The U.S. Forest Service is cracking down on bad behavior in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 2021 after visitors in 2020 caused a rash of problems.
Superior National Forest officials on Friday announced they will require a mandatory, online "Leave No Trace" education program in 2021 before permits are issued.
The pre-visit BWCAW education videos — in pre-pandemic years, viewed when visitors picked up their permits — were made voluntary last year because of COVID-19 precautions. But the "Leave No Trace" message apparently was lost on many visitors, or skipped entirely.
Campsites and portages were trashed in many cases, with garbage left behind along with human waste and even some trees cut down apparently to improve views. In one case, an entire group had to be escorted out of the BWCAW near Ely due to unruly behavior.
Local law enforcement officials said the pandemic seemed to be encouraging more newbies to visit the BWCAW and other wild areas unaware of the norms and rules to be followed, or unwilling to follow them.
To ensure visitors to wilderness understand and follow BWCAW regulations and "Leave No Trace" principles, all permit holders will be required to watch three education videos and review the BWCAW regulations and rules prior to receiving their permit. Permit holders are required to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the series prior to the final step to securing their permit.
Video links are emailed to permit holders at the time of reservation and two weeks prior to their entry date. If a permit holder does not have access to the internet, they must call the Forest Service to complete the education requirement.
BWCAW quota permit reservations for the 2021 season will be available beginning at 9 a.m. Jan. 27 either at recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.
For more information, go to fs.usda.gov/superior.