Promoting quiet recreation in Wisconsin.
Opposing the coming attempts to sell off Wisconsin's natural heritage.
Fighting denial about climate change. When are we hitting the streets?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Perfect skiing to be thankful for...

Its hard to believe in the midst of this thaw that for a day there was some great skiing to be had in Northern Wisconsin. My daughter and I ventured out on the Lumberjack trail in Boulder Junction the Friday after Thanksgiving-A trail that is dear to my heart, since i used to ski that country before there was a "trail".

This is a tricky time of year to ski, since it is during gun-deer season. But it was the second weekend, not many hunters were out, and we wore the requisite blaze orange. The rewards for venturing out was an afternoon of total silence. I should say near total silence-once we did hear a back-up alarm on a truck in the distance. But other than that, we heard no human sound but our own. Pretty amazing on such a windless day.

At one point, we both stopped and listened to an unusual whistling call. It wasn't a whistling actually, but not a bugling either. We didn't know what it was, but it did call attention to how quiet it was.

There was more than enough snow to keep us from scraping the trail, but it was pretty easy trailbreaking. Lumberjack is an ungroomed trail, not very difficult, and not as glamorous as Escanaba, but it has a couple of nice features: Some big pines in the first section, a beautiful crossing over White Sand Creek, a short side trip to Fishtrap dam on the Manitowish river, and a nice figure eight trail. There is also a beautiful connecting trail to the Escanaba loops-(although last year it was closed due to logging so check before you go).

I can't emphasize how wonderful it is to be out in the winter with no snowmobile noise. Why can't we have a quiet hunting season like we have a deer hunting season? Perhaps the first skiable weekend between hunting season and the opening of snowmobile season. I would like to report we bagged some trophy quiet this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thinking good thoughts tonight...step outside for a bit

Wow! Mars and Venus were out there tonight, very bright. My first year of college I used to leave Ross Hall in the middle of the night to ski through undeveloped city lots.
My impression of Superior seems as vivid now as it was then- cold wind coming from the lake forming snow dunes. A slight refinery smell. Houses curtained shut and tight. I have seldom been in a true wilderness, but my experience on those trips, looking up at the night sky and then back at the cold lights of streets and parking lots was one of complete isolation. I felt totally alive!

Kathleen Dunn talked with the Senior Editor of Astronomy magazine today-you can get to the link here:

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Beat it senseless?"

"Trail Tough. Track Ready"

"Don't just hit the trail, beat it senseless with the ultimate combination of power, handling & suspension. No other high performance ATV's offer such impressive integrated components that provide riders with a great experience on the trails and on the track".

ATV manufacturers are using the same concepts to sell ATV's that they use with snowmobiles: Make an association in users' minds between the track and the trail. Make them want bigger and more powerful machines.

But this doesn't just increase sales, it defines what the sport will become by attracting people who are really only interested in racing, and "beating the trail senseless".

Compromise principle number one: No ATV's in the Northern Highland Forest until racing is taken out of the ATV trail riding equation.

"..dominate everything..."

Does your ATV have:


You should be feeling pretty inadequate. What, is that a golf cart your ridin'?

This wasn't even the high performance model. Wait till you read about that one.

"...Dominate the Trail..."

Notice that it says "dominate the trail", not "dominate the track". Snowmobile manufacturers are cynically at work selling the idea that trail riding is a racing sport. This at the same time they are saying that it is only a few "bad apples" causing problems.

Unfortunately, it isn't just the people who use the trails as racetracks that are in danger. All the "family friendly" snowmobilers are in danger, too.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"This Thing Screams!"

That's what Polaris says about its showcase snowmobile. Looks like they are really concerned about keeping the noise down...

State's forests up for grabs: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Lee Bergquist has done some great writing lately. This article has the air of inevitability about it-so I hope we can think of ways to control the inevitable change to Wisconsin's private forests. I am recalling a section of John McPhee's great book "Encounters with the Archdruid" (required reading) in which David Brower actually advocated development on some islands in the Atlantic with the proviso that the development is well done, and that funds from the sale are used for protection. I think we have to decide which parts of these private forest lands are essential, and which parts could be developed carefully under the conditions that they finance the preservation of the rest. Most importantly, I think we need to instill an ethic in people who live in the northwoods that they are caretakers.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Big trail plans for Wisconsin! From the Capital Times

Just in time to pull me out of my funk! Thanks to Brook Waalen for sending this...

Think about the possibility of biking or hiking from Madison to Illinois! Mike Ivey writes about the connection to other Wisconsin trails from the Madison hub, but the other side of the border looks pretty good, too:

We would be creating a huge, two state network of interconnecting bicycle (and hiking) trails. I don't think we have begun to see the possibilities for tourism. As always, the ATVers are trying to get in. We need to call and write to our legislators that ATV use is NOT compatible with this vision...

