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Small group has been illegally camping in northern Minnesota forest for 'months'

Dispersed camping isn't allowed in Minnesota for more than 14 days in the summer.

A group of campers has been living for months in Beltrami Island State Forest in violation of the state's dispersed camping law. 

According to the Minnesota DNR's conservation officer weekly report from Aug. 9, conservation officers Ben Huener and Jeremy Woinarowicz investigated a complaint of three campers in a dispersed camping area of the northern Minnesota forest who'd been there for "multiple" months.

Woinarowicz said in his report the three campers had "taken on the area as their own and had multiple state forest violations, including cutting live trees, litter and violating the dispersed camping length of stay."

In Minnesota, dispersed camping is limited to 14 days in any one section, township, and range in the summer months, according to state law.

Joe Albert, the DNR's enforcement division communications coordinator, told Bring Me The News on Monday the conservation officers are "still trying to gain compliance from the campers but note difficulty in making contact with them."

Other campers and staff members in the DNR Forestry Division informed the DNR Enforcement Division of the campers. 

At this time, no citations have been issued, Albert said. 

"Generally speaking, these rules are meant to address the problem of either someone staying too long, protecting the equal opportunity side of things (someone keeping a great spot for themselves all summer, someone claiming a spot early in the fall and keeping it though deer season) or someone basically living out in our public lands," Albert said. 

Garbage and water are also a big concern with prolonged dispersed camping because campers often leave their mess behind in the forest when they finally do leave, he noted.

"This year we’re also dealing with people burning during the burn restrictions, which is dangerous due to the extreme dry conditions," Albert added. 

Here is the DNR's website on dispersed camping in Minnesota state forests.

Beltrami Island State Forest is a 703,382-acre state forest in Lake of the Woods, Roseau and Beltrami counties. It's the second-largest state forest in the Minnesota system, and contains the headwaters for five rivers, as well as the state's largest Wildlife Management Area. 

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