PSSA hosted a successful virtual meeting “A Night with DCNR” on January 11, 2023. PSSA and DCNR personnel designed this meeting to inform the snowmobile community of the financial standing of the snowmobile restricted receipts funds, or your “registration dollars.”
This virtual meeting was attended by 55 participants from the snowmobile community plus DCNR personnel across many Bureaus within DCNR and leadership of PSSA. In addition to a financials update, PSSA also tried to utilize the 2-hour timeframe to address your questions that are outside of the financial update. Unfortunately, we don’t always have enough time to address everyone’s questions individually. Therefore, PSSA has taken your individual questions and had DCNR answer each one below.
PSSA and DCNR hope you find the answers to your questions helpful and look forward to continuing these sessions moving forward to keep lines of communications open between PSSA, DCNR and the snowmobile community.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Snowmobile Registration Reciprocity – Pennsylvania has snowmobile registration reciprocity with many other states but when we want to snowmobile in those other states it cost PA residence anywhere from $40 to $300 a year to purchase a trail permits for those states. Yet snowmobilers from those states can come ride here for a mere $10 a year. That’s not true reciprocity. Snowmobilers from other states should have to pay the same amount to ride here as we have to pay to ride there. That would be fair and equitable. Taking it a step further, don’t just limit it to states with Reciprocity – make that apply to any state. PA Snowmobilers have to pay $100 to snowmobile in NY. New York Snowmobilers should have to pay $100 to ride here.
DCNR RESPONSE: DCNR is aware of the reciprocity issues and the policy is being reviewed for exactly the reasons stated in the question. Most other states no longer recognize “reciprocity”, as they found they were losing revenue from out-of-state sales.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Regarding the Gas Tax Funding going into the ATV Snowmobile Fund – Before any gas tax funding was going into the ATV Snowmobile Fund, PSSA conducted a survey of Snowmobile riders to measure how much gas they purchased for in their snowmobiles and in their trucks to transport their snowmobiles. After that survey it was determined that snowmobilers were paying about $4 million annually in gas tax and they asked for those funds to be appropriately allocated to snowmobile use. After much negotiating it was finally resolved that $1 million in Gas Tax Funds would go into the Snowmobile/ATV fund for snowmobiling’s use. It’s apparent that the origination of this gas tax funding was lost when the Snowmobile and ATV Funds were split. ATV users didn’t participate and weren’t included in the original gas tax use survey and they contributed nothing to the process. How do we get this funding back to snowmobilers where it was originally intended? Several State Foresters were part of this original process and are anxious to get this funding back to where it belongs so they can do the grooming that’s needed.
DCNR RESPONSE: A change would require legislative action. We would refer this to the work SAAC and PSSA are doing on the registration fees.
Here is what the statue says about the use of those funds –
(d.1) Motorized recreational vehicles.–
(1) When the tax imposed by this chapter has been paid and the fuel on which the tax has been imposed has been consumed in the operation of motorized recreational vehicles on designated roads and bridges of this Commonwealth, including roads and bridges bordering on this Commonwealth, annually up to a maximum of $1,000,000 of the full amount of such taxes shall be refunded to the restricted accounts established in section 7706 (relating to restricted accounts) upon petition to the Board of Finance and Revenue.
(2) In accordance with prescribed procedures, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources shall biennially calculate the amount of liquid fuels consumed by motorized recreational vehicles and furnish such information relating to its calculations and data to the Board of Finance and Revenue. The board shall review the petition and motorized recreational vehicle fuel consumption calculations of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to determine the full amount of taxes paid and shall certify to the State Treasurer to refund annually up to a maximum of $1,000,000 of the full amount of such taxes to the restricted account established in section 7706.
(3) This money shall be used by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the improvement of public roadways, highways and bridges of this Commonwealth, including roads and bridges bordering on this Commonwealth, that are also used by motorized recreational vehicles required to be registered under this title. For the purpose of this section, improvement includes, but is not limited to, grooming for snowmobile use and safety.
(4) For the purposes of this subsection, motorized recreational vehicles are snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles.
- Section 7706 / Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes
(v) all refunds of gas taxes generated under section 9017(d.1) (relating to refunds) shall be deposited in the two restricted accounts on a proportional basis of the activity that generated those taxes.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Hikers, Bikers, Swimmer, and Horseback riders all get to use the State Parks for free. Why do Snowmobiler’s have to cover the cost of providing them services in the State Parks? Campers have to pay a fee but does their registration cover all the costs of operating the camp grounds? If it’s a motorized issue are Electric Bikes going to have to be registered? What’s equitable?
DCNR RESPONSE: At the present registration fee of $20 every two years, the revenue does not cover the current costs to maintain trails and provide public safety for snowmobilers in state parks and forests. Therefore, snowmobilers are not subsidizing other users. E-bikes are considered non-motorized, same as any other Pedi-cycle.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Please discuss again where the Snowmobile Registration and other funds go for snowmobiling. Last year there was some question as to where all the funds went, can that be answered this year?
