Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers will be enhancing statewide efforts to enforce snowmobile decibel level rules this winter.
Noncompliance of the rules could damage Michigan’s nationally recognized trail system because 50 percent of trails pass through private land and noise could get those land owners to opt out of the program, thus closing that portion of the trail. More than 6,200 miles of designated snowmobile trails are located throughout state-managed forests, national forests and privately owned lands. Michigan is one of only three states that offer a large system of interconnected snowmobile trails.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which has some areas that average from 100- to 200 inches of snow each winter, draws snowmobile enthusiasts from all around the country.
Enhanced efforts will focus on the DNR-managed trail systems, high-use areas and areas where complaints are received. While on routine patrol, conservation officers also will conduct decibel-level testing of snowmobiles. The penalty for violating the sound levels for snowmobiles is a civil infraction, with fines up to $250.
“Conservation officers are stepping up decibel-level enforcement to ensure snowmobilers are in compliance with state law and acceptable noise levels,” said Cpl. John Morey, who oversees the snowmobile safety and education program within the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “In addition to the operator’s legal ramifications of operating a loud snowmobile, this excessive noise has consequences that can affect other snowmobilers, including the loss of popular snowmobile trails.”
When a snowmobile leaves the factory, it is in compliance with legal decibel levels. If a snowmobile’s exhaust or muffler requires service, the DNR recommends that the repair be done with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts for that specific snowmobile. Deviation from this repair recommendation, or modifying the exhaust or muffler, could result in the operator being in violation of state law.
Under Michigan law, the muffler on a snowmobile must be in good working order and, when in constant operation, noise emission cannot exceed the following levels:
- For snowmobiles manufactured after July 1, 1977, and sold or offered for sale in Michigan, 78 decibels at 50 feet, as measured using the 2003 Society of Automotive Engineers standard J192.
- For a stationary snowmobile manufactured after July 1, 1980, and sold or offered for sale in Michigan, 88 decibels at 13.1 feet, as measured using the 2004 Society of Automotive Engineers standard J2567.
Morey noted that Michigan’s vast snowmobile trail system is the result of partnerships with private landowners who, through annual permits between the landowners and snowmobile clubs, open portions of their land for snowmobile trails.
“Without this partnership, the expansive, interconnected trail system enjoyed by thousands of snowmobilers each year wouldn’t exist,” Morey said. “When snowmobilers behave unethically or illegally, private land owners can and have opted out of signing another annual agreement and the trail is closed. A reason for this includes excessive noise.”
For more information on snowmobiling in Michigan, including current laws and regulations, go to www.michigan.gov/snowmobiling.
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Top photo courtesy of Michigan DNR