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Seagull Canoe Outfitters
& Lakeside Cabins
Gunflint Trail Canoe Outfitter on Seagull & Saganaga Lakes accessing Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Canada's Quetico Park

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 BWCAW Quota Adjustments

Our District Ranger, Dennis Neitzke from the Forest Service Office in Grand Marais has just issued the following letter as it applies to some of the Boundary Waters Quotas on the Gunflint Trail effective Feb. 25, 2008.

"The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) near the upper end of the Gunflint Trail has gone through a myriad of changes over the past few years, some more dramatic than others. Two separate but somewhat related issues have arisen over the past few years that I believe are timely to address. Both have to do with our entry point quotas for areas along the Gunflint Trail from about Mid-Trail to the upper end of the Trail.

The first issue resulted from the Alpine Lake, Cavity Lake and Ham Lake fires that caused us to temporarily close portage trails and campsites. Since fewer campsites were available, we also reduced overnight paddle quotas for several entry points from the Granite River, up around the end of the trail, down to Round Lake. All portages were rehabilitated within days of the conclusion of each fire and we are now at a point where we expect to have all but possibly 10 campsites reopened by June of this year.

While it will take years for campsites to regain the “forested” condition campers experienced prior to the fires, we have determined they are stable and suitable for use. Further, we have noticed this past summer, during the busiest part of the season, campsites that were open but had been deforested by the fires were being used by wilderness campers. Therefore I have considered returning fire affected entry point quotas to their normal, pre-fire levels.

The second issue comes from another situation that has been observed over the past several years. The Forest Service has been aware of overcrowding issues related to the western end of the Vento Unit of the BWCAW. Our Wilderness Rangers have often encountered angry visitors who could not find a campsite due to crowding, especially at the height of the summer on heavily used routes. We have recorded (illegal) offsite camping and found that it is common for visitors to leave their wilderness trip sooner than planned due to the lack of campsites. Over the past couple of years, we have stepped up our conversations with visitors and outfitters to get a better picture of the crowding and it has become clear that the situation is chronic.

Our simple analysis demonstrated how this situation has likely come about. The average stay of a BWCAW party is four days and the quota for Duncan Lake Entry Point is four permits per day. Therefore in the busy season, we have 16 parties in an area that contains only 12 campsites. Of course, there are other factors that need to be taken into account such as the type and pattern of travel visitors are doing, the size and shape of the Vento Unit, etc.

As the quotas stand now, the frequency of visitor encounters does not meet Forest Plan standards for solitude. Existing use exceeds the allowable frequency of visitor encounters. Forest Plan direction states: “The purpose of quotas is to distribute visitors and use in a manner that protects the natural resources and wilderness values, and limits the social encounters to that which is appropriate for each management area.... The Forest Service reserves the right to make immediate quota changes if necessary to meet changed conditions” (Forest Plan, ppg 3-54 & 55).

From our review of the situation, I have considered lowering the quota for a few entry points to mitigate overcrowding issues in the Vento Unit. However, before doing so, I wanted to hear from the businesses that would be affected by such a decision. On January 17, 2008, I sent a letter to East Zone BWCAW Cooperators requesting their input on our proposal.

We received several telephone calls and eight outfitters responded by email with comments. As expected, the range of comments received went from no reduction of the quota anywhere at anytime to most outfitters acknowledging that a modification of quotas was needed to address the concerns of disappointed visitors who complained of overcrowding.

Based on a compilation of information from our Wilderness Rangers observations, discussions with visitors and comments from our Cooperators, I have decided to implement the following:

· The Duncan Lake Entry Point 60 quota will be reduced from 4 permits to 3 permits per day.
· The Clearwater Lake Entry Point 62 quota will be reduced from 4 permits to 3 permits per day.
· The East Bearskin Lake Entry Point 64 quota will be reduced from 5 permits to 4 permits per day.

Also at this time, I am resetting the quotas for the following entry points to their pre-fire levels:

· The Seagull Lake Entry Point 54 quota will return to 11 permits per day.
· The Seagull Lake Only Entry Point 54A quota will return to 2 permits per day.
· The Saganaga Lake Entry Point 55 quota will return to 17 permits per day.
· The Magnetic Lake Entry Point 57 quota will return to 3 permits per day.

One final adjustment to the quota system that will be implemented this season is my decision to allow the booking of Seagull Lake Only Entry Point 54A, Saganaga Lake Only Entry Point 55A and Brule Lake Only Entry Point 41A permits to be made at any time in the permit application process instead of issuing these permits only after the regular quota for these lakes have been filled.

These adjustments will take effect February 25, 2008. I feel that the adjustments outlined here are necessary and desirable for the management of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness."

District Ranger

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 BWA Committee Trail Clearing Official Press Release

The Boundary Waters Advisory Committee (BWA Committee) and its friends has announced plans to clear scenic hiking trails in the beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) this coming May. The BWA Committee welcomes you, your friends, family and other interested people to volunteer for either two or three days between Thursday, May 1 and Sunday, May 4.
Last yearʼs project successfully cleared the Brule Lake Trail (BLT) and provided excellent hiking for people on their way to Brule Lake and Eagle Mountain, Minnesotaʼs highest point which features a spectacular view of the forests and lakes of canoe country and Lake Superior. The volunteers performed fantastic service in preparing the trail for hikers and the United States Forest Service displays their group photo at the Brule Lake trailhead in appreciation of their efforts.
This yearʼs group of volunteers will maintain the BLT and expand their efforts to a neighboring trail, further increasing the recreational opportunities for visitors. The trail clearing will provide an opportunity for the past yearsʼ veterans to meet up with old friends and make new friends. In addition, new volunteers are invited to join in the group effort to help do tremendous work for the Boundary Waters.
The BWA Committee invites hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to volunteer to help clear these trails. There are several opportunities to participate including our occasional, short planning meetings; training as a trail clearing crew leader, or volunteering for two or three days in May. Planning meetings take approximately three to five hours per month; these meetings resolve the logistics and preparations for the trip. Interested individuals are welcome to help the BWA Committee with its publicity and developing sponsors as well. The BWA Committee will hold a training session for crew leaders and interested volunteers in April, with a time and location to be announced. Previous experience is useful, but not required. Most importantly, volunteers are needed to clear trails in the forests of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a two, three or four day detail, as desired.

BWA Committee was founded by Martin Kubik in 2002 with the intent to preserve intrinsically beautiful historic hiking trails in the BWCA in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service. Martin Kubik is the recipient of the 2007 Great Lakes Region Volunteer of the Year award as presented by the American Hiking Society.

Contact Martin Kubik, BWA Committee president at 651-214-5849 or e-mail at , OR visit the BWACommittee website to reserve a place.