Letter to the Editor:...cooperators have included trash bags when packing food

Letter to the Editor:
A few suggestions for the United States Forest Service.
For a number of weeks now there have been reports of people finding garbage on many campsites in the BWCAW. It is my opinion that although there are probably many reasons for this, I think there are two that stand out.
1. For the last 30 years or more the USFS has emphasized the importance of personal contact when it comes to issuing permits. This has always been their reasoning for making all parties pick their permit up in person at a Forest Service location, or at one of the many cooperators.
In the past the percentage of parties picking up their permit has been about 50% at the USFS and 50% at one of the cooperators. When issuing a permit the USFS, or one of the many cooperators has an opportunity to make sure the party is familiar with all of the regulations, and are shown the Forest Service video - “Leave No Trace,” if they haven’t already seen it.
In my opinion this policy has been very effective in educating the public. Unfortunately, the USFS decided that this year they would allow parties to use their confirmation of reservation as their permit and therefore would not have to stop at a USFS Ranger station.
So for about 50% of the parties entering the BWCAW there was no personal contact. Most cooperators still issue permits the old fashioned way. We go over the rules and regulations with our parties and show the video to those who have not seen it before. This is done for all of the permits we issue.
The other 50% were handled by the USFS. If cooperators can issue permits safely during the pandemic, surely the USFS could do the same.
2. Years ago the USFS issued litter bags when a party picked up a permit. The bags were printed with the USFS information and on the bottom was a space for the permit number. Parties were asked to bring out their trash and dispose of the litter bags properly when they came out of the woods.
This was very effective as the bags could be easily traced back to the party if left in the woods. As far as I know the USFS in this area, all of the cooperators, and the public thought the bags were a good idea. However, like so many good ideas, the bags were eliminated after several years. The reason given was – NOT ENOUGH MONEY.
I wonder how much the USFS will spend over the next few years cleaning up the garbage left by uneducated campers this summer. Wouldn’t it make more sense to add a few dollars to the user fee to cover the cost of the litter bags?
For years Canadian Waters and most if not all of the cooperators have included trash bags when packing food for parties.
For 2021 Canadian Waters plans on printing their own litter bags with a space on the bag for the permit number. We will give these to each party who picks up a permit from us.
Hopefully other cooperators will do the same since it seems that the USFS in this area have not been able to convince the bureaucrats in Washington that they should have never eliminated the litter bags in the first place. We will try to do our part, but obviously the best solution would be for the United States Forest
Service to bring back one of the really good ideas they had.
Dan Waters
Ely, MN