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PP Behind the Scenes: A Story of Triumph!

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
Some Background:

Throughout the United States the federal government owns and manages vast amounts of land. And this is much more the case in the western states. For example, it ranges from a low of 0.3% in Connecticut to a whopping 80% in Nevada. Some other states of interest are Maine at 1.5%, Vermont: 7.8%, New Hampshire: 14.0%, Montana: 29.0%, Colorado 36.2%, Utah: 63.1% and Idaho is 61.9%. Access to this land is controlled by various governmental agencies such as the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. I, like many Americans, believe access and use of this land is a privilege, and with that privilege comes the requirement to act responsibly. Some others believe access to that land is a "right” that one obtains by virtue of their American citizenship. Regardless of one's beliefs on access, there are a small number of people who behave badly while on public lands. They cross boundaries into areas they don’t have permission to enter. They deface public property in various ways. They leave their trash wherever they go, and they are an obnoxious nuisance to others who are there to enjoy all that the public lands have to offer. Unfortunately, the few bad actors can spoil it for the rest of us, and also unfortunately the media seems to highlight the actions of the trouble makers.

There are also people and organizations that want to limit access to public lands, and especially so for motorized vehicles. Many of these individuals and organizations have deep pockets, are well-funded and are very adept at framing the issues publicly in a way to generate support amongst voters for limiting access.

A Seat at the Table:

Governmental policy regarding access is usually arrived at by soliciting input from various sources, and then after review of the pertinent issues, policies, rules and regulations are published. These decisions can be made on a local, regional or national basis, but it is crucially important to have a voice in the decision making process, a "seat at the table", if you will, if you want to influence the ultimate outcome. Typically, it is snowmobile registration fees that generate the bulk of the funding for the grooming of trails in winter. Some snowmobilers may resent use of the trails by cross-country skiers, snowshoers and by privately owned snowcats. And cross-country skiers resent snowmobilers for the noise, exhaust smell, and sometimes reckless operation on the groomed trails they are enjoying. So each of these groups has a somewhat conflicting agenda when it comes to making policy, though it would seem if they were able to work together they would have a much louder voice.

I had many great conversations with PP at SV 2021, and during one she told me there are only about 100 active recreational snowcat users in the Western US who operate their machines on federal lands. In comparison to the numbers of other user groups, such as ATV’s, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, hikers, snowshoers and hunters, we are a very small group. However, PP had the wisdom and foresight to take the initiative and work behind the scenes to get recreational snowcat users that elusive and vital seat at the table. For example, I know she communicated closely with the US Forest Service prior to SV 2020 and SV 2021, and after SV 2020, to make sure they understood we would be responsible users: "Taking only pictures and leaving only fingerprints”. Asking permission, communicating openly, and living up to your promises are all things that result in building a solid relationship and PP has succeeded in that quest for a voice as the head of the US Forest Service in Idaho sent a letter out to other US Forest Service locations throughout the country indicating our input would be sought and included when formulating future policy.

In addition to that, after SV2022 ended the lady in charge of the Ketchum USFS Regional Office invited PP to three meetings this upcoming summer soliciting input from over-snow vehicle groups. PP will represent private snowcat operators. To also give credit where it’s due, PP told me she followed the lead of Sno-Drifter, who has been working with the US Forest Service on Mt. Hood in Oregon in a similar fashion for several decades.

This is HUGE win for us! Once again, PP’s selfless actions and quiet leadership have benefited all of us. If this were a gala dinner at a convention rather than an Internet forum, I’d take my knife, tap my water glass a few times and then stand up and tell the audience this story. Hopefully, I’d do it well enough that there would be a spontaneous standing ovation, because that’s what she deserves!