Following the history of attempts to regulate noise...

Please read this 2003 article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. We are trying to follow the history of attempts to regulate snowmobile noise.

New questions come up for me all the time.

-Everyone-including the manufacturer of after market products-seems to say that certain after-market mufflers are the problem, and only a few use them. So lets see the evidence. How many after-market mufflers sold are louder than manufacturers equipment? That would tell us how many "few" is.

-Are after-market mufflers really the only problem? I suspect that speed is also a problem. Why were speed limits for snowmobiles removed? (They may be restored for nighttime driving-why only nightime? Should snowmobiles be going 80 miles an hour anytime? I can't drive my car, wearing a seatbelt, at 80 miles an hour...

-Why were sobriety checkpoints stopped?

Those of you who want ATVs in the Northern Highland state forest should be asking these questions too. Because until snowmobile noise is reduced, people are not going to want ATV's roaring through the forest unmanaged too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Phone conversation with Gary Eddy Chief DNR ATV/Snowmobile enforcement officer

I had a phone conversation with Gary Eddie today about ATV/Snowmobile sound enforcement. He was very open about answering questions, but I still have many remaining after the conversation. But here it goes:

Why are ATV noise levels set at 96 and Snowmobiles at 88 or 84 (depending on upcoming legislative decisions)?: There are technical reasons related to placement of mufflers, snow vs. leaves and branches as muffling sound, etc. Does this mean an ATV at 96 will be no louder than a snowmobile at 84? Gary couldn't say for sure.

(Question I didn't ask: Who made those technical decisions? What type of research was done? Where are the results?)

Question: Why are maximum snowmobile regs (84 or 88) set louder than the 78 decible limit that the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association sets for snowmobiles off the factory? Answer: Different groups lobbied for these rules, including snowmobile groups and manufacturers.

By the way, the final regs for snowmobiles are still in discussion in the legislature. Please notify your legislator that you are unhappy with the new higher sound. Remember, the difference in decibels is not incremental, but exponential: a 10 decibel difference is twice as loud. Too late for ATV's.

Question: Do some after market kits make snowmobiles quieter? Answer: Yes.
Why don't people install them? It would be good for the sport as a whole. Answer: Some people think they go faster when their machines make more noise.

Question: How many field-testing machines will be available for use? One per county? Gary couldn't say.

Question: My guess is a lot of snowmobilers modify their machines to be louder. What is his guess? Gary couldn't say, but didn't think it was a lot.

OK, in general, there are a lot of questions I still have, but let me some up what I got from this so far:

1. There will be no new enforcement tool for snowmobiles this year. Maybe next year.
2. We don't know yet how effective the protocol for measuring snowmobile noise will be.
3. ATV's and snowmobiles will be louder, rather than quieter, by law.
4. Snowmobiles don't have to be louder, in fact, after-market kits could instead make them significantly quieter, but the snowmobile lobby opposes reductions in noise levels.
5. ATV's allowable decibel level will be twice that of snowmobiles.

Please let me know I am missing something here. I am feeling depressed...

DNR backs off pier rule...

Caving to the realtors association? Or just being flexiible? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What didn't you do this year?

Catching up on Dennis McCann columns. Here he writes about the things he didn't do this year.

My list:

-Didn't canoe the last stretch of the Wisconsin river with my daughter. We scheduled that as a definite for next year.

-Didn't canoe a stretch of the Flambeau river. I didn't catch any fish.

-My DID DO list was pretty good, though. I rediscovered biking in Vilas County-I covered lots of town roads, bike trails, snowmobile trails, and paths in the woods. We remodeled a bunkhouse. I swam in lots of lakes. I ran the Chicago Marathon.

-I did a lot of writing-as the philosopher Walter Kaufmann called it, thinking in slow motion.

-I learned some about the place I live. I learned some about how the DNR works, and some of the forces that impact on their decisions.

I hear we may get a bunch of snow this weekend. Could I be cross country skiing? It is the opening of Deer season, so I will have to find some red...

Illegal Pier concerns all wet.

Hey, all...

Still working on the after-market issue, I will have more to say on Thursday.

Here is a letter to the Lakeland Times that outlines the Wisconsin Realtor's Association attempt to sabatoge reasonable pier rules.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More on the after-market issue....

I thought about writing the following last week: "wouldn't it be more cost effective and simple to merely outlaw after-market mufflers on snowmobiles and ATV's? At least those increase Decibel levels?" That way, a DNR or town or county officer would only need to visually inspect the machine and write a ticket-and, as I recommended, confiscate the offending machine. But I don't know that much about snowmobiles, and so I didn't know if it were even possible.

