained , was there long before the groomer came along. Anyone who thinks this fee of $120 is going to stay at this rate is fooling themselves. I feel that the trail system in place now will make a lot of Newfoundlanders unable to use the trails because of the price and eventually the trails will be used by the select few who can afford it.

  • Let it Snow
    December 20, 2012 - 08:15

    I feel bad for those living on the East Coast who have to pay for a trail pass and may never see a groomed trail over the course of a season. One solution is to only maintain a trail system where snow actually falls - central/west and put all the resources into making a world class product there. It doesn't make good business sense to me to try to maintain a complete provincial system and have it all groomed equally. Never going to happen, so why not alter the plan and put the resources to use where it makes the most sense.

  • Jeff
    December 09, 2012 - 16:58

    Take a moment and go on the Facebook pages for the NLSF, Terra Nova Trail Riders, Western Snoriders and To mention a few. See all the work the volunteers have done getting the trails ready and safe for the upcomming season. Brush cutting, bridge repairs and signage etc. If it wasn't for the efforts of these individuals there would be no trails to agrue about. This effort is at the club level not the NLSF. How can anyone look these people in the face and still spout off about $80? Not even two tanks of fuel....

  • Eric
    December 08, 2012 - 06:11

    Anybody that is complaining about a $80 fee don't enjoy snowmobiling because this is a joke for a machine that cost 10K + and $50 just to go for a ride. So since you don't enjoy this sport keep your comments to yourself so it doesn't affect the people who do. Why is this different than the $140 that we pay every year to register our vehicles or do you have an issue with that also?

  • Eric
    December 08, 2012 - 06:09

    Anybody that is complaining about a $80 fee don't enjoy snowmobiling because this is a joke for a machine that cost 10K + and $50 just to go for a ride. So since you don't enjoy this sport keep your comments to yourself so it doesn't affect the people who do. Why is this different than the $140 that we pay every year to register our vehicles or do you have an issue with that also?

  • Sled Ed
    December 04, 2012 - 21:23

    I get that you feel strongly about this. That, however, doesn't make it "right" to the rest of the world.

  • Mr. Burns
    December 04, 2012 - 21:20

    I hope you get stopped and ticketed every time you go to your cabin. Good day, sir.

  • Multiac
    December 04, 2012 - 20:35

    Mr. Samson your article is incorrect, they're not groomed trails anymore.... they're managed trails. Meaning the Federation will "manage" to groom them whenever they see fit.

  • Sled Ed
    December 04, 2012 - 16:51

    Well let me start off by saying this, if you had a trail or road in 1961, it is now grown in or washed out. So you have no trail now. I am one of those people that take my days off and personal property to go cut and widen these trails and replace all those rotten bridges that were built many years ago or washed out. For you to sit there and complain about a lousy eighty bucks to ride a snowmobile you have never travelled on an ungroomed trail for hours on end to get to your cabin and are just one who likes to complain about change. If it were up to you we would still be in the dark ages with oil lamps. The only ones I see really complaining here are the ones who like to have a drink while they ride or poach a moose with no one around to bother them. Most rides like the idea of groomed trails and will support the idea of trail enforcement. If you have a cabin in the woods, think of all the free extra security you now have against break-ins at no extra charge with the extra traffic around. I am a firm believer in the trail system and will do whatever I can to make it work for all. Thank you.

  • Paul
    December 04, 2012 - 08:42

    Why dont you just admit that your a cheap free for all. Dont want to pay, let other people do the work by fixing trails, bridges etc, while you sit in your cabin and drink your tea.

  • Donnie
    December 03, 2012 - 21:37

    Absolute ignorance at it's finest. Without an organized trail system, these so call "Roads Of Yours" would eventually grow in, and the next time you went to find your cabin good luck, the bridges, the volunteers....I could go on and on. One really needs to get their head out of the sand...or in this case, the snow. The economic impact the industry has for this province, the fun of the sport, the family outings...the list goes on and on. Get with the times.....stop your crying....think outside the box and your own selfish close-minded ways. Snow Is Awesome!

  • Justin
    December 03, 2012 - 13:51

    I disagree. What I have been told is that if you are a trapper, a LTO holder for a remote cottage, etc., you actually do not need a trail pass. I cannot beleive a cabin owner would not support the system, but I guess there will always be those who feel they deserve something for nothing. As for trails, Crown Lands owns all the land these trails are on. The NLSF has Licence to Occupy "LTOs" for the routes they currently operate on. To say you are being forced by the NLSF to purchase a pass for a trail that was "taken" from you is incorrect. The Provincial Gov't has agreed the groomed trail system and has supported it by entering into these LTO's with the NLSF. Why is it Newfondlander's always want to take something good and turn it into negative? $80 a year for a groomed trail is a joke, I don't care what kind of financial situation you are in. If you have enough money to fill your snowmobile up with gas and oil every time you go at $50 a shot, you can surely pay $80 for a year of reduced maintenance, reduced gas costs, more comfort, and less of a pain in the back. Now, if the NLSF were out there charging $1000 a season, it would be different. You need to put this in perspective Mr. Samson, nobody is forcing you, you are actually being given a hell of an opportunity!

  • cory
    December 03, 2012 - 13:33

    everyone chip in $2 so mr samson can stop crying and get a pass.

  • Dave
    December 03, 2012 - 08:16

    You only need a trail sticker if you are going to be using the groomed trails. No one is stopping you from using non-groomed trails or building your own trails (assuming Environment approves).

    • ward samson
      December 03, 2012 - 10:21

      Dave: If you read the article, you will see that I am against using trails that have been TAKEN by NLSF ,,using old woods roads that we have used for years since 1962 and NOW claiming them and NOW forcing me to pay to travel on. I do not think so?? ward

    • Dave
      December 03, 2012 - 13:22

      Taken from who? If government owns the land then government can enter into an agreement with the NLSF on the use of that land. If that is the case then the trails were never "TAKEN".

  • Ma x Roe
    December 01, 2012 - 18:28

    Mr. Samson. Very well stated. You have my complete support. Max

  • david
    December 01, 2012 - 15:14

    "Snow machine": a) a machine that makes snow?; b) a snowblower?; or c) a snowmobile, which people have now inexplicably decided to re-name to create a new word?

  • Ralph Pritchett
    December 01, 2012 - 09:33

    I agree 100%. In this area (Central) they NLSF want me to buy a Trail Pass and they only groom the trails 3 or 4 times over the Season. Trails are groomed by the number of Passes sold in any given area. Low sales=low grooming.