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Boreal Community Media

Forest Service to drop BWCA lottery system in 2018

Sep 30, 2017 01:42PM ● By Editor
Connie Cummins U.S. Forest Service Supervisor.  Photo Tom Coombe

From The Ely Echo - September 29, 2017

The U.S. Forest Service plans to do away with a permit lottery system that has been in place for many years. After the 2018 season, lottery permits will become first come, first serve, creating a mad rush for BWCA users.

Lottery permits are only in place for the entry points with the highest demand. This includes the very popular day use motor entry permits at Fall Lake and Moose Lake to get to Basswood Lake. A lottery system is also used for overnight paddle and motor permits through Fall Lake and Moose Lake. The five entry points are listed as D, F, G, 24 and 25.

“People were submitting several applications for the same date to be sure they got one,” said Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins. “This way without the lottery you can make a reservation on a given date and if it’s not available you’ll know it right then rather than trying to get one through the lottery.”

This decision will create a logjam of people trying to get permits at the exact second they become available, whether it’s 10 a.m. or midnight some day likely in January.
Individuals and outfitters will again be lining up friends and family members on computers to hit the enter button as soon as the permits come on line.

“At least all the permits will have users with one permit who can go in and you apply for the date you want,” said Cummins. “There’s no foolproof system but permits will be used by people who are really out there.”

Area fishermen and outfitters are bound to be frustrated with the change.

“I don’t think this is going to solve the problem and I think they’re going to have more problems,” was the initial reaction from Ely outfitter Bob LaTourell.

At one point all BWCA overnight paddle and all motor permits were done through a lottery. The Forest Service changed that for the 2012 season and has made little changes since.
The other change going in to effect in 2018 is a fee of $4 when applying for a lottery permit. The Forest Service was being charged a fee from the company that handles the permits for every application submitted. That cost is now being passed on to the user, whether they get a permit or not.

“This is to discourage people to put in 10 applications for the same day,” said Cummins.
This year the Forest Service has already implemented an increase in reservation fees from $6 to $10.

In a letter sent out on Sept. 15, the Forest Service stated, “Eliminating the lottery will create a reservation system that is less complicated, consistent, fair and remove the need for a separate process for submitting lottery applications at the start of a season. This reservation model will also better serve those who want to make a reservation.” 

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