Forest Service must avoid creating a system of haves and have nots

This week’s colossal failure engineered by the U.S. Forest Service brought up some important lessons to be learned.
By killing the lottery and having people all apply at the same time for day use and overnight motor permits, the Forest Service is creating a system of have and have-nots.
Here’s what we’ve know to be true:
1. Listen and respond. The Forest Service held a public meeting in November where this very scenario was described. What changed? Nothing. The plan was in place and the officials in Duluth, Milwaukee and D.C. ignored the warnings. Not too surprising, this is the government we are talking about. Either the Forest Service failed to listen or they failed to respond to the concerns raised months ago.
2. There is a high demand for these permits. Since the Forest Service has refused to fix a broken system, the agency is in part to blame for the demand. With the Chain of Lakes issue still unresolved, it means those additional permits were never put back into the system. Simply put, the demand greatly outweighs the supply.
Just a thought, is it possible there are those in the Forest Service who don’t want to see any motorboat use in the BWCA? If you didn’t see former Superior National Forest Supervisor Brenda Halter’s anti-mining column in the Star-Tribune, look it up. Bias in the Forest Service? Bet on it.
3. Technological haves and have-nots. This term has been around for close to 20 years. We are segregating our society not by race or by sex or by income, but by what access they have to technology. We have anecdotal evidence those who were on high-speed fiber lines had an advantage over those on a regular home or business internet connection. The Forest Service needs to go back to the lottery for no other reason than this one.
4. What’s fair is fair. Cooperators (outfitters) and individual users have been saying since the public meeting last year that the Forest Service has been secretive about its decision making. In any other major decision, be it logging, mining or nearly any issue, the Forest Service has provided for a public comment period and a level of transparency. This new computer system was shoved down the throats of BWCA users unfairly. Our federal elected officials should have a field day on that fact.
5. Permits for the sake of permits. The new system requires more personal information. More data for the government to lose, or worse yet, allow hackers to access one day soon. Why do they need to know so much? This is an area for people to camp for crying out loud.
We’ll go back to when John Smrekar of Ely and others were on a committee that looked at BWCA issues. When the idea of permits came up, Johnny asked them, “Is this to control who gets to go?” Of course not, they said. Yet here we are. As of today, nobody can go if they want to go by motorboat.
We’ll put this out for consideration. It’s a fact fewer people are using the Boundary Waters than in the past. How about a pilot project to get rid of permits for a year or two? Could this stimulate the economy of area communities? Could this get people to go who didn’t sit in front of a computer on a Wednesday in January hoping to be one of the chosen few? Just think about that, a place everyone can visit.
After what happened Wednesday, that idea isn’t too far fetched.