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?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The aesthetic of snowmobiles.

I was filling up yesterday in Boulder Junction when about 20 snowmobiles pulled in from all directions. They are beautiful machines-wasplike and bold.

So how do we change the sound aesthetic in snowmobilers? Can we change an appreciation for the growl of enhanced exhaust systems that destroy our aesthetic? Will there ever be a time when an ad will tout a quiet-running engine and track drive?

"Don't Race on the Trails!"

Congratulations to River Valley State Bank for its "Don't Race on the Trails!" ad campaign. I saw the ad yesterday in Woodruff, and I don't know how widespread it will be. As soon as I find a link to it, I will pass it on.

Breaking the connection between track and trail will be difficult, since that is what sells many snowmobiles. Snowmobile manufacturers are complicit in this, and should be held to account. After the great River Valley ad, there were ads for snowmobiles that reinforced the speed connection.

Friday, January 26, 2007

On getting maps...from the DNR's Robert Dall

I asked for maps from the Stakeholder's group. Keep checking for maps, and let me know if you get them...


Hi Mark,
As these are working drafts, they are changing every meeting. We will
soon be putting some drafts on the web site very soon so please stay
tuned to:

These working maps will show the latest information available.

Thanks for your request and previous input.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Letter from Joel Patenaude...

He references an essay you can read in the next Silent Sports Magazine-but he makes other important references here...

"Dear nonmotorized trails advocates,

I want to share with you my take on a mixed bag of Wisconsin ATV
legislation I had a nominal hand in drafting. This polemic will appear
in the February issue of Silent Sports, which will go to press and be
sent to subscribers and newsstands by the end of this week

In the article I hope I make clear that several components of a draft
bill ought to be supported by the small "s" silent sports community.
Other parts of it, namely a possibly massive increase in the state ATV
fund, are worrying and deserve our opposition.

In a separate editor's letter in the February issue, not included
here, I argue specifically for 1) $500,000 for the needed Ice Age
Trail reroute, 2) an increase in the proposed ATV damage repair fund
from $30,000 each year for two years (I point out that a similar
program in Minnesota is paying more than that in damage claims), and
3) urge nonmotorized trail users throughout Wisconsin to file Trail
Safety and Incident Forms when they've encountered illegal ATV riding
and trail damage.

Also in the February issue is a first-hand account of the challenge of
keeping ATVs off Nature Conservancy Land in the Keweenaw Peninsula of
Michigan's U.P. It was written by a U.P.-based cofounder of WIldlands
CPR, an organization fighting the motorizing of our wild public
places. Check them out at

If you have any feedback, please don't hesitate. And I'm always
interested in publishing letters to the editor if you have thoughts
you would like to share with readers of the magazine.


Joel Patenaude, Editor
Silent Sports"

Evidence to ponder...

As you ride highway M to Boulder Junction, look for the snowmobile tracks along the bike trail. There probably isn't too much harm that can happen to a bike trail when there is plenty of snow. But it is interesting that the trail is posted against snowmobiling. And it runs along the highway, where the only potential enforcement is likely to be found.

So, if we can't keep snowmobiles off posted bike trails, in the presence of law enforcement, how well will we keep ATV's out of fun play areas like wetlands, rivers, and lake shore, where there will be no law enforcement?

DNR: Steamrolling on ATV trail continues....

Quote from Dennis Leith:

" They’ve taken field trips out to look at sites and they’ve worked hard to identify routes that would provide good riding opportunity and at the same time meet the necessary trail sustainability standards in place for state lands.”
Of course, the committee never set standards for sustainability, so it was a foregone conclusion that a trail site would be found. Well, anyway, it is time to get a map of the proposed routes and start taking it to the public.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Here is another...

designed to transform your ATV into a truly
All Season Vehicle
Able to take on the deepest snow, the most challenging
mud holes.
As well as hard surfaced road or the roughest riverbed
you can find."

I am sure that NOONE who buys a kit like this would be tempted to go off of an ATV trail....

In case your ATV can't go off trail enough....

