Ely in the News Again

     When we first decided to pursue outfitting we looked at a business in Ely, MN.  In 17 years of owning Voyageur Canoe Outfitters there hasn’t been one time I have said, "I wish we lived in Ely instead of on the Gunflint Trail."

     A slap on the hand is what the Mayor of Ely received for breaking into a Federal building and stealing a porta potty.  He makes his living as a fishing guide but has no regard for the rules governing the wilderness that he depends upon.  Talk about crazy.  Maybe the Mayor and Judge have a fishing trip planned in the BWCA later this summer.

Dear john case: Filching a biffy costs Ely mayor $3,600

Ely Mayor Roger Skraba pleaded guilty to driving his snowmobile into the BWCA and taking the potty.


The case of the politician’s purloined porta-potty is over.

Ely Mayor Roger Skraba was sentenced Tuesday in Duluth after admitting that he drove his snowmobile into the federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) three years ago, broke into a U.S. Forest Service shed and stole a portable toilet.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson fined Skraba $3,600. The sentence also includes 40 hours of community service and two years’ probation.

Skraba, 48, was charged last Nov. 9 and pleaded guilty two months ago to three misdemeanors: removing property belonging to the federal government, entering a protected wilderness area without a proper permit, and possession or use of a motor vehicle or motorized equipment in a protected wilderness area.

Erickson declined to ban Skraba from the BWCA for three years, as the Forest Service had sought, saying it would hurt the mayor’s living as a fishing guide.

In a statement before sentencing, according to the Duluth News Tribune, Skraba said "the game is over" and he is done entering the BWCA or contesting federal rules covering the wilderness. "It’s foolish. … It’s not fun anymore," he said, according to the newspaper.

Authorities learned of Skraba’s violations from photographs taken in March 2007 that showed Skraba removing a portable toilet from the Crooked Lake boathouse. His snowmobile could also be seen in the pictures. Authorities also learned that Skraba had not obtained the required permit to enter the BWCA on that date.

As part of Skraba’s terms of probation, Erickson also ordered that he arrange to pay all the back taxes he owes the IRS.

Between 1978 and 1994, Skraba received five other citations for violating laws aimed at preserving the BWCA and the Superior National Forest. Four of those were for operating a motorized vehicle in the BWCA. One resulted in a sentence of 180 days in jail for using a motorboat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482