BWCA Court Ruling

The following information is regarding the Chain of Lakes issue in the Boundary Waters.  As property owners on the Seagull River we have been affected greatly by the court rulings and would like to keep our Blog readers informed on this information.  The following was written by Bob LaTourell who is a 3rd generation owner of a canoe outfitting business and home on Moose Lake in Ely.

Historical Perspective: The Court proceedings that deal with the motor quotas on these Boundary Waters "Chains of Lakes" were initiated by preservationist groups who wish to eliminate the lawful levels of motor use allowed by the BWCAW Law.  In the case of the motorized permit quotas on the lakes affected by these rulings, a previous court decision allowed for the drastic reduction of use on these lake chains.  Cabin owners, resort owners, and their guests were previously considered exempt from permits in these areas.  As the result of this first court’s ruling, these "exempt" groups were now required to come under the permit quotas.

Since their use was never initially used to come up with the original permit cap quota levels, this in effect caused a huge cap reduction from the actual use levels that the cap was to be based on.  In turn, the quota levels on these lake chains were inconsistent with the management of the remainder of the BWCA, in that this use was disproportionately slashed in comparison with all other uses in the BWCA, with no data to prove a need for any reductions of this drastic nature.  Because of this inconsistency with the objectives of the BWCAW Law and the current USFS Plan of Management use levels, the US Forest Service recognized the need to adjust the permit quotas to more accurately reflect the actual use that was present in the years the cap was to be based on.  This Court Opinion reaffirms the need for the US Forest Service to adjust these cap levels.
Appeals Court Upholds USFS Duty to Adjust Permit Quotas
Court rules that motor permit quota levels must be recalculated in BWCA "Chain of Lakes" case.
Ely, MN – February 16, 2006 – An opinion was issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that upheld the ability and need for the USFS to adjust motor permit quotas on those lakes affected by the "Chain of Lakes" court rulings.  The court stated "We reverse the district court insofar as we conclude that the USFS has the authority to recalculate the base period use to correct a significant legal error made manifest by the Dombeck ruling."  Several preservationist groups had attempted to claim that the USFS did not have the ability to manage the Boundary Waters as spelled out in the 1978 BWCAW Law.
The Court’s Opinion directs and empowers the USFS to recalculate current quota cap levels that were to be based on the actual use during a base year period in the 1970’s as spelled out by the 1978 BWCAW Act.  The court ruled that the current permit cap levels and a first USFS attempt at adjusting these quota’s were not consistent with the BWCAW law.
Quota levels are currently set at a level which does not count the use of the homeowners, resort owners, and their guests on the affected lakes in the original cap numbers.  The original numbers were compiled prior to the 1978 law, and at that time did not include any of this use since the USFS considered all of this use "exempt" from permits.  This use accounted for a large portion of the actual use, thus creating the need for the USFS to include this use in their quota cap.
The ruling also directs the USFS to work towards correcting these incorrect numbers "at the earliest practicable time" and to include groups such as, "…Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS) and other affected parties in the rule making process."  These affected parties look forward to working with the USFS to correct the currently dysfunctional system as quickly as possible so that the law and intent of the law is upheld.
Upon review of the three-judge panel’s ruling, CWCS president, Nancy McReady said, "This is a victory for common sense and the continuation of motorized use within the Boundary Waters as allowed by law."