Sunday, March 05, 2006

Locals View Chain of Lakes Ruling Good First Step

Letter to the Editor, Cook County News March 02nd, 2006 11:20:01 AM-The question has been asked, how the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in the Chain of Lakes case is a win for the Forest Service and Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS)? The Forest Service, with CWCS as intervenors, appealed the U.S. District Court’s ruling on two counts — that the Forest Service didn’t have the right to recalculate the Chain of Lakes permits to correct an error; and the recalculation was arbitrary and capricious. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the first count, stating the USFS has authority to recalculate the base period use to correct a significant legal error made as a result of the 1999 Dombeck ruling. So, this ruling is in the Forest Service’s and CWCS’s favor — a win.

The Dombeck ruling redefined “that particular lake” to mean just the first lake of each chain, not the entire chain of lakes. For more than 20 years the Forest Service had interpreted “that particular lake” to mean the entire chain. Resorts, outfitters and property owners had been exempted from needing a permit when they traveled the entire chain of lakes. They received a sticker for their boats instead. This was part of the compromise of the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act. The Dombeck ruling restricted that exemption to just the first lake of each chain, thus a permit is now required to access the remainder of the chain of lakes to the first portage.

There were never any permits allocated for any of the chain of lakes, and that is why the Forest Service had to recalculate the permit quotas, to correct this error. On the second count, the Court of Appeals ruled that the method the Forest Service used to recalculate the base period permits for each of the three Chain of Lakes (Moose Lake, Farm Lake and Seagull River chains) was unreliable or inadequately explained, thus upholding the District Court’s ruling that the way in which the Forest Service conducted the recalculations was arbitrary and capricious. But, the Court of Appeals then ruled: Having determined the USFS improperly recalculated the base period use, we conclude the USFS must recalculate the quotas consistent with BWCAW Act and the views expressed herein. We consider this another win. The permit quotas for the Chain of Lakes will be recalculated, but there will be a delay as to when they will be added.

CWCS looks forward to working with the Forest Service in recalculating the number of permits for the three Chain of Lakes. I hope this clarifies things for everyone. Nancy McReady, president, Ely based, Conservationists With Common Sense


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