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08/05/2007 10:11AM
I saw the thread called "Interesting Article" and in it, some people were taking shots at Friends of the Boundary Waters.

I guess I don't know a ton about them, but when a paddling friend of mine died unexpectedly, I thought it would be a nice tribute to start donating money to them.

I guess I didn't know they were as divisive as that thread made it seem. I'd love to read some of the pros and cons of that organization.

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08/05/2007 03:55PM
I'm a member and support most of their approaches.
08/05/2007 04:29PM
Despite ripping on them, I do support most of their... Platform.
08/05/2007 06:20PM
The whole reason we still have the BWCA is because of groups like the Friends. Doesn't mean that I agree with every stance. A lot of times in politics, you have extremes on either side, and the sensible approach is somewhere in the middle.
08/05/2007 09:24PM
Another supporter of the Friends here. It is unfortunate, but it seems that there are plenty who would trade what's left of our wilderness for a few bucks. Some of the envirnomental groups do seem to get out of hand sometimes but no more so than those on the other side of things. Anyway, I love the BWCA and will continue to support organizations I think will help give future generations a chance experience it.
08/05/2007 11:03PM
I too am a member. I don't agree 100% with them , but I never agree 100% with anyone. I will support any organization that helps preserve the BW.
08/05/2007 11:05PM
I like to believe in balance, that is the Friends provide opposition/balance to others that want to take the BWCAW from being as much of a wilderness as it is (as much as it can be at this point)---I don't agree with everything they do/say but I don't agree with everything the other side has to offer either---hopefully they cancel each other out and keep the status quo.

08/06/2007 08:34AM
First off, although the article WAS "opinionated" it IS however "accurate". Secondly, if you believe that "most" of Ely is behind them you don't know Ely very well. If as many people were behind them as you say there would be no reason to "fear" anything. I encourage anyone who has not read the article to do so and form your own opinion. It sure appears to me there are attorneys buttering their own bread.

That being said, I don't and never would want motors allowed in the BWCA and I believe it should stay protected and pristine. I believe many of the things the "friends" and "sierra" fight for are important issues that need to be addressed. My question to you is would you not be a little upset if someone was telling you what to do with your back yard?
08/06/2007 09:18AM
Well I read the article and came away with a different opinion. What the council did by allowing Conservationists with Common Sense and no other political groups into the Blueberry festival under the guise of "grandfathering" was totally against every American principal we all hold dear. If they would have excluded ALL political groups from being in the festival that is one thing but only allowing one side---sounds alot like a dictatorship to me.

The lawyers in this case did not "butter their own bread"--although their tactics were a little strong handed---in my opinion they have a very good case. By waiting until the last second and threatening to hold up the festival they really gave the council no choice in the matter. This kept the case out of court--thus SAVING money for all involved---that was probably part of the reason for the timing. If this went to court both sides would get poorer and the lawyers on both sides would have gotten richer and the result would have been the same.

In the United States you can call it what you want (grandfathering) but no matter you cannot limit political views at your events unless they are completely private. That would be like the MN state fair only allowing Democrats to have booths at the fair and not allowing other polotical parties. IMHO the council got what it deserved for making such a bonehead move--I mean maybe in old Russia this would be allowed but not here in the U.S. :)

08/06/2007 07:49PM
Not to sound selfish, but their backyard is a wilderness that belongs to the entire nation.
08/06/2007 07:52PM


In all seriousness, timatkn knocked it out of the park like Barry Bonds. Let 'em both have a booth, just STOP COMPLAINING! And stop with the fighting and lawsuits.
The Great Outdoors  
08/06/2007 09:39PM

If it belongs to the entire nation, why doesn't the entire nation kick in some big bucks to help repair our roads and keep our school systems alive.(most are surviving only because of local referendums)

Once the land is "wilderness" it's off the tax rolls with only a token PILT payment every so often.

Ely and Grand Marais anxiously await your generous contribution:)
08/06/2007 09:42PM
Knocked out like Barry Bonds!---is that a compliment or an insult :)

My comments are not artificially enhanced in any way (as should be obvious).

08/06/2007 09:45PM

"If it belongs to the entire nation, why doesn't the entire nation kick in some big bucks to help repair our roads and keep our school systems alive.(most are surviving only because of local referendums)"

Um one has nothing to do with the other??? The entire nation does contribute to running the BWCAW--it is Federal land paid by fees and federal taxes. Highway 169 and other roads are paid for by the state which gets Federal money as well etc...Yea some roads are county or local just like everywhere else in the U.S.

As far as schools and referendums go---hey join the club--doesn't everyone have referendums and levies now a days to run their schools???---where does your community responsibility for raising and educating your own kids start---you liberals want everyone to pay for everything for you.

Then you say the "wilderness" is off the tax rolls---if the BWCAW was suddenly opened up to be privately owned the amount that would come back in taxes would be nothing compared to how much it would cost the area to build the infrastructure and support more people living in the area----historically opening new land up to increase local tax revenues results in eventually INCREASING taxes for the above reasons--just the opposite effect most think. I really cannot believe Ely would be a better place with thousands of more people living there, higher taxes, and becoming a playground for only the rich that would be able to afford the land. Compare your current lake front, land taxes, and school levy/referendums to other areas in MN that are more developed and the complaint the BWCAW is "off the tax rolls" doesn't look very valid.
The Great Outdoors  
08/06/2007 10:30PM

First off, I resent being called a Liberal, but keep in mind that Liberals are the ones that are in the strongest support of the BWCA.

