One year without reserved permits

The debacle that is the U.S. Forest Service trying to finesse the BWCA permit system and turning it into a major SNAFU has one option that hasn’t been considered. Let’s go one year without having to reserve permits.
That’s right, everybody gets a permit to explore our national treasure. We’ve got one million acres out there but fewer and fewer people. This one year trial run could revitalize our local economy and is super simple to implement.
When you get to a BWCA entry point you fill out a permit, tuck it in the box and go and enjoy a trip in the Boundary Waters.
We can hear the outcry from the Twin Cities already. “This can’t be done! The place will be ruined!” Poppycock. The permit system didn’t even exist until 1966.
John Smrekar of Ely, who was on a national review panel following the 1964 Wilderness Act, told us the permit system wasn’t put in to limit the number of people. It was only to get an idea of how many people were using the BWCA and for user education.
But the limitations started soon after. In 1968 the Forest Service put a limit on how many people could be in a group. In 1971 designated campsites were instituted to limit not only how many people could go but where they could pitch a tent. As an aside, Quetico Park doesn’t have designated sites. Yet somehow, they survive.
What we have now is an over regulated man-made wilderness that fewer and fewer people are coming to visit. That is problem number one. That problem is being compounded by the screw ups made by the Forest Service with the permit system this year. We have lost untold numbers of visitors who made a simple choice, to go somewhere else.
By putting up barriers to being able to go when and where people want, the Forest Service isn’t succeeding in getting people to enjoy the BWCA. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
We’ve heard there are rules or even laws in place that don’t allow people to just come and visit the BWCA without a reserved permit. Let’s fix that. Pass a law to open the BWCA to the public again.
Realizing the Forest Service and certain user groups are not really interested in having more people come here, we do support Rep. Pete Stauber’s move to bring the lottery system back.
The Letting Outdoor Tourism Thrive for Every Recreation Year (LOTTERY) Act would require the USFS to switch the current first-come, first-serve reservation system back to a lottery system by 2020.
Barring the option of letting anyone come to enjoy a national treasure, let’s at the very least, give everyone a fair opportunity to get a permit.