Lo and behold, today I read the following at an off-road sport website:

"Two years ago at the ISC (International Snowmobile Congress) there was discussion to ban the modification of exhaust systems altogether. However, over the past two sessions of Congress, it has been resolved by the state associations, DNR, aftermarket companies and the OEMs to work together in order to design a field friendly testing method. Also, most of the aftermarket manufacturers who design and produce exhaust systems have resolved to manufacture only quiet systems."

This is a very interesting quote for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it comes from a site that accepts advertising from at least one of those few manufacturers that didn't resolve to manufacture only quiet systems.

But that is only the beginning...Read the following reason for not banning after-market mufflers:

"Law enforcement and environmentalists need to realize that banning or unreasonably restricting the sale of aftermarket exhausts and restricting trail access will have an effect on the economy in many areas. Dealers rely on aftermarket product sales in order to stay healthy. Unfortunately, most dealers cannot sell snowmobiles for the suggested retail price."

So let me get this straight-snowmobile dealers don't make money selling snowmobiles?

"In fact, a large number of dealers barely break even on new unit sales and therefore are forced to rely heavily on aftermarket parts sales in order to make up the difference. Aftermarket pipe sales help to make dealers more profitable so that they can employ more people to service their customers properly."

So dealers make their money on aftermarket products, like noisy exhaust systems? My guess is, you would have to sell quite a few of those to make much money.... perhaps more than just "a few bad apples" would buy?...I wonder how many, actually?

So why don't these two sentences add up?

-Only a few "bad apples" cause problems by having noisy after-market exhaust systems.
-We can't ban noisy after-market exhaust systems because dealers rely on their sales.

The statements don't match up. Let's add this question to last night's list: How many after-market snowmobile and ATV exhaust systems are sold in Wisconsin? Please let me know if you know the answer.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A reading list...

This reading list is for silent sports folks and for folks who wonder why silent sports enthusiasts are suspicious of ATV recreation. I have more research to do on exactly how and when the new inspections will take place, so forgive me for what I don't know yet-please reply to set me straight where I am mistaken.

The snowmobile lobby fought decibel level restriction to 84 Db, even though law requires snowmobiles off the factory to be less than 78...see what I write below to know why this difference is important...

And then there is this essential article on how well snowmobile self-policing went last year :

By the way, the Journal-Sentinel seems to have far and away the best reporting on these issues.

I see that the allowable decibel level for ATV's is actually higher than that for Snowmobiles:

Perhaps there is a technical reason for this, but it doesn't seem reassuring...Why 96? Isn't that somewhere around the level of hearing loss after an extended period of time? Remember, decibel level differences are not incremental, they are exponential. A difference between 78 and 94 might not seem like much, but on an exponential scale, an increase of 10 Decibels is twice as loud...

Perhaps I would not even hear snowmobiles or ATV's properly running at the higher standard. But the following is the kind of thing that makes silent sports folks mistrust all publicity from organized motor sports:

One online snowmobile magazine says that it is only outlaws who are causing problems by using after market mufflers. But the very same magazine has a link to one of its sponsors for the following...

I suspect that this company is not just selling its products to people who only use their snowmobiles on racetracks. Basically, there are two worlds of snowmobiling-the nice "family sport world" that the industry and clubs want you to accept as the standard, and then there is the noisy, fast, and alcohol-sodden world as it is enjoyed by more than just a few "bad apples"-My guess is that the groups are about even in membership. Maybe I am wrong, and it only sounds that way.

At any rate, my question to ATV people is: Why should silent sports enthusiasts believe that your sport will be different?

woodchopping weekend...

S0metimes oak cuts like butter! Thanks to my Dad for showing me the secret...

I will be doing some research this week related to inspecting internal combustion engines (outboard motors, ATV's, snowmobiles) for decibel levels.

Here are some questions I have:

What will be the protocol for inspecting snowmobiles and ATV's?
Why do snowmobiles and ATV's have different maximum allowable decibel levels? How were these levels chosen?
If the sound tests are done when the vehicles are stationary, how does that relate to actual field conditions?
Were silent sports practitioners included in any of the discussions of decibel levels or inspection protocols?
What will be the consequences of violating sound levels? (confiscation and a 5000 fine, I hope!)
What is the relationship between speed and noise? Will the DNR be monitoring speed as well as static noise? (not to mention alcohol use?)

questions? Answers? Send them to quietnorth...see my next posts for interesting reading related to these questions...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reader Comment and response

Its always great to get a response from a reader...I am getting a lot of "hits" to the site, so I know you are out there, but it is great to get comments... Here is a good one....

