Sunday, July 10, 2005

Residents and Businesses Express Anger to Oberstar Over Recent Forest Services' and Border Patrol's Actions

On Thursday, July 7, Congressman James Oberstar meeting with some fifty-five Gunflint Trail area residents and business listen to their concerns and promised to do what he can to help.
See the Issues Statement passed out at the meeting.

Perhaps the must contentious issue brought-up was the Border Patrol's "I-68 permits. The Border Patrol is now requires any person traveling from the U.S. into Canada and returning at any location other then an official border crossing, i.e., Grand Portage, must have in their possession an "I-68" form. This means if you go fishing through Saganaga into Caches Bay or Northern Lights or are on a canoe trip where you cross into Canada at anytime during your trip you must have this form with you when you re-enter the U.S.

Several U.S. citizens with cabins on the Canadian side of Lake Saganaga expressed their annoyance with this regulation. Their main concern was how difficult it will be to comply. They stated that the Canadian's Cross Border Permit, which is also required for them to get back and forth to their cabins, is relatively simply to obtain and comply with but this is certainly not the case with the U.S. "I-68" form. They went on to ask, why does the Canadian government treats U.S. citizens better then our own government on this issue? Barbara Gecas of Heston Lodge questioned why she had to be finger printed, which the "I-68" requires, just to cross Gunflint Lake for a picnic on the Canadian side.

Congressman Oberstar agreed that the "I-68" was much to cumbersome and had to be changed. He promised to meet with Homeland Security officials, who came up with the regulation and form and to demand that they develop a much more sensible user-friendly program.

Many people attending the meeting expressed their displeasure with a number of recent actions by U.S Forest Services. They question the Forest Services' plans to designate the Vegetable Chain of Lakes as a Non-motorized area. It was argued that Forest Service slip this designation into the latest U.S. Forest services Superior National Forest Management Plan at the last minute of the planning process. Oberstar agreed and stated the while his staff normally checks all Forest Service documents very closely, "they 'broadsided' us on this one." And he promised to get to the bottom of why this happened.

McReady, President of Conservationist with Common Sense (CWCS) and who had traveled to the meeting from Ely reminded the Congressman that the Forest Services' Plan also designates the Big Lake area as non-motorized. And this, according to McReady could jeopardize a planned snowmobile trail along the Echo Trail west of Ely.

Dave Beattie from, Moosehorn B&B, express his concern over the Forestry controlled burn program. He stated that while they had promise to restrict burning, as much as possible, up to the waters edge on lakes and along the edge of the Gunflint Trail. The Forest Services pretty much has ignore these promises. Beattie went on to state that, "he blamed Dennis Neitzke, Gunflint Ranger District for this, the Vegetable Chain and the other damaging actions recently initiated by the Forest Service in the District.

The question was also raised why the Forestry had done so little to reduce the fire danger in the BWCA. A fact sheet handed out at the meeting stated, "The original BWCA's Fuel Treatment Plan stated that 73,124 acres were to be treated within the BWCA by 2007 of which over 56,000 acres were to be burnt by 2004. To date it appears that only a fraction of this goal has been met. With one hundred and eleven miles of fire control lines that must be cut by hand (no power tools) required for these BWCA burns, it is little wonder that so little has been accomplished! Our question is if the fuels buildup in the BWCA was such a threat to the residents of the Gunflint as the Forest Service told us, why is the job not getting done? And most importantly why waste precious time using time consuming hand tools?" A discussion then followed over the Forest Services time consuming and wasteful policy requiring that only hand tool can be used in maintaining the BWCA.

Jim Raml, from Seagull Lake, questioned the Forest Services' BWCA Day Use Permits which he stated, "provide no useful or usable information," and since the Day Permit programs was originally to operated for only three years, "why is it still going on, costing money and providing only worthless information. "The real purpose of the Day Permit is for the Forestry to use it as a method of control over the people of the area," Raml when on to state.

In response to the many concerns about the Forest Service Congressman Oberstar stated that he has noted these concerns and will hold a meeting with James Sanders, Superior National Forest Supervisor to discuss these concerns.

Following the meeting as Congressman Oberstar was greeting participants Dave Beattie present the Congressman with a "Dump Dennis ~ Save the Vegetable" bumper sticker. The sticker is being handed out throughout the county and is in reference to Dennis Neitzke and the Vegetable Chain issue as symbolic of the many recent anti-locals and anti Gunflint Trail business actions taken by the Gunflint Ranger District.


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