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Forest Service going back to in-person permit issuance, 'Leave No Trace' education for BWCAW

The agency had been requiring permit seekers to watch educational videos.

Most visitors to the Boundary Waters will soon no longer be able to do their "Leave No Trace" training virtually.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday it is "phasing out" virtual permit issuance and the required educational videos that come with it. Instead, most everyone planning a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) trip will need to pick up a permit in-person, at a district office or from a cooperator, during which they will also receive an in-person "Leave No Trace & Tread Lightly" education session.

"Leave No Trace education is always part of the permit pick-up process, so yes, all permit holders who enter the BWCAW will receive an overview of Leave No Trace principles before entering the Wilderness," a spokesperson told Bring Me The News.

The return to in-person permitting and education starts July 12, with a couple small exceptions: Those who choose a Sunday pickup at the LaCroix or Tofte district offices will still do virtual permit issuance and education, since those officers are closed on Sundays.

Anyone with an upcoming reservation who has received a virtual issuance and education email this week will still go that route.

"For all other reservations, the forest asks visitors to plan to pick up permits in-person," the Forest Service said, Permit shave to be issued either the day of or the day before entry into the BWCAW. Those who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing while at district offices.

The virtual option was only ever meant to be temporary, in response to the pandemic.

Unprecedented human-caused damage due to an incredibly busy 2020 summer season prompted the U.S. Forest Service to take action. It began requiring permit seekers to watch three educational videos about how to respect nature, before being able to obtain a permit.

The Forest Service said misbehavior last year including the cutting of live trees, human waste not being properly disposed of, trash left in campfire rings, disruptive and oversized groups and campfires left unattended.

“Again, we want to thank our visitors for being flexible as we transition back to offering in-person services on the Forest," said Shannon Rische, deputy forest supervisor for the Superior National Forest, in the announcement, "This is one of the last steps in the process and we are looking forward to in-person interactions with guests regarding their trip plans and Leave No Trace ethics."

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