Letter: ...by establishing a program allowing motorized boat permits for disabled veterans

Dear United States Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen:
Thank you for your leadership on issues pertaining to our National Forest System.
The Superior National Forest (SNF) in northeastern Minnesota is a treasure held dear by local residents, Minnesotans, Americans hailing from nationwide, and international visitors.
Therefore, it is crucial we ensure compliance with the 1978 law establishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Mining Protection Area, which is unique throughout our National Forest System.
It has come to our attention that disabled veterans in the region have been unable to acquire permits for accessing several lakes in the SNF.
Due to the lack of availability of online permits and a lack of broadband internet access, disabled veterans in the region have been completely shut out of the permitting process for motorized boats. This is in violation of Section 18(d) of Public Law 95-495, which reads:
“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.”
Unfortunately, these “opportunities for a wide range of outdoor experiences for disabled persons” are nonexistent. The current process unfairly amounts to a de facto omission of permits for disabled veterans without reliable access to broadband internet.
Recently, the community in Ely, Minnesota came together to raise awareness of this issue. Veterans from Ely’s VFW Post 2717, American Legion Post 248, and others spoke to the mental health benefits of trips through the Moose Lake Chain and Basswood Lake while testifying about their personal issues with the current process.
In front of the House Committee on Natural Resources on September 19, 2019, Deputy Chief of the Forest Service Chris French testified that “... encouraging service member and veteran access to the outdoors is firmly aligned with the Forest Service mission.” Not only does the lack of access afforded to disabled veterans violate the 1978 law creating the Wilderness and Mining Protection Areas, but it is clearly antithetical to the mission of the Forest Service as well.
In representing the region we simply ask you remedy this statutory violation and bring the Forest Service in line with its own mission by establishing a program allowing motorized boat permits for disabled veterans as directed by Section 18 (d) the 1978 law.
Rep. Pete Stauber