In an effort to prevent the wanton damage to natural resources and widespread lawlessness that accompanied the public’s pandemic push to get outdoors last summer, officials who oversee the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have tightened rules on mandatory wilderness education training sessions.

The new rules, announced over the winter when BWCAW permits were first available for the season, go into effect April 30 and require campers to attend either virtual or in-person sessions of Leave No Trace/Tread Lightly education before they get their permits to head into the wilderness.

The problems last summer — when the education sessions were easy to skip due to COVID-19 changes in rules — included everything from people leaving trash behind to an entire group being escorted out of the wilderness and issued citations for unruly behavior.

“Last season saw unprecedented natural resource damage from BWCAW visitors including cutting of live trees, human waste not being properly disposed, illegal camping, trash left in campfire rings and latrines, disruptive and oversized groups, and campfires left unattended,’’ Superior National Forest officials said in announcing options for the Leave No Trace education. “All permit holders and group members are responsible for understanding and following all BWCAW regulations and rules.”

A live tree cut down by campers last summer. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
A live tree cut down by campers last summer. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

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Online courses

Virtual education sessions will be offered via Adobe Connect every day of the week from April 30 to September 30. Sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m. and permits will then be issued the day before or the day of Wilderness entry.

Permit holders that have selected a permit issuing station that is operating virtually must attend one virtual Leave No Trace/Tread Lightly education session to receive their permit via email from the Forest Service.

Permit holders will receive an email approximately seven days in advance of their entry date with a link to click to join an online session for a 20-minute video. Permit holders are supposed to forward this email to alternates and group members to maximize group education opportunities, but attendance by the group leader (the permit holder or alternate permit holder) is mandatory.

Groups may choose to attend any wilderness education session offered within 48 hours of their entry date; however, permits will only be emailed on the entry date or one day prior.

During the session, visitors will watch the third BWCAW Leave No Trace video, review the BWCAW Regulations and Rules, and receive the latest forest alerts. It is highly recommended to install Chrome and use it as your browser prior to joining a virtual session.

Once the virtual education requirement is met, permits will be emailed to the group leader on the entry date or one day prior to their entry date in accordance with BWCAW Quota Permit Requirements.

Always remember to have your permit with you. Print it or have the capability to show an electronic copy.

To join a virtual session log into your account at recreation.gov and go into Reservation Details to first update your group size and list all members of the group.

Permit holders can also pick up their permits at an approved cooperator.

In-person courses

In-person Leave No Trace/Tread Lightly education sessions will be offered at the Kawishiwi Ranger Station in Ely and Gunflint Ranger Station in Grand Marais seven days a week while the Tofte, LaCroix and Laurentian Ranger Districts and the Supervisor’s Office in Duluth will offer sessions Monday-Friday only. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at all locations.

Social distancing and masks are required for in-person sessions.

Before arriving at your issue station, log in to your account at recreation.gov and go into Reservation Details to update your group size and members.

For more information go to fs.usda.gov/superior .