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All BWCA visitors will now have to watch three 'Leave No Trace' videos

Visitors left an "unacceptably high amount" of damage last year.

Following an unusually busy season for outdoor adventurers, federal forestry officials are cracking down on how people conduct themselves at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness.  

The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that it'll be updating its permitting process for the beloved northern Minnesota nature preserve, requiring visitors to go through more steps before they're given passes.

"Last season saw unprecedented visitation to the BWCAW and along with that an unacceptably high amount of resource damage," the Forest Service said in a news release. 

The damage included the "cutting of live trees, human waste not being properly disposed, trash left in campfire rings, disruptive and oversized groups, and campfires left unattended."

Now, permit seekers will be required to watch three "Leave No Trace" educational videos, which will provide guidelines on how to respect nature as well as other visitors, in order to qualify for permits.

(If you're interested in learning more about Leave No Trace practices, you can check out this guide to outdoor ethics.) 

"It takes a commitment from everyone visiting these treasured lands to ensure that the lakes, waterways and forests of the BWCAW are protected against resource damage, so the wilderness character is preserved for future generations," the agency says. 

The education program will be conducted virtually in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

A federal official who helps oversee the BWCA told the Star Tribune last summer that "careless and illegal behavior (in the preserve) was unrivaled" compared to the year before, 

As MPR noted around the same time, COVID-19 may have played a role, with the pandemic and resulting quarantine triggering a spike in visitors to BWCA and other outdoor parks.

For more information on how to get 2021 permits to the Boundary Waters, check out the Forest Service's website right here. 

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