Skip to main content

The U.S. Forest Service is planning to lower the number of people legally allowed to enter the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) next summer to protect the wilderness area from degradation and overcrowding. 

The number of quota permits available at certain entry points across the Superior National Forest will be reduced starting with the 2022 season.

"We have seen increased visitation, damage to natural resources (littering, tree cutting, visitors not using wilderness latrines), and congestion and crowding resulting in degradation of the wilderness and the visitor experience," Joanna Gilkeson of the U.S. Forest Service told Bring Me The News on Friday. 

Permits are required year-round for everyone who visits the BWCAW. From May 1-Sept. 30 there is a quota permit system for overnight visitors and motorized day trips, which is designed to maintain the integrity of the wilderness area by preventing too many people from entering the BWCAW at the same location, which can result in significant physical and social resource damage to the area.

These permits were in high demand in 2020 and 2021, with some paddlers struggling to find available campsites, especially on the east side of the BWCAW, WTIP reports. The publication says 10 out of 34 entry points on the Gunflint District and six out of 13 entry points on the Tofte District will see permit quota numbers reduced next year. 

Spokesperson Susan Catton told BMTN 24 of the 74 entry points will be affected for paddling and hiking, with most of the charges being a reduction of 1-2 quota per day. 

The hope is that reducing quota permits to the BWCAW will help reduce congestion and help protect the wilderness area. Catton said visitors are "regularly experiencing" crowding, disruptive and oversized groups, lack of campsite availability or "unsettling competition" for campsites and illegal camping. 

People are also littering, cutting live trees and campsite vegetation, which causes severe erosion, and washing dishes and their bodies with soap in lakes, as well as not properly using latrines. 

Though, the Forest Service isn't only reducing the number of visitors to the BWCAW to preserve the wilderness area. Gilkeson said it is using other management tools like education, including requiring visitors to watch a video about not leaving a trace, and hiring more wilderness rangers. 

Related [Jan. 16]: All BWCA visitors will now have to watch three 'Leave No Trace' videos

The BWCAW, which is the most visited wilderness area in the United States, has been a popular place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The wilderness area saw a 16% increase in annual visitors in 2020 compared to 2019, the Forest Service's use report shows. There were 165,918 annual visitors to the BWCAW in 2020, up from 143,140 in 2019 but prior to 2020, the number of annual visitors to the area had been slowly declining. 

The Forest Service is basing its decision to reduce quota permits on "at least the last 20 years of crowding/noise, physical resource damage, lack of campsite availability/competition for campsites, visitors’ complaints, entry point/portage/campsite condition monitoring, encounter/solitude monitoring, etc." Catton said. 

The last time the Forest Service adjusted quota permits was 2012. 

Quota permit reservations for the 2022 season will be available starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. 

Next Up

polymet mining

Court issues mixed ruling on PolyMet, orders more analysis on water permit

The court, however, overruled several challenges to the permit.

SPPD Kua person of interest 01-24-2022

Police release images of woman driving stolen Audi that had puppy inside

It's not clear whether she was involved in the vehicle theft.

J R Jones - Anoka County Jail 2021.10.16 - Resize crop

Fatal hit-and-run driver can avoid prison time with plea deal

He was charged with striking and killing a 56-year-old who was walking her dog.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 11.21.49 AM

Alex Rodriguez: 'I'm not a Packers fan'

He was at Lambeau screaming "Cheese!" and "Let's go!" during the playoff game against the 49ers.

St. Paul Police Department

Woman killed in St. Paul's North End identified as 31-year-old

A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection to the shooting.

police lights

Homes shot at randomly in Wisconsin; residents nearly struck

The people inside the homes were nearly struck, according to the  Juneau County Sheriff’s Office.

Levi Arneberg

Charges: Man killed roommate's 4 pet ferrets after argument

He told police he swears one of the ferrets was "laughing and breathing" as he kept shooting it in the head, charges state.

Minneapolis police

St. Cloud 27-year-old ID'd as victim of homicide near U of M

The shooting, which also injured two others, occurred Thursday near the 500 block of 15th Avenue South.

Related

Flickr - campfire

No campfires allowed in BWCAW or Superior National Forest

The campfire ban applies to all campsites in the forest, including those in the BWCAW.

Boundary Waters BWCAW 1

Boundary Waters permits available next week, but there won't be as many

The number available this year have been cut after increased visitation that's led to congestion and damage to natural resources.

Flickr - boundary waters - Doug Wilkowske

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

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

Pixabay - camp food fire

Bear sightings prompt food storage mandate up north

Visitors to the forest and BWCAW will be required to 'properly' store their food.

Flickr - Superior National Forest Boundary Waters

Forest Service closes off more of BWCA due to nearby wildfires

Officials are worried the Canadian fires could spread to the U.S.

boundary waters

Parts of Boundary Waters closed near border due to wildfire threats

The closures will begin Saturday and last for at least seven days or until the situation is resolved.

greenwood fire

Portion of Boundary Waters reopens, other MN fire closures remain

Rain and cooler temperatures have helped crews battle wildfires in northern Minnesota.