So is the DNR ready for this? Would machines outfitted with "litefeet" (what a name!) be excluded from ATV trails? Look at the pictures on the site, showing where you can go. Will ATV groups argue against using these things on ATV trails?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The objective: Hybrid/electric snowmobiles

Just as the american auto industry has to be dragged kicking and screaming by its customers into making hybrid and electric cars, so snowmobile and ATV manufacturers need to get to hybrid-electric vehicles. But do their customers want them? Or is noise part of the enjoyment of the activity?

Lets see if motorized vehicle enthusiasts step up to the plate for the environment and for national security and demand hybrid-electric vehicles.

snowmobiles in Yellowstone....

The article doesn't address specifically what is meant by the "latest technology" in noise and air pollution control. Can you control the track noise of a machine that can go 90 miles an hour? Are there speed limit restrictions on snowmobiles in Yellowstone?

I would have liked to have seen very strict limits on sound, but as I remember, manufacturers complained, applied the technology called "money", and the strict limits were lifted.

commentary in Silent Sports magazine next month

A revision of my essay on a silent sports tax will go into next month's Silent Sports magazine. I will publish it here some time after it goes in the magazine. But if you have any ideas of how to implement a silent sports users fee, let me know.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Lakeland Times

By the way, is it me, or is the Lakeland Times presenting a more nuanced view of environmental issues in its news articles? I don't mean the publisher's rants or Richard Moore's tunnel vision journalism. But the articles by Debbie Munson Badini are actually very good. One might even it possible?... that there is more news in Northern Wisconsin than DNR misdeeds!

Conservation Congress supports ban on baiting and feeding...

An interesting discussion of food plots in the article. If laying out a corn pile is wrong, what about planting a few acres of corn? The trouble is, we no longer have a coherent woods ethic that puts the entire natural system ahead of our own narrow interests.

Potlatch...selling land in Minnesota

Perhaps Wisconsin's biggest "slow motion story" is the fragile nature of forest land held by private timber interests. Or, to be more precise, private interests that hold land as timber land-until it may be more profitable to sell it as "recreational".

Friday, January 05, 2007

Why silence should be taxed...

While there were many disagreements during yesterday's State Trail committee meeting, Representative Ott's proposal for a state income tax check off for non motorized trails was one of the ideas everyone seemed to agreed on. The fact that silent sports enthusiasts don't have a source of funding, such as a license fee or gas tax, means that we have little clout. We are, in effect, silenced!

However, I would up the ante. I think the state should create a silent sports license. Everyone who participates in trail hiking, biking, geocacheing, paddling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and birding should be expected to have a license.

There are four good reasons for creating such a silent sports license:

The first is a matter of fairness. Other outdoor activities like hunting and snowmobiling are licensed. The fees help pay for maintenance, sustainability, and law enforcement related to the activity.

The second reason is resource enhancement. Collected revenue can help support the maintenance of existing resources, and the addition of new resources, relating to silent sports. For example, we could speed up the development of Wisconsin’s bike trail system, and the Ice Age and North Country trail hiking trail plans.

The third reason is clout. Snowmobilers and ATVers get clout, because their sport raises an incredible amount of money in gas taxes and license fees. The lack of our own revenue source disempowers us with State government. This was painfully clear during the trails committee meeting. Given that the number of silent sport participants greatly outnumbers any other user group, we would have an enormous voice in decisions made about resources.

The fourth reason is unity and a sense of shared purpose. I think one of the reasons snowmobilers and ATVers are unified is that they pay a license fee. A license not only generates revenue but it gives people a sense of shared identity. Social psychologists say rituals, especially unpleasant ones, can help create group inclusiveness. Think of duck hunters, anglers, deer hunters, snowmobilers. These groups have nothing over silent sports enthusiasts in terms of passion for their activity-but what do we lack? Perhaps in part it is the fact that we don't go through the ritual of paying for the privelege of belonging.

There would be some practical issues related to having a silent sports license, but shouldn't we start the conversation?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

First impressions from the Special Committee on State Trails Policy

I just returned from this legislative committee meeting chaired by my Senator, Senator Breske. My comments are impressionistic at this point, and since reporter Joel Patenaude was there, he can give a reporter's accuracy to the meetings. But I took away the following impressions that relate more to the philosophy of the players than the specific draft recommendations.

