A. Yes. When there is a wildfire in the Wilderness that requires a closure consideration for visitor and fire fighter safety creates a balancing act between providing for wilderness recreational opportunities and managing to maintain wilderness character. With the Spice Lake Fire closure, 80 fewer campsites are available for visitors to use in that portion of the BWCAW which reduces the capacity of the Wilderness. We don’t want to cancel anyone’s permit or opportunity to enjoy the BWCAW, unless necessary, so a common management practice is to pull any remaining available quota permits from the system to help manage the potential for overcrowding and lack of available campsites.
1. Removed Permits: In anticipation of the closure order going into place this week, we removed remaining available quota permits from the system for multiple entry points that are impacted by the closure area for the period of time between June 14th and July 7th. Those entry points include Moose Lake (OP), Saganaga Lake (OP), Seagull Lake (OP), Snowbank Lake (OP), and Kekekabic Trail (east)(OH). Approximately 93% of the available quota for Moose and Snowbank Lakes were reserved by permit holders, 43 permits on Moose and 14 on Snowbank were withheld. On Seagull Lake, 99% of the available inventory was reserved by permit holders and only 2 quota were retained. Saganaga Lake had more quota available and saw 22% or 80 permits withdrawn. Due to low demand, only one permit was reserved for the Kekekabic Trail (east), so the balance was held in reserve. At this time, all permit holders with existing reservations retained their bookings and have not been impacted by these reductions.
2. Notified Permit Holders: We also sent an email to those permit holders that have reserved permits (for these points of entry) for June 19th - July 7th. This notified permit holders of the closure for the Spice Lake Fire, in case they had planned to travel in the area that is now closed. They can now consider canceling their permit and make alternative plans at another entry point that has quota permits available or recreate outside of the BWCAW in the remainder of the Superior NF.
We have heard feedback that it seemed unnecessary to reach out that far in advance to visitors. Our rational for the advance notification is based on fire modeling of the Spice Lake Wildfire, lessons learned during the Greenwood Fire ’21, short- and long-term weather forecasts, and current drought conditions. There is a high likelihood that we will be actively managing the Spice Lake Fire well into the summer. As a result, we will continue to evaluate the need to manage visitor use in the area surrounding the Spice Lake Fire closure area accordingly.
Permit Removal Goal: Our goal is to have visitors (and Cooperators) help us in making choices that will voluntarily reduce the number of overnight paddle visitors going into that area near the closure. While the Spice Lake Fire closure is in place, we would like to reduce the amount of people entering at each of those entry points by about half of what was booked at the time of closure each day (50%) to ensure there are enough campsites available to accommodate all parties.
Permit Review Process: We’d like to avoid cancelling anyone’s permits but, if we must, we will likely cancel those permits that were booked most recently for that entry point and day. Again, now through June 19, and thereafter, we will be assessing the rate at which permits are voluntarily cancelled and will be monitoring the conditions on the lakes surrounding the closure area to identify any overcrowding or campsite availability issues. We welcome feedback from our cooperators on this process.