YOU want the locals to pay for YOUR play, and pay they did, with their property being condemned, businesses lost, cabins and homes taken, jobs lost, all when this wilderness was BUILT,(in 1964) not saved as some would have you believe.

What does the entire nation contribute to running the BWCA?? Permit fees???? Absolutely meaningless!!!!

But I guess when you benefit from, but are not affected by, the regulations that created the BWCA, you will never understand what people went through, and what they lost.

An example of regulations that should be fresh in everyone's mind is the no cut policy (including the blowdowns)and what this years fire did to businesses and homes on the Gunflint Trail.

I am not advocating opening up the BWCA to be privately owned, as you suggested. I am merely pointing out a harsh fact that once federal ownership of land occurs, tax revenue dies, revenues that support local school and infrastructure.

I do not know where you live, but imagine one million acres of land taken, homes and businesses bulldozed & removed from the tax rolls. The government pays about $3/acre in PILT payments. Wouldn't you be slightly upset??? I guess I'm suggesting to look at the situation from a "walk in their shoes" perspective, rather than "they want to mess with my vacation" one.

I do not mean this to be a personal attack on your last post, but to give you some food for thought from a local prospective.
Please take it as such.

08/07/2007 06:27AM
You are right I have no idea what people who were forcibly bought out went through back in the 60's---the situation that created the BWCAW was totally unfair to alot of people. To that I will totally agree with you.

As far as the other points on Federal taxes and possible contributions from increased land taxes, ---I guess we will have to agree to disagree. The numbers just don't compute as simply as some want to argue---but things are never as simple as they seem---I guess I will just say have a good day and I will quite arguing with you as neither of us is going to budge much :)


Arkansas Man  
08/07/2007 07:23AM
Just a thought... but any time a wilderness area is designated, and we have several here in Arkansas, somebody wins and somebody loses! A large wilderness area was created along a small series of streams in northern Pope County where I live... It closed traffic in other than by foot unless you are handicapped. That is fine by me, but it took away access to a deer camp that we had there where we enjoyed many hours of freindship and fellowship. And virtually made most of it inaccessable because of the rugged terrain... I got over it of course just means a lot more time and effort to get where we used to go! The Buffalo National River is the same way... Beautiful area, controlled by water levels which have been low for the past several years and some of the canoe rental businesses went out of business because of it. Do people take care of it? No, or rather some do some don't. It has become a party river where people come and float and party... On any given weekend during floating season there are several hundred people drunk and floating. Rangers have to patrol it constantly to enforce rules... It has gotten to the point I drive 1100 miles north to Ely rather than 70 miles north to enjoy wilderness. So my dollars come north to Ely!

08/07/2007 08:29AM
Yes their backyard is a wilderness that belongs to the entire nation. But it was not always that way. My grandparents and parents were there to see it taken away and the rules changed in the middle of the game. How would you like it if tomorrow you couldn't use the lakes around your house the same way you always have. Unfortunately enough is never enough! Now the so called "friends" want a "buffer around the BWCA". What next, a buffer around the buffer. If it was up to some people there would not be a motor on any lake in northern MN. Some of you who come here once or twice a year don't know the history or the people who struggle to make a living in Ely. They love the land as much as you do ,,, trust me. I'm sure to get bashed on this subject as I know most disagree. But if you read my previous post you will see that I don't think there should be motors in the current wilderness. Thanks G.O. for letting people know why the locals hold a bit of a grudge.
08/07/2007 12:30PM
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens everywhere, usually in the name of (some sort of) progress.

At about the same time as the BWCA was being created, hundreds of Kansas farmers and thousands of small-towners lost their homes and livelihoods when the Corp of Engineers built flood control dams. (I'm not ignoring the other states where this happened. I just happen to live in Kansas.)

Was this a bad thing? If you lived in a town or city that flooded every ten or fifteen years the dams were probably the greatest thing since sliced bread. If, however, you lost the farm that had been in your family for a century it was a case of the federal government meddling in stuff that was none of their business. Which side was right?

"For every complex issue there is a simple answer, and it is wrong." H.L. Mencken

P.S. I am very glad that this discussion hasn't degenerated into general nastiness.
08/07/2007 12:32PM
Ditchpickle--- I think most can understand the local perspective to some extent. Simply stated sounds like your family got screwed in the deal and many have a right to be bitter.

What garners negative responses are blanket statements by people that the enviromentals are ruining it up north, they are all a bunch of hippocrits, and they are all a bunch of whack jobs (I know you did not say that)---It goes both ways I know--I've read others categorize all locals as law breaking BWCAW Snowmobile/motor boat riding "I'll only follow laws I agree with stereotype." Neither attitude or stereotype is helpfull---and most people are somewhere in the middle.

