New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Law Enforcement Division is cautioning snowmobilers to stay on the trails this season. The issue of off-trail riding has been a growing problem in recent years. There have been a growing number of complaints from landowners, especially in Coos County, relating to snowmobiles riding off trail.
One big reason is the effect on future timber values. As snowmobiles drive off-trail into the deep powder they are damaging small trees by snapping off the tops that protrude through the snow as well as killing trees due to excessive bark damage. The effect on the timber resource is not the only issue.
Snowmobiling within the wintering habitat of moose and deer causes stress during a period of year when they are most vulnerable. This increase in stress and energy use can have fatal consequences.
Off-Trail Use Closes Trails Permanently
Finally, the increase in off-trail riding in recent years has led to costly and time consuming rescues for NH Conservation Officers who have to rescue snowmobilers who become stuck in remote locations far from legal trails. “We would like to eliminate this conduct before landowners close off all of their lands including legal trails as well as to protect the wildlife resources and the riders themselves”, said NH Fish and Game Captain Dave Walsh, who oversees snowmobile/OHRV enforcement and education. It is essential that riders respect landowner’s wishes and their land; no respect = no trails!
The vast majority of snowmobile trails in NH are on private land where private landowners have willingly opened their forests and fields to snowmobiling. Public use of private land is a privilege. It has been a tradition throughout New Hampshire for landowners to allow use of their land for the recreational pursuits of others. However, this time-tested tradition is threatened by inappropriate uses of these lands such as off-trail riding.
Conservation Officers Enforce Law
More than ever before, snowmobilers must recognize that they must do their part in caring for the lands they enjoy in order to protect this privilege. Snowmobilers can only ride on trails that are designated and signed as a snowmobile trail. Although many new snowmobiles are marketed and capable of operating in deep powder and off-trail, if it is not a signed trail they must have written landowner permission to ride there. Conservation Officers will be enforcing this law as well as speed limits this season. To learn more about the laws and snowmobiling in NH, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/ohrv.