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LETTER: ...cell towers, logging and yes, even mining

Dear Editor:
I read with interest your editorial about the accident on the Basswood River last week and also the article about the rescue of the 15 year old boy who was trapped under the canoe.
From what I read the estimated cost for the rescue was about $40,000.
My understanding of the accident is that the group involved obviously used extremely bad judgment in trying to run the rapids rather than make the portage. I think it is time for the U.S. Forest Service to stop footing the bill when people get into trouble and present the party leaders and/or their organization with a bill for the rescue.
Why should taxpayers have to pay for someone’s stupidity? Also, if you are in your home and call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the hospital, you can be sure that you will receive a bill for the ride. Why should an emergency ride in a U.S. Forest Service plane be any different?
Many years ago Canadian Waters decided that some means of communication while on a canoe trip would be a good idea in case of an emergency. With that in mind, I decided to include a satellite phone, at no charge, with all of our completely outfitted organized groups and to offer, at a nominal cost, satellite phones for all of our other customers. Over the years this has proven to be a very good idea.
In 2014 we were able to facilitate the rescue of two people who were experiencing medical emergencies. One man was in diabetic shock and the other had suffered a heart attack. The U.S. Forest Service was able to fly both parties to Ely where they were treated at the Ely hospital.
This summer we were also able to get help for a person who was having seizures. Once again we were able to tell the U.S. Forest Service exactly where the party was so they could be flown to Ely and transported to the hospital. This was possible because our parties were flagged down and were able to contact us immediately because they had satellite phones as part of their outfitting.
When you mentioned in your editorial about the lack of ways to communicate in the BWCAW it brought to mind a conversation I had several years ago. When AT&T was seeking permission to build a cell tower on PRIVATE land outside of the BWCAW, the president of the “Friends of The Boundary Waters” came to me to request my support in opposing the tower that AT&T wanted to put up.
He claimed that the people on several campsites within the BWCAW might be able to see the blinking red light on the top of the tower and that this would ruin their wilderness experience. By this logic I would assume that an emergency flight into the Boundary Waters by the U.S. Forest Service would also have a very negative impact on the wilderness experience of all the parties camped nearby.
If cell towers outside of the BWCAW and on private land will improve communication so help can be summoned more easily in the case of an emergency, then I think people who feel this will destroy the wilderness atmosphere should try and find a more primitive place to vacation.
If a blinking red light that they may not even be able to see can be such a detriment to their trip it makes one wonder what a U.S Forest Service latrine and fire grate at each campsite does to their enjoyment? Putting these on every campsite would seem to truly ruin the primitive wilderness experience they are looking for.
The legislation that was passed in 1978, which the environmental groups agreed to, allowed for all kinds of activities in the Superior National Forest outside of the BWCAW. This would include cell towers, logging and yes, even mining.
Dan Waters, Ely

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