Many that support the "Friends" or similar groups not becuase they want to get rid of all motors and make everywhere like the BWCAW but because they see other groups pushing the other way---wanting to expand motor usage, logging, mineral rights--decrease the BWCAW. As with all political situations it is those on the fringe of both sides of the issue that create the problems---I think on this site you see most think similar to you of trying to keep it the status quo--the current rules were put in affect as a compromise neither side got what they wanted in this whole BWCAW deal--compromise is good in my opinion. So we all have more to agree with than disagree.
I can totally understand the perspective of being against the "Friends"--it is the American way and your right to disagree. But the negative comments about the enviros trying to ruin the Blueberry festival I could not ignore. Simply stated the council in charge screwed up by only allowing the "Conservationists" a booth. I would argue just as heavily if the roles were reversed and the "Friends" had the booth already. Whether intentional or not exclusionary policies like that are unethical and illegal--even if you disagree with the group.
08/07/2007 01:20PM
Apples to oranges. Actually the BWCA put an end to progress.

I agree with most of what you wrote except this. "But the negative comments about the enviros trying to ruin the Blueberry festival I could not ignore."

I did not write the article in question nor did I post it on this site so if you have an issue with it you should write the Ely Echo Editor with that statement.

I originally stated that many of these groups are for progress and development where they live while trying to stop the same where someone else lives. After that I stated that the article was accurate contrary to another users post. (yes I realize it was opinionated but is was told like it happened) I am done with this post as I'm not going to beat it to death anymore.

Good luck to everyone paddling the rest of the season!

Ho Ho  
08/07/2007 02:00PM
Great Outdoors asks: "If it belongs to the entire nation, why doesn't the entire nation kick in some big bucks to help repair our roads and keep our school systems alive(most are surviving only because of local referendums)?"

The fact is, the Feds do make these payments. Every year, the federal government pays significant amounts to Lake, Cook, and St. Louis counties "in lieu" of property taxes for the federal land in Superior National Forest (including the BWCA but also the rest of SNF too). This system was set up during the Depression, when federal acquisition of much of this land was a way to support "poor counties" -- which is what these parts of Northeast Minnesota were. Most of the land the U.S. bought was already tax forfeited by timber companies that clearcut the land and then abandoned it. So the counties owned the land and it wasn't producing taxes. The U.S. bought the land and makes "in lieu" payments. Not a bad deal, if you ask me -- and I'm a St. Louis county landowner and taxpayer. More info here.

I'd also argue that the BWCA drives much of the economy precisely because of the restrictions. People can take a motorboat on 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. They come up to the BW because it's different. Then a lot of them invest in the adjacent areas. Lot's of good jobs in construction etc. It would be interesting to see a good economic analysis that compares the money that comes into the area because of the BWCA versus if it weren't protected. I'm not trying to say there aren't economic problems in northeast Minnesota. There are. But they almost all stem from downturns in mining jobs in the Mesabi and Vermilion Ranges. The BWCA regulations had nothing to do with the mines shutting down in Ely, nor did they have any effect on the very sharp reduction in Mesabi taconite jobs recently.
The Great Outdoors  
08/07/2007 10:32PM
I did mention about the PILT payments that you addressed in your latest post (stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes)and no, it is not a good deal for the $3 or less per acre payment that it is. I'd love to pay that for taxes.

I do not know where you have land in St. Louis County, but will take your word for it. If you are summer/recreational usage, you DO NOT pay for any school referendums passed after 2001.

The boundary waters did eliminate many good paying jobs in the timber industry. There was a movement in Ely to try to get the only gambling casino in the state in the 80's, which had a major uphill battle, before Florian Chimelewski cast the death vote in a committee. One of the arguments used against it was that it would be too close to the BWCA. This argument appears over and over again for any type of industry that attempts to come anywhere in the area. It was even used against the Steel Nugget plant in Silver Bay, which is no where near the BWCA.

This doesn't even dent the surface of problems that happen because of wilderness legislation, but I'm glad this is being addressed in the forum, and very civilly, I might add.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to stop into my shop in Ely, or call, and we can discuss this further. There is far too much info to cover in a forum. Again, thanks for keeping the conversation gentlemanly:)
The Great Outdoors  
08/07/2007 10:51PM

Point of clarification from your post about the Blueberry Arts Festival.

CWCS has had a booth there for many years.(10 years or longer?)

They were removed from the Chamber of Commerce membership several years ago (because it was a political group) but were "grandfathered" into the BBA Festival.

The Northeastern Minnesotan's for Wilderness threatened to file a lawsuit in late June if they weren't allowed in, even though they had never participated in it at any time before.

A legitimate discussion could be held because both have political agendas, but the lawsuit threat leaves another bad taste in the mouths of many people.
08/07/2007 11:02PM
Down here in Iowa there is no wilderness at all, there are no places that are not lit up at night. there are several lakes full of boats, and the rich that live around them are constantly pressuring the state to limit access. All of our waters are polluted with nitraits [hog poop], and petroleum from jet skis outboards and farm run off.
The vested interest with money would have destroyed the wilderness the Ely folks claim to love years ago.
As far as ownership of your backyard it begins at the fence on the edge of your yard.
We all own the Bdub and I will stand in the way of anyone that opens the way for its destruction. Bravo to the Friends.
08/07/2007 11:06PM
I don't like Clyde Hanson. We need a group for people who have been alienated by CWCS, NMW, The Sierra Club, Friends, etc.
08/07/2007 11:15PM

It's not what the "friends" and other groups are doing.

