Ely Echo Editorial: Let’s give disabled people and all veterans a free BWCAW pass

A letter printed in this week’s Ely Echo points out the problems with the permit system for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Forest Service’s lack of helping disabled people experience the area.
There are some good points that were made and we believe the Forest Service has again ran afoul of the law and been too worried about creating an artificial wilderness than making sure people can actually go there.
We’ve said before in this space that with fewer and fewer people going to the BWCA that all options should be looked at to put more heads in tents if you will.
One way to do that would be to help our disabled people along with our veterans. The best way to help them? Give them a free pass. No permit, no lottery, no hassle. Just go.
These people have a hard enough time in the case of those with disabilities and for our veterans, we know they’ve earned the right to visit the very places they vowed and/or fought to defend.
The Ely area set a national standard for veterans with the participation levels of those who served in World Way II. We are very proud of those who served then to those who serve today. Giving our veterans a free pass is the right thing to do.
There are too many rules and too many obstacles now to get into the Boundary Waters. It’s just another reason why fewer people come here each summer.
Basswood Lake is a challenge only made easier by the motorized transport at Prairie Portage. Don’t think for one minute groups like the Friends of the Boundary Waters wouldn’t want to do away with that tomorrow or today if possible.
We’d be interested if groups like the Friends support veterans and getting disabled people into the BWCA with fewer hassles. It’s hard to tell with a group that finds plenty of things to be against and few to be for. But that’s a tale for another campfire.
Let’s hope that common sense prevails and the Forest Service doesn’t initiate a two-year study or form a task force. For those who can remember back that far, the original reason for the permit system was never to limit the number of people. It was for educational purposes.
It’s time to educate the agency that we the people want to see our disabled folks and our veterans and free and unfettered access. It’s the right thing to do.