Letter to the Editor: ...disabled veterans…will not continue to be denied access to the BWCA

Dear Forest Supervisor Cummings:
Three years ago the United States Forest Service initiated a study required under a settlement with Wilderness Watch and stopped issuing commercial permits on the Superior National Forest.
Consequently, the Forest Service recently held an open house in Ely at the Vermilion Community College to talk to the public about recreational commercial services provided on the Superior National Forest.
Attendees were asked to provide information about which types of recreational commercial services they use, where they use those services on the Forest, and which additional recreational services they believe the Forest Service should encourage and permit. Attendees were also encouraged to provide the Forest Service with written and oral comments.
At the aforementioned open-house, I had the opportunity to talk to District Ranger Gus Smith about a particularly vexing problem I and many others have in obtaining day motorized boat permits authorizing one to fish Basswood Lake using the Moose Lake entry point, utilizing LaTourell’s boat lift from Moose Lake into Basswood Lake. Day motorized permits are made available on-line.
Yet, as the Forest Service knows, the 2019 quotas were immediately filled within hours after the permitting process began. Since there were no day motorized permits available in 2019, there was no way for us and many other disabled persons including military veterans to gain access to the BWCAW.
The US Forest Service is not in compliance with Public Law 95-495
Public Law 95-495 was adopted on October 21, 1978 under the 95th Congress and established the BWCAW. Section 18 (d) speaks to “Programs for disabled persons.”
Section 18 (d) The Secretary in cooperation with the State of Minnesota and other appropriate groups, consistent with the purposes of this Act, is authorized and directed to develop a program providing opportunities for a wide range of outdoor experiences for disabled persons.
Section 18 (e) There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for the Secretary to carry out the purposes of this section.
The Kawishiwi District Office in Ely is aware that day motorized boat permits are not available for more than a few hours after on-line reserving of permits begins on the designated day in January of each year. Yet the District Office has little or nothing to say about the matter since management decisions are made by Forest Service officials in Duluth, Milwaukee or maybe even in Washington.
When I pointed out to Gus Smith that the Forest Service is not in compliance with Public Law 95-495 in respect to Sec. 18 and the “expansion of recreation programs for disabled persons,” he suggested that perhaps a number of day motorized boat permits could be reserved for disabled persons including disabled military veterans.
Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, as Amended (ADAAA), the term disability means, with respect to an individual, (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.
Establishing a special group permit reservation program would go a long way to ensure that disabled veterans and other disabled persons will not continue to be denied access to the BWCAW and bring the Forest Service into compliance with the Act.
Reserving permits for special groups by the Federal Government is not without precedent. The Fond du Lac, Grand Portage and Bois Forte Bands of Ojibway are not required to obtain permits to access the BWCAW pursuant to the Treaty of 1854.
For the foregoing reasons, we ask that you establish a program whereby a number of permits are reserved each day for disabled persons including disabled veterans and their care-givers. Given that permitting for the 2020 calendar year won’t begin until January 2020, it would seem that such a “program” could be established by that time.
Gerald M. Tyler,
Chairman, Director

Steven P. Saari,
Up North Jobs Inc.