It's how they do it.

Or at least how they present themselves.

No one is advocating anything that would harm the area.
The Great Outdoors  
08/07/2007 11:21PM

What Trygve said, no one is advocating the destruction of the BWCA.

Many environmental groups use that as a WARNING, then ask you to send money. In order to get you to send money, there must be some type of potential problem, whether real, but mostly imagined. That's how groups get their funds.

The history of the Friends is very interesting, and leads to many questions.


Ditto on Clyde Hanson, and I'm not a big fan of Bill Hansen, either.
08/10/2007 07:53AM
I don't trust any group that call themselves "Friends of...".

Aside from that, the creation of the BWCA was a massive land grab that treated many landowners horribly unfair; they'd never get away with it today. The same thing happened in Tenn. and Ky. with all of the TVA dams that have thousands of houseboats floating around, Dale Hollow, Lake Cumberland, etc. Dozens of towns and thousands of owners were displaced. Airports are doing it today; involuntarily taking residential property from homeowners and then giving it to industrial parks. The Feds just gave "National Senic Waterway" status to a river in Michigan so now, if you owned land and wanted to build next to it, your screwed. Its part of the history of the country that very frequently the rights of the few are trampled for the benefit of the many (Sounds sorta Spocklike?).

Since I work primarily the field of eminent domain for highways, sewers, waterlines, etc. I've seen the effects often. Get to listen to crying homeowners, screaming business owners, etc.

Whether its right or not is an argument that will last for generations.

But I'd be cautious about any group that pretends to be looking out for your best interest. They have an agenda. Maybe you agree with it or maybe not, but much like the Humane Society of the United States, a animal rights, boderline-terrorist organization that wants you to believe that they're the same people as the local Humane Society taking care of little kittens and puppies, they may not be what they claim.

Be diligent in your research before supporting some of these organizations.

08/10/2007 09:22AM
I applaud all of you for your civilized discussion on this subject. I do not know all the history, details, parties involved or individuals dealing with the issue, but I'm learning more each day.
I do know that these type of situations have occured in all of our areas and that they are very touchy subjects with many "issues" on both sides.
I think one of the best points made is that of "knowing who your friends are". Agendas can be tricky....know what your a part of and how it's getting done.
Every time I go to the BW I try to realize I am a guest there and act as such. I try to support the local economy instead of trying to get "MY cheap vacation" in "MY federally supplied wilderness area".
Places like the BW come at a cost. We need to respect that and respect all involved that paid the cost.
Just my 2 cents worth on your subject....please continue.
08/10/2007 09:50AM
Well said cowdoc and oldtraveller.

I also agree with supporting the local economy. I am in Ely 15-20 times a year and I always buy my gas, food (zuuuuuuups), beer, bait, and any other supplies there. I could get them a lot cheaper at home but if I can help the local economy even a little bit I'll do it.
The Great Outdoors  
08/10/2007 11:30AM

Welcome to Ely, Bro!!!!!!!
08/10/2007 11:44AM
GTO, I've been in your shop a few times for large qtys of leeches. Good prices, good service (thick polybag and a shot of 02)and if I recall correctly, there was a charming and attractive young woman running the store one time. Each time the bait stayed lively until needed.
The Great Outdoors  
08/10/2007 12:11PM
Why thank you!!

Charming and attractive, must have been ME!! :)

Been a while since I've had a woman employee, my daughter fills in on Sundays. Hmmm, charming, must have caught her at a good moment:)
08/10/2007 02:17PM
"If it belongs to the entire nation, why doesn't the entire nation kick in some big bucks to help repair our roads and keep our school systems alive.(most are surviving only because of local referendums)"

Well, we have a whole bunch of things down here in the cities that 'belong to the entire nation', why don't you Ely/Gunflint people send some big bucks down here to help us out. I just got hit with a $90 million referendum for another high school in Carver County. Oh, and our roads and bridges seem to be in worse shape than yours, as they seems to be simply falling down.

09/09/2007 04:16PM
Ho HO,

This should tell you the story about how "Great" the BWCA is for the local economy.

2006 2000 1990
Population 3,595 3,724 3,968 (Falls worse in previous years)

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Population Estimates, Census 2000, 1990 Census

I hear it so many times from the select few who are privileged enough to take time off to go paddle around and use the BWCA for their personal playground call it the "Golden Goose". Truth is Ely was a lot better before 1978 when it was multiple use.
09/09/2007 05:54PM
I am admittedly no expert on Ely, past or present. But I think blaming a decline in Ely's population on the creation of the BWCA might be a bit of a stretch. ALL of Minnesota's rural areas have been losing population and are projected to continue to lose population over the next decade. It's a state-wide trend, not just Ely.

Are there any studies that have been done that might better indicate the BWCA's impact on Ely and the surrounding area?
09/09/2007 07:42PM
Sorry man, I don't know where you get your facts. Many rural areas in MN are growing at a rate faster than they can developed. Have you looked for lakeshore in rural MN lately? I live in central MN and we now have the largest middle school in MN at 2036 kids. (yes larger than the Twin Cities) It's a freeway from Minneapolis to Walker. Each area of MN has it's own issues. I'm not blaming the BWCA for Ely's demise but rural MN is growing not shrinking.

