Forest Service pares border Waters permit quotas in order to ease co…

Officials at the Superior National Forest on Thursday unveiled their permit quotas for the border Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the summer of 2022, reducing the number of groups allowed in by 13% in an effort to reduce congestion in the nation’s most-visited wilderness.

Under the new limits there will be 37.5 fewer groups allowed into the million-acre wilderness each day, with the cuts spread across several popular entry points.

The reduction in permits is hoped to reduce complaints about bad behavior among campers, especially in the past two summers as more people head outdoors under the pall of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many campers have complained about overcrowding that makes it difficult to find a campsite. And Forest Service rangers have reported unruly behavior, damage to trees and campsites, major litter problems, vandalism and already improperly disposed-of human waste.

In at the minimum one case in 2020, law enforcement officers had to escort an obnoxious group out of the wilderness.

Some outfitters have complained that the cuts will hurt their business, forcing them to send fewer customers into the BWCAW all summer.

With permits required from May 1 to Sept. 30, the cuts could potentially average up to 5,600 fewer groups entering the wilderness, though the actual number is likely to be much lower because the maximum number of campers usually isn’t reached in May and September.

That method there will be more than 37,500 permits nevertheless obtainable when permits become obtainable on a first-come, first-served basis on Jan. 26 by the Forest Service online system, Joanna Gilkeson, a Superior National Forest spokesperson, told the Forum News Service.

The permit changes include:

  • Trout Lake — From 14 to 12 daily.
  • Crab Lake & Cummings Lake — From four to three daily.
  • Moose River South — From one daily to one every other day.
  • Lac La Croix only — From eight to six daily.
  • Indian Sioux, north — From six to four daily.
  • Moose/Portage River, north — From seven to five daily.
  • Mudro Lake — From six to five daily.
  • Lake One — From 13 to six daily.
  • Lake One only — From seven to zero daily.
  • Little Gabbro Lake — From two to one daily.
  • Brule Lake only — From three to zero daily.
  • Hog Creek — From five to four daily.
  • Kawishiwi Lake — From nine to seven daily.
  • Sawbill Lake — From 14 to 11 daily.
  • Baker Lake — From three to two daily.
  • Lizz & Swamp Lakes — From four to three daily.
  • Meeds Lake — From three to two daily.
  • Seagull Lake — From 11 to eight daily.
  • Seagull Lake only — From two to zero daily.
  • Saganaga Lake — From 17 to 15 daily.
  • Saganaga Lake only — From three to zero daily.
  • South Lake — From three to two daily.
  • Duncan Lake — From three to two daily.
  • Clearwater Lake — From three to two daily.
  • East Bearskin Lake — From four to three daily.

The changes also include an increase in permits for the Island River entry from one to two daily.

Each canoe group can have up to nine people.

The changes also affect hiking trails in the wilderness, with both the Brule Lake and Eagle Mountain trails going from unlimited access to just one group daily.

Permits for the 2022 season will be obtainable beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26 at either www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777. Plan ahead by having at the minimum three travel options, dates and entry points in mind before making a reservation in case your preferred option is unavailable.

In addition to the cuts, the Forest Service has reinstated mandatory pre-trip training for all campers to re-establish rules and norms for “leave no trace’’ camping.

The new quotas are officially a revision of the most recent forest plan and will keep in effect until the next forest plan is adopted or unless specific changes are made again.

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