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.