09/09/2007 08:47PM
So the population falls a little?

Big deal, it's still a completely sustainable economy.

I don't want more people living up here anyways. We have plenty already.

I want EVERYONE and their brother to come visit, just make sure you go home.
09/09/2007 08:48PM

Thanks for questioning my facts. I believe the kind of development you are referring to is simply the population expansion of a financial hub city. Sprawl. My brother-in-law lives in Sartel, MN. He has a nice house in a nice housing development with 200+ other nice homes, but there is a cornfield behind his house. He doesn't live a rural area IMO. This is not a rural community. It's St. Cloud suburbia. These are people wanting to live outside the city, but still within a 20 minute commute of their St. Cloud job, or their Mankato job, or their Rochester job, or their Duluth job, or their Brainerd job, etc.

Come on! Lake shore is...lake shore. Besides, a good percentage of lakeshore properties are vacation/seasonal homes that I believe don't affect population figures.

Here's a link to the State of MN Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis website. Check out the pdf document regarding rural demographics. It states "Between 1995 and 2025, 45 counties can expect an increase in population, while 42 can anticipate a decline. Most of the growth is projected to occur in the same corridor where the majority of growth occurred in the 1990s. However, many counties in the southwest as well as a few in the north are expected to lose more than 10 percent of their population.

(The "corridor" is the area you referred to, from Rochester, through the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and on up to the Lake of the Woods.)

"The increased population in the corridor of counties encompassing Rochester, the Twin Cities and St. Cloud is partially a result of strong economies in these communities. For north-central Minnesota counties, recreational amenities have spurred an increase in population, especially of retired people."

What's your definition of "rural"? When you read the document, keep in mind that it considers that any county outside the seven county metro area to be "rural". I'm sorry, but Rochester and St. Cloud are hardly "rural". The point made is Ely's population decline is not an isolated situation. It is happening in many other rural areas of the state for different reasons. On that point, it seems, we agree.
09/10/2007 08:29AM
Yes much of the development in rural MN is expansion of a financial hub city as suburbs are growing at a very high rate. The thing is here where I live (Brainerd, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Baxter) was rural when I was born here 35 yrs ago and now it is the
"hub city". The land in many areas of MN (lakeshore or non-lakeshore) is getting eaten up and before long it will be un-available. My point is that yes, some rural areas of MN are declining because the way of life that made them thrive is also declining or gone such as farming in the south or mining in the north. But many areas of rural MN are also booming. I see both ends of it as I live in an area that booms while the area I spend all of my free time (Ely) declines. Do I want the BWCA full of motors? NO. But floppy may be correct when stating that the local economy in Ely was better when it was multiple use. Thus I understand some of the hard feelings the locals have.

09/10/2007 11:48AM
I Live in Silver Bay, a town which embraces mining, logging, and all motorized use of the outdoors. It is also a town which every year graduates a smaller high school class than the year before. All across the "Range" similar events are happening. Schools are consolidating and towns are getting smaller. Mines are declining and mechanizing, forestry is declining and mechanizing. Ely is one of the few towns that I enjoy visiting. It has many neat little shops and a vibrant community. I feel this is due to the non-motorized use of the BW. There is money in tourism. I,m not quite sure all of ELY believes this.
09/10/2007 01:11PM
Although it may appear to those of you visiting Ely once a year to be thriving financially it is not. There is money in tourism but one town can only support so many nick-nack shops. Also realize Ely is pretty "dead" 9 months of the year. Did you ever come to Ely years ago? A LOT has changed. Ely has not boomed because of the no-motor laws. If that's what you think you are very mistaken.
09/10/2007 02:00PM

You hit the nail on the head buddy. I remember 30+ years ago the streets would be blocked off for street dances with thousands of people around. Might get some negative response for throwing this out there, but I would guess a local economy would benefit more from a family pulling a motor boat up behind a RV to go boating for a week buying steaks, beer, chips and pop more than group cramming in their Volvo to paddle around the BWCA with their gorp and a few packs of freeze dried food and then pulling in to a local outfitter to ask if they can use their showers!
09/10/2007 05:48PM
Sustainable is more important than booming or growing.
09/10/2007 06:47PM
I agree totally with Trygve.

So many have and desire to live in a (our) little town yet they bring the need for accessible convenience. While a mall has some positive job, tax implications, it erodes what "little town" means to many who wished for the convenience.

Trying to sustain as Trygve states is the real challenge if you like where you live.
The Great Outdoors  
09/10/2007 11:35PM
There are many valid, and some not so valid points being brought up on a motor vs a non motor economy and tourism.

Ely's population in the 60's was about 5,400, now around 3,000. Graduating classes were about 130 then, 70 or less now.

An economy of an area can be judged by the enrollment of their high schools, an undeniable fact.

A tourism based economy cannot pay a living wage for families, hence the decline in population and school enrollment.

Tourism is very important for the Ely area, both for people in business, and the people who visit.

