Snowmobiling reciprocity is rapidly disappearing

JOHN HARRIGAN May 17. 2014 8:16PM

IN THE WAKE of a fairly good snowmobiling season, even though rain and a dearth of snow here and there made a big dent, I'm left with this:

Whatever happened with the reciprocity that enabled snowmobilers in Rangeley, Maine, to come over to have lunch in Colebrook, and vice versa?

This remains a mystery to every snowmobiler with whom I visit. And what's up with the same failure to link reciprocity arms with Vermont's Northeast Kingdom or southern Quebec?

I maintain memberships with at least two, and most often three or four, snowmobile clubs because I use their (our) trails for snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

I'm doing my best to support trail maintenance and good relations with landowners, a category that includes me. Where is the same ethic and approach between states and territories?

Talk about government being out of touch with its constituents.

The prevailing bureaucrats in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec must have their heads in the sand. For Pete's sake, for all of our betterment, don't bother us with the excuses of officialdom, just get it done.

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A word about infrastructure:

Towns everywhere are trying to see how far their budgets will stretch, particularly on road maintenance. For those who live on a dirt road, as I do, this is big business.

Item: As soon as a pretty bright newcomer to running a road grader gets good at it, whether from learning from old-timers or going to grader school (yes, there is a grader school) or otherwise proves himself competent and ever-learning, he's apt to be hired away by, say, a timberland company, which will pay him far more than a town locked in by budget constraints.

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After the latest spate of stories of dramatic high-country rescues, becoming all too common as more ill-prepared people test themselves against a diminishing wild country, the question once again pops up. Who pays?

Over the decades (yup, 45 years of newspapering and counting) I've pretty much seen it all.

I've covered too many bad-ending stories and have no wish for more.

People who hunt and fish help support search and rescue by their license fees and excise taxes on equipment, one of the best and fairest federal taxes ever applied.

In short, outlets charge the tax on top of hunting and fishing gear and ancillaries and states get money back based on population.

Those funds are used to preserve, protect and enhance wildlife habitat not only for the use and enjoyment of people who hunt and fish, but for the remainder of the public as well.

Should people who hike, climb, canoe or camp pay a similar excise tax on their equipment to help fund search and rescue (which happens way more for them than for people who hunt and fish) and help sustain the land-stewardship initiative?

Note: Collecting fees at toll booths, trying to collect fees at untold hundreds of trail-heads, trying to make people enlist in some kind of Climbers' Club as in Europe, or patrolling the high-country to say "Your papers, please" are not viable options.

Neither is collecting after a particularly costly rescue. Good luck on that one, attorneys general.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, N.H. 03576, or

John Harrigan

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