"...Wouldn't it make more sense to open sustainable riding areas and enforce sound limts to control the "other" recreation.Did you know, Wisconsin DNR purchased about 25 new Qwest type 1 sound meters and have been training this year to properly test ATV's, boats, and other OHV'sOff highway recreation has been the largest growing out door recreation sport for the last two years, try and work with them.There are alot of other ATV riders that would prefer every one ride quiet machines.We love ya' man...." anonymous, 11/04/05

First, thanks for the post.

I agree with your first point, just not the order. Lets first demonstrate that we can control sound, then consider opening up new kinds of recreation. I think the sound meters are promising in the abstract. The question will be how they work in reality. There are already ways to regulate vehicle traffic noise, but it seems every fifth truck runs illegal pipes-There is no meaningful enforcement. I am also concerned that sound measured while a machine is stationary won't match up the noise it makes in operation. My personal measurement will be how much quieter the snowmobiles are a mile or two away when I am on a cross country ski trail.

I appreciate that many ATVer's want things quiet, too. But I wonder how many would actually confront violaters (It doesn't seem snowmobilers are confronting each other about noise)

Lets keep the conversation going.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

National Forests restrict off-road trails

This headline is not as promising as it looks. It may mean that the government will enforce limits on All Terrain Vehicle use where it has never done so before. But if you read carefully, it may mean that the government will "legitimize" many trails that have already been made by renegade off-roaders. The problem here as elsewhere will be one of enforcement. Where will the money come to provide the enforcement needed?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

From Sue Drum: The NRB Meeting, Oct 26th

Hi everyone,

This is a brief synopsis of the Natural Resource board meeting in Tomahawk at Treehaven, Oct. 26, 2005.

When the agenda came to the approval of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest Master Plan, 17 people had signed-up ahead of time to speak. Each was given 4 minutes. Six spoke against ATV authorization ( Sue Drum, Mark Haag, Don Erickson, June Schmaal, Jerry Woolpy, and Norm Poulton); four spoke in favor of ATV trails ( Randy Hardin- WATVA, Bill Schuman- Blue Ribbon Coalition, Sulo Wainio- Alliance of Vilas County ATV Clubs
with 500 members, and President of Northwoods ATV Club from Boulder Junction); Four spoke for expansion of public land as a wall against development and forest fragmentation; one man wanted more bike trails because biking was good for our health; one man wanted a larger timber harvest because mills were closing; one man wanted to protect feral cats and pigs???

Dennis Leath and Tim Mulhern talked about the features in the 15 year plan. They made it clear that they would choose the members of the stakeholders group to consider ATV trails.

A board member asked how they could come back in 18 months with recommendations for ATV trails if they hadn't been able to find a suitable site in 9 years.
Dennis said he wanted to get all other parts of the Master Plan approved while he conducted stakeholder meetings on ATV trails. The 18 months is sort of a space holder for ATVs. The time limit for ATV consideration is flexible, and 18 months is only one goal. Does this sound like the door is never completely closed to ATVs?

The Board asked Dennis if they could refuse to consider ATVs at all. Dennis said that ATVs were so popular they should revisit the issue. Also state law instructs the DNR to encourage and support ATV trails. Despite opposition from Vilas County, Dennis said they would not rule out siting a trial in Vilas.

Randy Harden was oozing with cooperation. He liked stakeholders groups; he liked to work with everyone. He touted the Ice Age Trail "Memo of Understanding" as a step forward. He mentioned he was on the Governor's State Trails Council and was always in favor of sustainable trails.

The lady board member asked why we should produce more ATV trails for more people to violate. Randy's answer was unclear but he mentioned that more trails would disperse ATV numbers which would lead to less damage. (who's he kidding)

The lady board member said deer poaching was essentially stopped when poachers were fined $2000 and their rifles confiscated. She favored fining rogue ATV riders $2000 and confiscation their vehicle. Randy had no comment.

A gentleman who was a director on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands spoke in support of the forest expansion, emphasizing again that the NRB must act quickly before the few remaining large blocks of land were sold to developers. It is necessary to link the NH-AL to the Ottowas Nat. Forest in the U.P. to provide a corridor for wildlife and preserve the diverse ecosystems of the northwoods.

A board member asked the speaker to describe his feelings toward ATVs on BCPL forest lands. With "off the cuff" sincerity and obvious experience, he delivered some very stong statements. He said he would proceed very cautiously with ATV trails as they had experienced serious problems with ATVs on BCPL lands. He said riders were difficult to control and enforcement was hampered by the inability to ID machine and rider. He suggested large license plate numbers that could be read from both front and back.

The NRB quickly voted to accept the NH-AL State Forest 15 year Master Plan as presented. The Plan goes to the legislature for final approval.

The next step will be a stakeholders group that will search for a suitable site for an ATV trail, applying the new DNR guidelines for siting, building and maintenance. Of course I have asked Dennis to include me.

Sue Drum
11384 CTH B
Presque Isle, 54557