Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Proposed BWCA Land Exchange Is a Bad Deal

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Proposed BWCA Land Exchange Is a Bad Deal

Article excerpt

During September of 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt unexpectedly (but prophetically) became America's 26th president, and during his tenure as commander-in-chief, Roosevelt personally established the first 21 forest reserves. They evolved into the present-day 192 million-acre national forest system, which includes Minnesota's Superior National Forest (SNF).

It has been over 100 years since TR signed Presidential Proclamation No. 848, establishing the SNF and laying the foundation for protecting the few unscathed stretches of Minnesota's north woods, and at the heart of today's SNF is the 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) -- one of the world's 50 greatest destinations, according to National Geographic.

Ely resident and Boundary Waters Journal editor Stuart Osthoff wrote, "There are areas with more deer and areas with more top-end deer, but I contend the BWCAW is the highest-quality public land wilderness whitetail hunting in America."

But public lands in the Superior National Forest and BWCA are currently at risk. Legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack (HR 5544) would order the U.S. Forest Service to trade 86,000 acres of state land inside the BWCA for federal land outside the wilderness. The bill seeks to settle an issue that arose in 1978 when Congress drew the current boundaries for the BWCA and didn't account for the state land within those boundaries. Unfortunately, HR 5544 is a seriously flawed bill:

* It prioritizes parcels for exchange where a handful of mining companies would benefit.

* It provides no protective measures for how the land may be used and no assurances that existing activities, like hunting and angling, would continue.

* Losing 86,000 acres of public lands from the SNF is opposed by most hunters, anglers, and other outdoorsmen and women.

* This bill seeks to bypass a state-level process already in place to address this issue.

Hybrid solution recommended

In 2009, the Permanent School Trust Advisory Committee created by the Minnesota Legislature recommended a hybrid solution, where one- third of the school trust lands would be exchanged, while two- thirds would be federally purchased. …

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