-Senator Breske does not see why there can't be ATV trails all over the state, like snowmobile trails.
-The lack of a funding source from silent sports folks is hugely disempowering for us, and needs to be addressed. Representative Ott did propose a remedy for this (which I will discuss in a later post) that may be included in whatever happens next in the legislative process.
-Silent Sports opposition and concern about trails is seen as adversarial, but the imposition of ATV's on silent sports is quickly passed over. In fact, Senator Breske said that since bike trails are along roads, silent sports enthusiasts have no right to complain about ATV noise.
-Enforcement funding is not likely to go to the DNR but to local governmental bodies. (This thanks to Senator Schultz, who also said that most enforcement is actually done by ATVers themselves.)
-Senator Ott asked what was being done by manufacturers to mitigate problems. SOmeone suggested that manufacturers lower sound and make less damaging tires, but someone else stated that a number of ATV users would change the tires and buy off market exhausts anyway. Noone brought up the connection between this and enforcement. In other words, nothing will be done to hold manufacturers responsible, or to give the DNR the staff to enforce, ATV violations.

More to follow...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A natural "control" condition

David Drake sends this interesting idea:

"I remain perplexed as to why we are unable to sell using Vilas county as a test case for
"no ATV's allowed." We clearly need a large area, where ATV's are
not allowed to determine the extent of the damage or lack of damage
they are doing in areas where they are allowed. "

Experimental conditions are the hallmark of scientific research. By leaving some areas of the northwoods free of ATV trails, we have a natural "control group" to measure ATV damage, impact to other users, and the cost of restoration and enforcement of areas that do have ATV's.

Pat Durkin: DNR needs a rumor debunker like Snopes

I always guide my students to early in the semester to teach then to squash urban legends and internet rumours. If you don't know about the site, please visit. When I recieve an internet rumor, I usually reply to the sender with a link to Snope's response.

Pat Durkin is a great resource himself in debunking Wisconsin outdoor rumors. (I confess, I used to think those little asian beetles that infest our houses were brought in by the DNR).

I find Wisconsin outoor rumors usually take the following form;

-Person A wants to do something in the northwoods.
-The DNR stands in his or her way.
-The rumor justifies the behavior that person A wants to do while showing the DNR to be fools.

Elk find new home....

Third article down. Congratulations to the Elk Foundation...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Link to Thursday's ATV agenda...

Urgent! ATV association game plan....

From Joel Patnaude;

Dear silent sports advocates,

Below is the "game plan" of the Wisconsin ATV Association going into this Thursday's final meeting of the Special Legislative State Trails Policy Committee at the State Capitol. Randy Harden's strategy and scare tactics make clear the ATV propnents are mobilizing.

We need to do the same.

Testimony will not be taken on Jan. 4, but we do need a show of force there and going into the next legislative session. We may not be able to stop a huge increase in ATV funding, but we will argue forcefully for an ATV damage repair fund, increased law enforcement and a dedicated funding stream for the development and maintenance of nonmotorized trails.

Please join us by taking a stand for the preservation and expansion of safe and quiet public trails in Wisconsin. And please pass the word that the timing to do so is critical.

For Thursday's agenda, copies of the draft bills, testimony from both sides of the aisle and how to get your voice heard, go to

Last Weekend...Madeline trail...

I had some difficulty posting....There wasn't much snow till Sunday, when we had to leave. But Gina and I did ski the Discovery Center, and the often overlooked Madeline trail in Arbor Vitae. This latter trail has some very scenic sections, but is marred a bit by a long, flat stretch in the beginning. Use this stretch for doing some breathing exercises, and the nordic equivalent of "walking meditation" , so that you will be in the proper frame of reference for the rest of the trip. The reason to be there isn't to train for the Birkie, or solve the worlds problems, or to lose weight. What is the reason to be there? To be there....
This trail holds special meaning for me, because it is the last trail my Dad used before he stopped skiing a few years ago. I remember him always skiing with a cigarette in his mouth. But Dad's main sin wasn't smoking, it was perfectionism. When in his mid 60's he couldn't go as far as he did in his 50's, he gave it up. If he couldn't go 5 miles, he didn't want to go at all. With both of us tired at the end of the 3 mile trip, Gina wished Dad was here, so she could "knock him on the side of the head". Me too.

"Vilas County Officials Must Protect Resources"

It isn't just the federal government that has an aversion to science....