When the BWCA was created, many resorts were closed on area lakes, (Basswood, Crooked, Crab, Fourtown, etc.) This took the tourism based economy to the level it's now at.

Many areas were closed to logging, law suits filed to prevent further mining, and logging. It goes on and on. More will be filed in the foreseeable future to eliminate tow boats and all motor use.

Change is inevitable, for better or worse.

A sustainable economy is not necessarily better for school enrollment than a growing or booming economy.

Just my 2 cents. (along with a little Devil's advocate, just to stir the pot) :)
The Great Outdoors  
09/11/2007 09:56AM
My prediction didn't take long to come through.

An environmental group filed a law suit today against the steel nugget project by Nashwauk, Mn-70 + miles away from the BWCA.

Headlines Mesabi Daily News, may be read on their website.
09/11/2007 10:00AM
It's not like we didn't see it coming from ten gajillion miles away.
09/11/2007 10:31AM
It never ends,,,,,,,,,,
09/11/2007 11:51AM
TGO - You stated that "A tourism based economy cannot pay a living wage for families, hence the decline in population and school enrollment." Is it your opinion then that it was inevitable that the Ely area would lose population regardless of multi-use/motors, etc? In the 1960s, where did people work to support a population of 5,400? I'm asking because I honestly don't know.

Would it be fair to compare Ely to other towns in the area that are unencumbered by the BWCA? I'm thinking of towns that are approximately the same distance from the metro area, but are still in lake country, International Falls perhaps. Or what about the smaller towns in lake country, maybe Cook or Orr. Shouldn't these towns be bursting with all the previously Ely-bound RVs pulling motor boats to the motorized lakes outside the BWCA?

Thanks for keeping this civil. I realize these are sensitive issues for many and I sincerely respect and appreciate everyone's thoughts and opinions.
09/11/2007 01:29PM
My family, and nearly all of my friend's families, ALL have lived solely on tourism based income for all of our lives.

Generations have survived solely on a tourism based economy.
09/11/2007 01:54PM
Some tourism based jobs pay better than others. Many of the outfitters, resort owners, guides, and others do very well. Unfortunately most of the people working for these people make very little. Many families in Ely are trying to make it on $20,000 a year or less and that is not easy to do.
09/11/2007 04:13PM
Being a Californian (don't cringe, I was a MN resident many years ago), I don't feel like I'm all that qualified to enter into the debate. However, I'm not sure how much money you're going to pull in from 'a family pulling a motor boat up behind a RV to go boating for a week'. Seems like a lot of those folks would stock up on supplies before leaving home, don't need any motel rooms, and won't be renting much in the way of watercraft. I know it's just an example, but I think you may be dismissing other types of tourists (ie, Volvo driving, although I don't ever remember seeing a Volvo in Ely -- Grand Marais, maybe) too easily.

That being said, I know a lot of small rural towns struggle to survive and need every advantage they can get. I agree wholeheartedly with cowdocs' philosophy -- when I go to the BWCA, I make a point to spend as much of my trip funds as possible in Ely. It's a great town.
09/11/2007 09:17PM
I've enjoyed reading the thread and learned a lot from everyone's posts. I agree a lot with the many sentiments of resentment toward the federal government for basically legislating how many in the area around the Boundary Waters have to live their life. I also would be really upset if more motors were allowed into the Boundary Waters or if existing regulations in the wilderness were relaxed. I'm open to more mixed use recreation (snowmobile trails, etc) being built in parts of the SNF, so I think my position is somewhere in the middle.

The only bone I have to pick with you TGO is on the roads and schools comments. You certainly have a point about the schools and I won't argue with you there. But, your US Congressman Jim Oberstar is Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The roads up on the arrowhead are really nice and a vastly disproportionate percentage of federal funds are spent building, repairing and expanding the roads in the area. Oberstar, as the ranking Democrat and Chair of the committee, basically gets whatever pet projects for his home district he wants. Example: Highway 1 is a great road for the remote area it serves between Illgen City and Ely, and the road is flawless and has been for a few years. Yet, when I was entering at Snake River a few weeks ago, they were expanding and straightening a decent segment of the road north of Isabella and south of the S. Kawishiwi River. This was clearly not an upgrade of necessity but one that helps speed up travel through a small area for a small number of travelers. From my experience, the roads in Southeastern Minnesota and the metro don't hold a candle to the roads on the arrowhead.
The Great Outdoors  
09/11/2007 09:46PM

In the early 60's, Ely's economy was 1. mining, 2. logging, 3. tourism.

There were many more resorts in the area than currently, which the Wilderness Act of 1964 took out.

The permit system came out in 1976?

In 1978 further motor restrictions came, and more non motorized zones were created (Crooked Lake, Basswood River, no motor use around U.S. point on Basswood, lakes over in the GM area that Trygve would be able to name)

No permits were needed after Labor day. This changed to Oct. 1st, and usage of the lakes in September dropped. I do not recall when the Oct. date kicked in.

Tourism is a 90 day business for the most part, and is unable to provide a year around living for most employed. (business owners excepted) When the young families began to move to find more lucrative jobs, school enrollment began to drop.

