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June 28, 2004 – Snowmobile Congress identifies several industry problems

June 28, 2004
Filed under Features

By Lynn Keillor, Snowmobile Editor
Matt and Laurie Kotesa, owners of Lissy’s Polaris II Inc. in Wilmington, Ill., made their first visit to the International Snowmobile Congress, held in Sioux Falls, S.D., from June 9–12.
The couple, with children Steven and Kristen, came to receive an award as the recipients of the American Council of Snowmobile Association’s (ACSA)Dealer Of The Year. But Laurie Kotesa said they came away from the event with more than just hardware.
“As a dealer, I didn’t realize there there were so many problems facing snowmobiling,” she said. “You take it for granted that you load up your snowmobile and go. You don’t realize how many people are behind it all.”
Lissy’s, which the Kotesas have owned for two years, was honored for its contributions to the grassroots of the sport. They were noted specifically for their promotion of snowmobile clubs and the state association and their open houses. Laurie Kotesa said the dealership is now planning to do more grassroots work, including safety training and sponsoring new clubs.
“I think we will be coming more involved in attending more Congresses and making our customers more aware of the issues and what’s going on,” Kotesa said.
Other businesses receiving awards at the event were Sudbury Cycle and Marine in Sudbury, Ontario, as the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organization’s (CCSO) Outstanding Dealership. Motoneiges Tremblant, St. Donat, Quebec, was the CCSO’s Outstanding Snowmobile-Related Company and the Festival Nord American de Thetford Mines, Quebec, received the CCSO’s promotion and development award.

Issues On The Forefront
The International Snowmobile Congress (ISC) is the annual gathering of leaders in the snowmobile community to discuss issues in the sport and plan strategically.
A tree-planting campaign, as a part of ISC’s National Environmental Campaign, got a ceremonial kick-start with a planting of 10 trees in a Sioux Falls park. In May, snowmobilers in Wisconsin planted more than 5,000 trees and state organizations placed orders at the ISC for thousands more.
Land access was a continual theme, as many states and provinces talked about their local battles to keep areas open to snowmobiles. Jim Duke, ACSA President and Michigan resident, talked about a potential buffer zone to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore that would severely affect a popular snowmobile trail. Chuck Beck, president of the
Montana Snowmobile Association, reported a decrease in Wilderness intrusions by snowmobilers in his state
and how the association is working with the National Forest Service on revision plans.
Delegates were updated on the Yellowstone national Park issue. Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), said he expects a favorable ruling from Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer for a permanent injunction to reverse the decision by Washington D.C. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. Klim said he anticipates a ruling in early September.
Meanwhile, delegates were informed of a bill in Congress introduced by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Rush Holt, D-N.J., to end snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. A similar bill was introduced last year, and lost on a tie vote.
Canadian delegates discussed increasing and debilitating insurance costs that have threatened to close down trail systems in several provinces.
Yves Watier, vice president and CEO of the Federation des Clubs de Motoneigistes du Quebec (FCMQ), reported a lawsuit in Quebec that could have serious repercussion on snowmobile trails in that province.
A $45 million class action suit has been filed on behalf of 500 people. The suit, which names the FCMQ and the province, alleges noise pollution, air pollution and devaluation of property along a 26-mile stretch of railbed trail. The suit asks for $45 million and a 1,000-foot buffer zone between any inhabited building. The current standard in Quebec is 100 feet.
Should the plaintiff win, it could effectively close down most of the Quebec trail system, including trails that lead to gas station and hotels, Watier said.
Even a compromise could be devastating, Watier said. “We won’t end up paying $45 million, but a a judge may mandate trails no closer than 650 feet from houses and buildings,” he said. “And that will kill our trail system and the businesses that depend on traveling snowmobilers.”

Political Implications
Big names in local and national politics addressed the ISC, including U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschl of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
In a short speech, Sen. Daschl emphasized his commitment to allowing snowmobile access in the national parks and for trail development.
South Dakota’s governor M. Michael Rounds announced a plan double the number of tourist visits to South Dakota by 2010, noting that snowmobile tourism as a part of his plan.
John Thune, a former congressman from South Dakota and current candidate for U.S. senate, received a check from the Friends Of Snowmobiling Political Action Committee following his address to the ISC. psb

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