Sunday, July 10, 2005

Oberstar Meeting -

To: Congressman James Oberstar Date: July 7, 2005

From: Concerned Gunflint Trail businesses and residents

RE: Some of the issues we are confronted with on the Gunflint Trail

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection "I-68" regulation-This regulation 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.

Currently this form is only issued, in our area, from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's office at the Grand Portage Border Crossing. The cost is $16/individual/year and it includes your photo I.D. and fingerprints. For canoe outfitters and lodges to require that their guests must first travel to the Border Crossing at Grand Portage to pick-up their 'I-68' form prior to entering Canada is totally unworkable. Incidentally this laminated form is much to large to fit into a wallet or even your pants pocket.

One solution to this problem would be installing Outlining Area Reporting Systems (OARS) at Saganaga and Gunflint Lakes. Because of the cost of this equipment- about $10,000 for each location, help is needed in funding this project.

Canoeist, fisherman, snowmobilers or anyone crossing and returning into Canada at a "remote border crossing" can thank Home Land Security for the extra hassle- no telling what you fisherman are hiding in those walleyes you are bring back.

2. Continuing administrative/implementation problems with the local U. S. Forest Services.
Item- The inclusion of the so called "vegetable Lakes" as a non-motorized recreation area into the new Superior National Forest Management Plan. Under this new designation many resident from the Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais and Grand Portage who for years have accessed the "vegetable Lakes" by ATV or snowmobile to fish will now find it much more difficult and for many impossible to reach these lakes. Locals are calling this de-facto wilderness land grab by the USFS just another broken promise of the 1978 BWCA Act. They are laying much of the blame for designating the vegetable Lake area as non-motorized on the Gunflint District Forest Service’s Ranger, Dennis Neitzke.

Item- Two favor access routes into lakes along the Canadian Border - the North to South Lake Portage and the snowmobile trail into South Fowl Lake were recently closed to all motorized use by Dennis Neitzke. This action was taken even though this route had continued in use after the passage of the 1978 BWCA Act.
While Neitzke and his superiors have promised that they would find acceptable alternate routes, as usual locals have yet to see any action.

Item-Following the July 4 Storm the US Forest Service’s plan for storm clean-up was generally well received by residents of the Gunflint Trail. Now five years later, many residents of the Trail are beginning to question some of the Forest Service storm recovery actions.
The Forest Service told us that along lakes, whenever possible, that they would not let their controlled burns go up the waters edge. Yet on Magnetic and Poplar along with several other lakes the burns did go right to the shoreline. Also along the Gunflint many of the prescribed burns and/or logging sales go right up to the road seemingly without regards to the scenic nature of the Gunflint Trail. As for the Forest Service promise to protect the area’s important ski trails, as one resort owner put it "While my ski trails may have been damaged by the storm, the real damage was done by the Forest Service and their storm clean-up. "
Many of the islands of Seagull Lake were burned even though it was hard to envision the
storm downed trees on these islands as much of a threat to any people living on the lake. In the case of the burning of Three Mile Island, many of the island’s ancient pines were destroyed even though the Forest Service had pledged these trees would be spared.

In the upper Gunflint Trail one of the area's must historic and a favorite hiking trail was partially destroyed by another Forest Service Controlled burn. This year the Forest Service is proposing to burn in the Mid Gunflint Trail area between Hungry Jack, Moss and Duncan lakes where the Caribou Rock Hiking Trail is located. Many in the area feel this burn could gravelly impact this scenic hiking trail.

Then there is the BWCA. 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?

3. The Chain of Lake Lawsuit - at least in this case the U.S. Forest Service is supporting this suit.

Need to lengthen Cook County's Airport Runways - while several Gunflint Trail business have been calling for this action for over a decade to date no action has been taken.

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