If you see my post from this morning about the law suit filed against the MPCA, you can realize how hard it is to get living wage jobs in the area.
09/11/2007 09:55PM
Thanks, Obie.
The Great Outdoors  
09/11/2007 10:04PM

You must be referring to my road comment from a month ago.

The highway 1 project was out of necessity for a safety factor. I realize that it is a quaint and charming road to travel while vacationing, but it isn't in the winter. And you must admit, it has more than its share of curves.

I don't have the exact figures, but Cook county is 90%? federally owned, Lake county about 75%?, and St. Louis, about 50%.

When you take a tax base that large out of the local coffers, it is a big hit. PILT payments never make up for what you lose, not even close!!!!!

If I remember correctly, the Casino in the Minnetonka area?? was going to be placed under federal control,(or whatever) which would take it off the tax rolls and cost local government about $100 million a year and the people went ballistic. This is about what happened to us, but we lost the battle. Correct me on my figures here if they are incorrect. I remember reading about the situation, but it's foggy:)

09/11/2007 10:31PM
I completely agree with you about the tax base issue that arises from the land being owned predominately by the federal govt.
09/11/2007 10:33PM
I think it may even be above 90 percent public land.
The Great Outdoors  
09/11/2007 10:35PM
I think you're right.

Could be almost 95%
09/11/2007 11:33PM
Okay getting even more off subject TGO, I'm not 100% for sure but I think you are off on your Casino stats. Casino in Minnetonka(Prior Lake maybe)?? Coming Under Federal control?? ---I'm not up on my Casino's but in Minnesota only Natives are allowed to run Casinos and they are on Reservation land and as far as I know NOT subject to any state or Federal taxes, laws, or fees. A couple of years ago Pawlenty tried to get them to pay 250-350 million to the state by trying to blackmail/threaten them by possibly allowing other poorer bands to open Casinos in the metro area, but that was defeated in the legislature--mostly by Democrats who were getting contributions from the casinos and Republicans who were getting heat from local church groups against gambling in the Cities. I don't think we get much in the way of taxes/funds from any of the Casinos. In fact since it is on Tribal lands they don't even have to follow state workers comp laws--they do, but constantly remind us it is on a voluntary basis.

A few years back there was a big mess around here where the county refused to fix the roads leading to the Casino since they did not get any taxes from them----finally Mystic Lake had to pay for the road repair themselves.
09/12/2007 05:51AM
Regarding resorts in northern MN. 24 years ago, my wife and I spent a week at a resort on Vermillion called Red Loon Lodge. I understand that it no longer exists. As a kid we used to stay for a week in the summer at a resort on Big Turtle Lake called William's Resort near Marcel. Now gone. My wife's uncle owned a resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd. Gone. In these cases, I believe the individual cabins were sold off to private parties. The money was too good to turn down. Are the resorts in northern MN disappearing, or is it just me?
09/12/2007 07:17AM
I personally think the number of resorts is declining. The price of lake shore property and property taxes is skyrocketing and these family business just cannot stay afloat. I think Crane Lake has lost a few in the last 4-5 years as well as Vermillion. I know one on Crane was bought and made into single plots for cabins. I know my dad looked into buying a resort (his dream so he thought) and he couldn't find anything that you could actually make money off of. You are not seeing any new resorts really opening becuase of these factors. I think owning a resort is a tough life (for most anyway).

09/12/2007 07:26AM
Your analysis is correct. The 'family' (with small housekeeping cabins) Resorts of my youth are being sold off and chopped up into smaller private parcels. The land cost is high, if a resort with 40-50 acres - which used to be fairly common - comes on the market, the price of the land usually forces it to be broken up.

The Great Outdoors  
09/12/2007 11:46AM

I know that casinos are on tribal land, and do not remember exactly the situation as it happened.

I do know there was an uproar about the county/state losing a ton of money, and land was supposed to be transferred to Federal (?) control, for whatever reason, but assume it was to get out of paying the property tax.

The reason I recall this is that I had to chuckle since this is exactly what happens all the time in northern Minnesota every time the Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, etc. purchase land and turn it over to the Forest Service. Right OFF the tax rolls with the swipe of a pen.
09/12/2007 01:21PM
Actually wrong way around, the state would have made money.

The only ones that would have lost were the Mystic Lake folks, and whichever band of ojibwa they belong to.

The Northern groups would have made more, if they would have run it. And the State would have made more if they would have run it.

The main 2 reasons for it were. 1 generate tax dollars and or get the Native Americans to pay taxes on their casino.

The anti gambling lobby didn't want a state owned casino, and the existing casino didn't want competition so they lobbied against it even taking out advertisements discussing how much they donated to the community at large.

Had it gone through the state would have made more, and really wouldn't have taken any or very little land. The major losers would have been people with gambling addictions, and the current casinos.

The two locations discussed were at the existing canterbury park track, and at the MOA.
09/12/2007 01:39PM
TGO--straight from Indian Affairs website

"Do Indian tribes pay taxes?
Indian tribal businesses do pay a wide variety of taxes, including taxes on wagering, occupational taxes, and employment taxes. For federal income tax purposes, however, Indian tribes are governmental entities and, as such, are not required to pay taxes on the income generated by the Indian tribes, including income generated by commercial activities. "

I think you are confusing the issue between the state effort of extortion of the tribes and the possiblility of state gaming. They don't pay property taxes or taxes on casino profits. The memebers get a stipend each month and they do pay income taxes on that, but that is it.

