Lottery, lottery, lottery, lottery, lottery

The message was loud and clear yet the Forest Service didn’t hear it. From elected officials to users to outfitters, the one request was to reinstate the lottery system for the BWCA day use and overnight motor permits.
That would alleviate much of the congestion that caused the online permit system to crash seconds after it opened on Jan. 30. It was an embarrassment to the Forest Service which had been touting the system for months.
Like a bull in a china shop, the agency continues to head down the same path, throwing warnings and pleadings to the side. The next date is Feb. 27 and there is still no lottery.
This debacle caused U.S. Representative Pete Stauber to hold a public meeting in Ely to discuss the digital disaster.
Minnesota’s two U.S. Senators both called for “the lottery to be reinstated this year.” If you’re keeping score at home that’s one U.S. Rep and two U.S. Senators telling the Forest Service to do a 180 and go back to what works.
The Forest Service admits failure but does not learn from it. The system is broken and will not be fixed by Feb. 27. It will likely never be fixed. The only solution is to bring back the lottery where everyone had a fair chance to get a high demand permit.
One excuse we heard said doing away with the lottery will cut back on the 38 percent of motor permits that don’t get used. How? No answer has been given.
We did hear a former elected official give the reason many people in Ely believe to be true. Those who don’t believe motors should be allowed in the BWCA purposefully reserve day use and overnight motor permits but never use them, thereby keeping Ely residents and customers of Ely businesses from being able to access the BWCA. No one has refuted that statement.
There is no way the Forest Service or its contractor can make internet access fair and equal. This is truly laughable. There are going to be people who are closer to major hubs with high speed access who will be able to get permits and others who live in rural areas like Ely will not. This is a fact, based on the digital divide that exists in the world today.
So why would the Forest Service sit in Ely on Saturday and listen to these concerns? Will they go back to the drawing board and start over? Will they admit their plan is flawed from the start?
If you’re new at this game, we will give you a hint. There are people in the agency who could care less if the permit system is unfair to motor users. In fact, they relish the idea the system doesn’t work. It’s part of the overall plan.
Platitudes and not answering direct questions don’t fool people up here. We’ve heard and seen this too many times. We appreciate our federal elected officials for pointing out there is only one solution: reinstate the lottery process.
We’re also wise enough to know the chances of that happening are slim and none. And that’s the message that was received from the U.S. Forest Service. They were here to listen, but in the end, the lottery is not in their plans.