Ask a Conservation Officer: Plowing ice roads across snowmobile trails
Q: Is there a law against the very dangerous practice of plowing an ice road across a staked snowmobile trail on a lake and not marking it? The banks are very difficult to see especially on overcast days and crossing them at speed is very dangerous.
A: There is no law prohibiting plowing snow on ice even if it crosses a marked snowmobile trail. However, this does bring up an excellent opportunity to discuss courtesy to lake users participating in activities you may not. If you are plowing roads on the lake, leaving periodic markers (biodegradable) is a huge help to snowmobilers who may be crossing the lake, or when possible choose a route that doesn't cross a marked trail. Those banks of snow can become rock hard, and difficult to see for other users crossing the lake.
Another conflict is between people spearfishing and snowmobiles. To make the large hole in the ice a large chunk has to be removed. It is a great help when people push that block of ice back under the water when they are done instead of leaving it on the ice. If it can't be put back underwater, it helps other lake users to mark the ice so nobody hits it with a snowmobile or vehicle.
Conversely, a little courtesy by snowmobilers can go a long way, too. Staying far away from people angling or cross country skiing helps the image of snowmobilers in the eyes of those who may not understand the sport. If you can't get far away, at least slowing down for that short bit of time helps greatly. We all have a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in Minnesota, and we can share it with just a little forethought.
Jake Willis is a Minnesota state conservation officer covering the Brookston Station. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.