UPA blockade upheld ? Trail network open and accessible nonetheless

Tremendous deception could be read on the faces of the representatives of the Quebec federation of snowmobile clubs (FCMQ), in Quebec City today to hear the address given by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Laurent Lessard, as part of the annual general meeting of the Union of agricultural producers (UPA). Unfortunately, despite the high hopes held by the snowmobile federation delegates going into the presentation, the Minister`s declaration was void of any promising news which could lead to the end of the conflict existing between the provincial government and the UPA. Instead, the event served only to reconfirm the unfortunate impasse in which the FCMQ and its member clubs find themselves, denied land-use permissions on agricultural lands throughout most of the province as a result of pressure tactics adopted by the UPA in an attempt to bring about a resolution in the conflict. Despite the disappointment felt by snowmobilers across Quebec as a result of the absence of an immediate breakthrough, two facts remain: trails will be open and there will be a snowmobile season in Quebec this winter.

It`s snowmobile season!

“Since the beginning of the conflict, despite the dismay at our 90,000 members and 4,000 volunteers being held hostage, we have abided by the wishes of the UPA out of respect for landowners, valued partners for over 36 years” noted FCMQ President Mario Côté. “While today`s outcome is clearly disappointing, we are choosing to focus on the solidarity of the snowmobiling community to support our clubs, our sport, and our season” affirmed Mr. Côté. “It is now important to act. We want to assure everyone that that there will be snowmobiling in Quebec this winter, and a vast network of trails will be open across the province. Accurate and up-to-date information related to trail openings and conditions will be available on the FCMQ Web site from the very start of the season” adds the President.

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Neutral but concerned

The FCMQ reiterates its demand that both parties meet and negotiate an end to the conflict as soon as possible. “While we understand the concerns expressed by the UPA, we have chosen to remain neutral in this matter from the very outset. We cannot help, however, but question the wisdom of the farming community jeopardizing the activities and benefits of one of its closest allies in the economic development of rural Quebec. This is now the second time in five years that we have had to deal with trail closures on agricultural lands.

This pressure tactic is placing our clubs in peril and affects all those who rely on, either directly or indirectly, the $ 1.5 billion of annual economic activity generated in the province. It risks causing significant long-term damage to our tourism industry, possibly even leading to the closure of numerous businesses that have come to rely on the revenues generated by snowmobiling”, stated Mr. Côté.

Trail pass: more than ever, it`s time to work together!

According to the FCMQ President, a significant number of clubs throughout the province are struggling as a result of a considerable slowdown in the sale of trail passes, their main source of revenue. “More than ever, the snowmobiling family is being asked to band together and act to support our clubs. The quality and upkeep of our trails now lies in the hands of our members”, insisted Mr. Côté. The FCMQ is inviting all of its members to purchase their trail passes at the special “early bird” price of $240 before December 10th.

Working to develop a permanent network

The current situation, which could very well be laden with innumerable long-term consequences, reminds us of the critical importance of bringing permanency to the trail network. “On behalf of the entire snowmobile industry, the FCMQ is calling on the provincial government to act in order to establish a stable trail network that will shelter us from such complex and damaging situations in the future”, concluded the President.

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The Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ) is the umbrella group which represents 90,000 individual members within its 209 member clubs, responsible for developing and maintaining the province`s 33,000 km of signed and groomed trails. The Federation, which counts on the dedication and contributions of over 4,000 volunteers, works in concert with the Ministère des transports to provide a framework for the sport and ensure the safety of its members. The FCMQ also partners with Tourisme Québec to promote the snowmobiling and is the main interlocutor between the Quebec snowmobiling community and the provincial government.

For additional information on the FCMQ and its activities, please visit www.fcmq.qc.ca