Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of designated snowmobile trails on public and private property. Revenue from registration and trail permit fees paid by snowmobile owners and operators provides the principal source of funding for the purchase of property for trails, payments to private landowners for trail easements, law enforcement for snowmobile programs, and trail development and maintenance. Some people believe that the fees should be increased in order to generate revenue for the establishment of additional permanent trails and for trail maintenance.
The development, maintenance, and grooming of snowmobile trails are performed by trail sponsors, which are local clubs and groups that receive grants from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The grants are funded from an account that receives most of the trail permit fee revenue and a portion of snowmobile registration fees. Based on the current program and level of participation, a funding shortfall of $0.5 million is projected for fiscal year 2009-10. It has been suggested that a fee increase would avert this shortfall and offset the rising costs for fuel, equipment, and other maintenance needs.
It also has been suggested that increasing fees to acquire permanent easements and purchase property would stabilize Michigan's snowmobile trail system. According to the DNR, approximately 50% of the snowmobile trails in Michigan are located on privately owned property, such as farmland, residential property, and land owned by timber companies. Typically, the DNR and private landowners enter into year-to-year agreements for the use of their property. Therefore, if a property owner does not renew his or her agreement, that land is no longer part of the trail system.