There are several reasons why I like to snowmobile. But the best one for me is, I get to do it with my whole family! From a day to just me and the wife to a day when we have the kids along, it makes for great family memories. And this year our little one, just turning a year in August, will join the family for hours of enjoyable riding in some of our Great Outdoors.
I started riding my own machine when I was 4 years old. I remember when we didnÔÇÖt ride groomed trails and the sleds seemed to break down almost every weekend. But I mainly remember the rides we took as a family when I got older. Dad, mom and us five kids. Yes we had six sleds and the youngest rode in front of dad. There are probably some people that remember seeing our motor home with the license plate OMOBILE attached, up in the Kingshill Parking Lot. We were there almost every weekend. I have continued to ride and now I take my two boys, ages 9 and 7, up on “the hill” to make our own set of family memories.
But all of this is slowly coming to an end. There are extremists out there who are trying to take ALL access to our public lands away from the common every day family like mine. They scream the sky is falling because of the trails I ride with my snowmobile and the noise pollution I cause. And lets not forget the exhaust fumes. These people live in our community and say they are doing this for the protection of our Public Lands for future generations. I donÔÇÖt buy it.┬á They try to make my family and me look like some kind of Land ogar that is only out to destroy Natures Beauty.┬á Oh, contrar’.┬á I am just as much a nature lover as the next guy.┬á Right now I have the freedom to choose how I will enjoy that nature and how my family and I will make those great Family memories.┬á But this may not be the case in the near future if these extreme groups continue to win.
Take Yellowstone Park for instance. When it first became available for the public, only the rich could ride the trains and stay at the deluxe accommodations that were available. When I say rich, I mean those who were use to hiring servants and dressing only in the best suits and dresses of the day. Then slowly the car made it so the working man of this country could enjoy the same pristine wonders of the Park as the rich. Roads, scenic pullouts, shops and motels went up to support the number of visitors each year.
Now they want to limit the number of snowmobiles that may go through the park and if some of these misguided groups had their way, remove snowmobiles altogether. Well letÔÇÖs take a look at where this would leave winter visitation to the Park. 1. Only a few people own the Guiding License to take snowmobiles through the Park and the numbers are limited. 2. If only the snowcoaches are used, the limited number will only price the common man from affording to take his family through the Park in the winter. Only the rich will go and again, only a few will reap the profits. 3. The surrounding communities have already witnessed the devastation that lack of winter tourism can do to their business this past season and it will only continue to get worse as the numbers decline. 4. Public Lands will basically become a playground for only those that can afford it. 5. My family memories will not include a trip through the Park in wintertime like those I have from doing just that with my Dad.
These extreme groups cry that we are devastating our Public Lands and they scream the sky is falling! If this were the case, wouldnÔÇÖt 60 years of motorized travel in these places already have destroyed what is out there? The answer-NO! These public lands were not used wisely at the turn of the 20th century, I agree. But in the past 30 years we have been reducing the Slash cuts, maintaining roads and trails better and making campsites cleaner and more ergonomic. Our vehicles alone cost an extra 10-15 thousand dollars so that research for emissions can be conducted. How many days and how many snowmobiles would it take to put out the same toxic emissions that one DC 9 puts out in one 3-hour flight? I donÔÇÖt know but I will let you know in a future article. These extreme groups lie to the public, their sponsors and to our representatives. Instead of using their moneys for trail clean up or plant restoration, they use it to sue American Citizens to kick us out of any access to our public lands. They cost us, the ordinary taxpayer, thousands upon thousands of dollars each year in suing us!!!
The National Parks were established, not as a wilderness but so the Majority could take in the beauty of their wonders. The National Forests were established for timber and mineral harvest and later for Multiple Use by the Public. These extremists are trying and succeeding at dismantling the Multiple Use concept. If you recall back in the 70ÔÇÖs and 80ÔÇÖs the extremists dismantled our timber and mining industries through costly litigation. Now they are attacking you and me directly by suing us to stay off OUR land. They are turning our Public Lands into the Playgrounds for the Rich with only the outfitters and guides making a living instead of a whole community. Only the CEOÔÇÖs and upper management or congressional aids will be able to witness and experience the great outdoors in the very near future.
I have yet to step foot on one of our many Wilderness areas here in Montana. Why? Because I have little ones that walking that far is not an option. Hunting without horses is mute and I only have so many days of vacation each year and spending that with my family comes first.┬á I would much rather buy snowmobiles, ride several times in a year, instead of saving up for one trip through the Bob Marshall, paying a guide and watching TV for the rest of the year.┬á┬á So I have to ask, why do we need more wildernesses? Are my kids ever going to enjoy these areas? Realistically, no. I donÔÇÖt see my kids being a CEO or Wall Street entrepreneur. I see them making a comfortable wage, supporting a family and if these extremists keep winning, doing all their recreation around a TV or amusement park. My grandkids wonÔÇÖt get to experience the thrill of back-country snowmobiling, motorcycling or 4 wheelinÔÇÖ. That will only be afforded by the Trumps, Turners and Redfords of their age.
The numerous Snowmobile Clubs of Montana donate time and money each year on several community projects such as Highway clean up, weed spraying and the Trans Montana Ride for MS. This does not include the time spent cleaning/grooming trails, meetings with Fish and Game and the Forest Service and putting together club events and safety classes.
So what can we do? GET INVOLVED!!! Join your local Snowmobile Club and the Montana Snowmobile Association, numbers count and the Forest Service is going to these clubs for input on the Travel Plans. It is one way of being counted for riding. Write comments on every access issue you can. Contact legislatures, county commissioners and let everyone you know that there are meetings we have to attend. Ride responsibly and be courteous, but donÔÇÖt put your head in the sand and think these extremists are going away on his or her own. Stand up, be counted and be Heard.
“This is land is your land, this land is my landÔÇª”, I am willing to be heard and possibly fight for My LandÔÇª. Are you with me?
Craig S. Osterman