(From: Trends in federal landownership and management : hearing before the Committee on Resources, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, on the effect that federal ownership and management of public lands and the condemnation and restriction of private property has on local areas, March 2, 1995--Washington, D.C.)

State of Minnesota

Senator 6th District
Box 395
Cook, Minnesota 55713
205 State Capitol Building
St. Paul. Minnesota 55155
Phone: (612) 296-8881

February 27, 1995

Senator Bob Lessard
Room 111 Capitol
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Bob:

As colleagues who represent northern Minnesota and the area around Voyageurs National Park, I know that we share many of the same concerns about the direction the federal government seems to be taking in managing the area. The constant effort to restrict usage and to move the VNP from the multiple use focus it was created under to a more restrictive status has alarmed our residents and fostered a deep distrust of government. In addition, the economic harm that would result from continuing down that path would be great.

Because you may not be as familiar with some of the issues surrounding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know my concerns and the concerns of the people in the area.

The most immediate concern of area residents is to re-open the three motorized portages, known as Prairie Portage 4-Mile Portage and Trout Lake Portage, that were closed in 1992 after a lengthy court fight. To briefly explain the issue, the 1978 BWCAW Act, PL 95-495, gave the Secretary of Agriculture authority to determine if a feasible non-motorized alternative to truck portages existed at those sites. In 1989, after extensive testing, the Secretary found that no feasible alternative existed and the motorized portages were allowed to continue. In 1990, the U.S. Forest Service was sued by a coalition of groups opposed to multiple use who argued that "feasible simply" meant "possible" and that it was "possible", to use non-motorized portage wheels to transport boats over the portages. In 1991, U.S. District Court Judge Rosenbaum determined that it was not "feasible" to use non-motorized portage wheels to cross those portages and allowed the motorized portages to continue. In 1992, the U.S. District Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

The closing of the motorized portages is the most easily remedied of the immediate problems concerning the BWCAs the lakes between the portages are open to motorized travel; the closings have made it impossible for anyone other than the most able-bodied to traverse them; and the closing of the portages has made it nearly impossible to re-supply the Canadian outpost at Prairie Portage, becoming one more restriction on the American side that is leading to the closing of that custom station, which will eliminate access to Quetico Park through Ely and create additional economic hardship in the area.

In addition to the motorized portages, the constantly changing and lowering of quotas for usage in the BWCA by the U.S. Forest Service has created major recreation and economic problems that need to be addressed.

As you know, Bob, there are bigger issues that concern me and the people of the area about the restrictions on the BWCA. At this time, however, I wanted to make you aware of a couple of issues that would be fairly easy to resolve and that would be consistent with current management practices.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would communicate our concerns to the various Congressional Committees that are responsible for oversight of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Yours truly,

Douglas J. Johnson
State Senator


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