Hundreds of miles of trails in jeopardy
Minnesota’s largest private property owner is blocking snowmobilers from driving onto its land after a change in the state’s tax law for forested land.
According to a report in the Duluth News Tribune, Molpus Woodlands Group won’t allow snowmobilers to access roads across much of its land after the state Legislature cut a tax break the company received in part for allowing public access to its land from more than $2 million to $100,000.
The report says that hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails will be affected by the closures.
“We have hundreds of crossings on their land. This is going to shut down snowmobiling in that area if we don’t get this changed,” Rep. Dave Dill, DFS-Crane Lake told the Duluth News Tribune. “If those snowmobile trails don’t open, they (snowmobilers) will just go somewhere else. It’s a big hit to the economy.”
Minnesota’s Sustainable Forestry Incentives Act has paid landowners between $7 and $13 per acre per year to (among other things) keep their land open to public recreation. According to the News Tribune’s report, the Act was amended in 2010 to allow a maximum of $7 per acre and capped at $100,000 for any single landowner. This hit Molpus particularly hard.
“We’re open to solutions. We don’t want to lock our land up in the long term. But we felt we had to do something,” Craig Halla, Minnesota property manager for Molpus, told the News Tribune. “This is a direct result of the loss of tax incentives. It’s very difficult to manage this land based just on the timber sale revenues now with (timber) prices so low and still paying taxes. If we want to keep the land in production and open to public access, there has to be another source of revenue. Or we are going to need to look at some other options.”