DCNR RESPONSE: Snowmobile Program Expenditures (FY 2022 Estimated)
Equipment costs & supplies $451,700
PennDOT/admin costs $173,800
Snowmobile Program Expenditures by Bureau (FY 2022 Estimated)
Rec & Con $131,500
Admin. Services $173,800
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Why after many years of discussion can we not get a connecting trail between Bald Eagle North and Bald Eagle South? (Penns Creek Crossing)
DCNR RESPONSE: Currently, limited options exist to effectuate any crossing. Old Mingle Road is near the bridge that would need to be replaced; however this area is protected and motorized recreation is prohibited. White Mountain Road—both the state forest road and the township road—are plowed to access a church camp. The district would be glad to entertain a conversation with any of the individuals seeking this proposal, simply to ensure there is not another possibility we are unaware of.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: What is the status of the DCNR and PSSA in regards to getting funding to clubs and how is enforcement of registration/insurance being handled or how can it be handled? Also what is the relationship with DCNR regarding trails in PA State Gamelands and how can we get permission to gain some access along or thru Gamelands? Will there be any mini-grants available this year?
DCNR RESPONSE: Both PSSA and DCNR are engaged in conversations about how to identify revenue sources and provide more assistance to clubs, to assist with operating costs. As mentioned, DCNR receives revenues from registration and from enforcement actions. DCNR takes enforcement seriously and both parks and forest rangers assist in this effort.
The PA Game Commission question must be answered by them. We suggest that PSSA and PGC discuss the issues, and DCNR is happy to join those conversations.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: When snowmobile riders join a local club, they tend to be safer riders. They get informed of trail conditions, educational safety classes and are informed of the issues related to riding off trails. Across the state we have difficulty getting snowmobilers to join clubs. The PA snowmobile registration process could be changed to help this. By implementing a registration process similar to other states (like NY) it would help in multiple ways. It would encourage snowmobilers to join a local club, and it would provide more funding to the local clubs for trail maintenance, education etc. My questions is: Is there any progress or hope of getting our snowmobile registration process modified to implement these type of benefits for our Pa snowmobilers?
Thank you for this question. As mentioned above, this is being discussed at SAAC.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Have you ever considered opening the Pine Creek Rails to Trails to Snowmobiles?
DCNR RESPONSE: No. The Department has invested heavily in the Pine Creek Rail Trail for the purposes of providing quality, non-motorized recreational opportunities in this scenic area. The noise associated with snowmobile use is quite disruptive in the areas along the creek. Allowing snowmobiles and other motorized recreation uses would substantially impact the character of the experience.
Additionally, DCNR manages the rail trail with input by the legislatively established Pine Creek Rail Trail Authority. One of the reasons this Authority was established was to ensure representation for the residents of the small towns and private properties along the PCRT. There are dozens of permanent homeowners along the length of the PCRT, some of whom live within yards of the grade. The cooperation of these landowners was of great importance in establishing the PCRT, and introducing additional uses (motorized recreation) is not something DCNR will consider. The Authority meets twice per year; has consistently upheld and regularly renews their commitment to non-motorized recreational use of the Valley.
Please remember that most of the Tiadaghton State Forests’ 170 miles of public use state forest roads are opened to snowmobile use, as is another 75 miles of snowmobile trail. These connect in several ways to hundreds of miles of roads and trails open in adjacent districts including the Sproul, Susquehannock and Tioga.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: What is being done to have small more frequent increase in the Registration Fees in the future?
DCNR RESPONSE: As mentioned, SAAC is looking into this.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Can the trail maps be made more readable?
DCNR RESPONSE: We have not received specific complaints about the trail maps, but if you have suggestions—please let us know.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: When will an announcement be made about the fall round of applications?
DCNR RESPONSE: Grants were announced on January 12, 2023.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Can we have a better trail conditions and mapping solution? The current one is not user friendly and is a pain to try to figure out and not interactive. Many states have apps for all this.
DCNR RESPONSE: We have submitted comments several times to PSSA on this issue, and our concerns are standing.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: When I ride in other states or provinces I pay an out of state rate. This is usually around $100. To raise more funding for PA would it make sense to raise an out of state fee to maybe $50/year, and do away with the reciprocity of the other states?
DCNR RESPONSE: As mentioned, the DCNR fee of $20 every two years does not cover the costs to maintain and operate the snowmobile program in Pennsylvania. The SAAC is meeting to discuss the registration fee program and to discuss what options may exist in the future.
PSSA MEMBER QUESTION: Why aren’t e-bikes allowed on the snowmobile trails in the state game lands?
DCNR RESPONSE: This question should be addressed by PA State Game Commission.