Access to major snowmobile trails in northern Minnesota is once again in danger, due to an ongoing dispute between the State of Minnesota and some large land-holding companies. The situation – and potentially the future of snowmobiling in much of Minnesota’s beautiful and rural northcountry – will come to a head within the next week or so, and leaders in Minnesota’s grassroots snowmobiling community are urging riders to get involved immediately.
The situation first came to light last fall, when the Molpus Woodlands Group, a massive timberland ownership and management corporation based in Mississippi, said it planned to block snowmobilers, hunters, ATV riders and others who access its property with motorized vehicles because of changes in the Minnesota tax laws.
Those changes reduced the total tax credit that Molpus (and, before it, the Forest Cap Partners and Boise Cascade) received for allowing recreational access to its large swaths of land from $2 million to $100,000 per year. Other large landholding, timber or paper companies, including UPM Blandin and Potlatch Corp., also have similar complaints. Molpus holds about 286,000 acres of rural forestland in Northern Minnesota; Potlatch controls 205,000 and Blandin has about 187,000 acres, according to each of the company’s websites.
After Molpus made the threat to block access to its land in September of 2012, several members of the Minnesota Legislature got involved and assured the company that lawmakers would address the issue in the 2013 legislative session. With that pledge, Molpus backed off of its threat and it was snowmobiling-as-usual in Minnesota this past winter. Had Molpus acted on its threat, many major and minor snowmobile trails would have been affected.
Now, however, the issue is caught up in language in separate House and Senate Omnibus Tax bills, with a big gap between the two sides and no clear consensus on how it will be resolved. And, with the Minnesota Legislature scheduled to wrap up its session no later than May 20 – 11 days from now – this issue is on the front burner for recreational users of land in Minnesota.
The Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA) is urging all snowmobilers to contact their legislators – both in the House and Senate – and deliver this simple message: Please do what it takes to preserve snowmobiling and recreational access to lands in Northern Minnesota. The snowmobilers organization is not taking a stand on the exact funding for the involved Sustainable Forest Incentive Act, instead merely asking the lawmakers to work with the landholding companies to create a solution and sustain snowmobiling, as it is an important recreational and quality-of-life issue for many people, including residents and others who visit Minnesota for snowmobiling.
If you live in Minnesota, you can find you state representatives here.