Snowmobiles get state’s green light

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The stillness of the Norwegian mountains and other winter sports areas may soon be broken by the rumble of snowmobiles, after Parliament agreed on Tuesday to let local governments set their own rules for snowmobile use. Only the two most environmentally oriented political parties were left out in the cold.

Members of DNT youth rally outside parliament in December 2013. DNT is one organization protesting against the expansion of a snowmobile pilot program from 40 municipalities to over 105. PHOTO: Den Norske Turistforening/Helle Andresen

Members of the Norwegian trekking association DNT have repeatedly rallied against the government’s snowmobile pilot program, protesting against its expansion from 40 municipalities to 108. They lost, and snowmobiles will now be allowed in communities that want it. PHOTO: Den Norske Turistforening/Helle Andresen

The Socialist Left party (SV) and the Greens party (Miljopartiet De Grønne) were alone in voting against the government proposal to let local communities regulate snowmobile use. Until now, state law has prevented all use of motorized vehicles in outdoor areas known as utmark.

The government’s proposal to open up for snowmobile use in areas where a majority want it is meant to be allowed only on a trial basis, but the civil ombudsman in Norway harshly criticized it as illegal. The ombudsman concluded just last week that allowing 108 municipalities around Norway to usher in snowmobile use if they see fit was far too widespread to be considered a trial program. He asked the government to reevaluate the scope of their program, which initially was to involve 40 municipalities.

Government officials said they hadn’t decided exactly how to refine the program that now has parliamentary approval. A majority of the opposition parties in Parliament only asked that the municipalities’ trial programs for snowmobile operations secure local management “within clear, national guidelines.”

Disagreement remains over what those guidelines will involve. The government parties, with support from the rural-oriented Center Party, have only set limits on snowmobile use in protected wilderness areas and in areas frequented by wild reindeer.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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