DNR, Local Snowmobile Groups Work to Bring Trails Into Compliance
Three area snowmobile groups, Driftrunners from Howard County, Trail Twisters from Winneshiek County, and Sno-Blazers from Allamakee County, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have been working to bring snowmobile trails on northeast Iowa Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) into compliance over the past two years, culminating in an agreement last month to allow snowmobiles access to a trail on the Pool Slough WMA in Allamakee County and to cross a portion of the Turkey River WMA for one more year for the Howard County Snowfest winter festival.
Local snowmobile clubs have been removing signs from unauthorized trails and wildlife staffers have been installing barricades at accesses to areas that are off limits. The groups have been working together since 2009 to get the areas in compliance with DNR and federal guidelines and club members have worked with private landowners to establish new trails where snowmobiles could operate.
“We support snowmobiling, in fact, we allow it in certain state parks, state forests and state recreation areas and even on some wildlife areas if they do not conflict with the primary use of the area,” said Terry Haindfield, DNR wildlife management biologist for the Upper Iowa Wildlife Unit.
“But it must be done so not to impact the primary use or cause damage to the resource.” The clubs will need to update trail maps showing the new routes.
The primary use of DNR WMAs is to provide habitat for wildlife, hunting for hunters and to serve as a resting area for wildlife during the winter, he said.
This issue arose over time because in the 1970s and 80s, some restricted snowmobile activity was allowed on the wildlife areas. Some of the trails were closed in the 1980s because of conflicts with wildlife and wildlife management objectives.
The remaining trails were maintained by the clubs and the routes began to be altered and the conflicts with hunters, wildlife and wildlife habitat began to grow. Compliance with federal regulations prohibiting snowmobiles on areas that were purchased with federal excise taxes was also an issue.