Something to think about on Earth Day 2019
by Jack Stone
On Earth Day, when there is much discussion about mining and the future of the wilderness in northeast Minnesota, keep in mind that the government is going to do what the government is going to do. Yes, you can lobby on whatever side you take, but what happens, happens. However, there are more immediate threats to our wilderness that we can all help eliminate. And part of eliminating those threats comes down to education.
We realize that most of you know the rules of the road in the outdoors but there are a few things we want to remind you to teach your travel companions. Let’s point out a couple problems that have come up on the BWCAW, Border Route Trail, Superior Hiking Trail, Kekakabic and all the spurs and back trails.
Everyone knows to hang their packs to keep the bears and other varmints out of the food. When hanging packs, look for a sturdy high branch. Sadly, the tree branches are almost nonexistent the first 15 feet up many trees in the campsites. That’s because everyone uses the same branches and after much use and abuse, they are breaking off.
Start out with keeping a clean campsite and leaving no food out for the bears. Put your food in a bear barrel that you can buy or rent and set it away from your tent. Put some pots and pans on top so when the bear tries to get into the barrel, the noise can alert you. If the noise doesn’t scare them away, you can tell them nicely to leave you and your food alone. They are more afraid of you than you are of them.
Another problem you might alert your companions about is the use of hammocks. Hammocks are great: they are comfortable and a great place to relax and sleep. But many folks are cutting branches to make stringing the hammocks more convenient. Don’t let your fellow travelers do that. It is up to you as the more experienced camper to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Lastly, drones are strictly prohibited in the BWCAW. They are allowed in the Superior National Forest but like all other motorized equipment, they are not to be used in the wilderness. And speaking of the forest, if you are outside the boundaries and using a drone and there is a forest fire, you must not use the drone. If a drone is in the air during a fire, all forest service aircraft will be grounded until the drone is out of the air. That could jeopardize lives and property.
We know the vast majority of our visitors adhere to the rules. There are newbies who may not be aware of some nuances. We are hoping that those of you that are reading this can help us instruct those who are not aware of some of this. We want to preserve the wilderness for our kids and grandkids. We can talk all day about our worries about major outside influences and their impact on the area we love. Let’s take care of the part we can control so we can continue to be proud of doing our part.