FYI---The Mystic Lake band is not Ojibwe, they are Sioux--The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community.

09/12/2007 02:00PM
Thanks for the clarification I was running from memory. Yes the state was trying to extort the Shakopee Sioux(Dakota) in order to get them to pay taxes on casino profits. They had thought about trying to pull in some of the Northern Ojibwa Bands in order to have them run it, as they did not have the same opportunity as the local Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux.

Whether or not they should be paying taxes on those profits is a seperate debate. Either as income tax on the stipends or on the Casino Corporate so to speak. I guess my point was that it was killed by public opinion and lobbyist, not because the state was going to take private land, etc...
09/12/2007 02:25PM
I'm trying to imagine what Cook, St. Louis and Lake Counties would look like had there never been a wilderness act.

Logging and mining, fishing and tourism, highways and developments, More money? More people?

All other factors being the same, I imagine it would look like similar northern rural areas like the Michigan UP or Northern Wisconsin.

The timber and mining industry probably would have stripped off the available resources as fast as they could (with the help of federal subsidies)and leave you with a few new highways, strip malls (now vacant) and a burgeoning unemployment crowd after the burst of the bubble.
09/12/2007 03:18PM
I'm not positive, but I believe I have heard that St. Louis County is the largest (area) county in the U.S. It is the size of the States of Delaware and Connecticut combined or 6 times the size of Rhode Island.

I would think that if Duluth was factored out, the county population density would be quite small. Anyway, you have to figure that the county still needs to supply services to everyone even though the population is concentrated in the southeastern tip. Covering those distances has to be expensive, especially when much of the area is federal and there is no county tax revenue to support it. That's a tough situation.
09/12/2007 04:45PM
Yes it could look like that,,,,or,,,,, it could be like central MN where I live that is thriving on the tourism insustry (real tourism, not nick-nack shops) and growing at an unbelievable rate. Remember, just because no-motor is your thing doesn't mean it is better for the economy. Everyone on this website loves the fact that there is a designated wilderness canoe area,,,, the debate is if it was good for the area economy. Feelings aside I say no.

The Great Outdoors  
09/12/2007 10:22PM

I could be wrong about a casino in the land transfer to federal control, but there was an attempt to do this in an area north of the twin cities. I'll try to find out more through a newspaper archives search.


Many areas up here, including the BWCA and Quetico Park had been logged many years ago. Trees grow back, some are not aware that this can happen. People mistakenly think the forest is virgin, not true in most cases.
The Canadian side of Prairie Portage looked like a crew cut in the late 1800's, hell of a lot of trees there now.
09/12/2007 10:53PM
Well its always possible I am wrong---it wouldn't be the first time :)

Let me know if you find anything different---I'd be curious either way.

The Great Outdoors  
09/12/2007 10:59PM
I will do that.

I'll call my main man at the Duluth News Tribune in the morning (if I can remember:) I think Thursday is my senile day of the week! (along with M,T,W,F,S&S)
09/13/2007 10:26AM
FYI: St. Louis County doesn't even rank in the top 25 for size (area wise) in the US. #25 is Idaho County, ID, coming in at 8484 sq. mi., while St. Louis County is 6860 sq. mi.
09/13/2007 10:58AM
Someone, ditchpickel, I think, framed this thread as a discussion about whether economic growth had been hindered, although when I referred back to the original post by brain250, it did not necessarily follow.
Perhaps there should be a debate on the pros and cons of economic growth in local areas. Some of you seem to assume growth is an unmitigated good.
Twenty-five years ago, I chose the area where I live because of low population density, nearness to hunting and fishing, and the presence of essential services. Twenty-five years of hand-over-foot growth has changed the landscape considerably.
I remember a young couple who opened a video store in the early years. They spent 18 hours a day in the store, with their young baby, and built the best inventory in town. I remember the young man, pictured on the front page of The Fresno Bee, emerging from the woods at the head of a search party and cradling in his arms a young girl who had been missing for two or three days. I could tell that he was proud to be an important part of the community. After Blockbuster and other big competitors arrived, he and his family just seemed to disappear and, in fact, probably had to leave the area in order to earn a living.

I remember The Bigfoot Drive-In. If you visited Yosemite National Park, in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, you may have even stopped there, if you chose the Hwy 41 route. Many of the local customers were recognized and greeted by name when they entered the business. There were nearly 100 coffee cups hanging, each bearing the name of a regular local customer. The arrival of McDonalds, Burger King, and other chains forced The Bigfoot to close.
I also remember the little theater in nearby Bass Lake, the only screen around in those days. You could look up and clearly see the pine logs supporting the roof.
Nowadays, we have a five-screen theater in Oakhurst and the little, charming theater in Bass Lake has been kaput for some time. The kids love the newer theater but many of the older of us know all that we have lost.
When I first went turkey hunting twenty years ago, I seemed to be the only hunter in the woods. Today, there is so much hunter- produced hen yelping going on, the toms won't respond to any of them.

Yes, the high school graduating class is getting bigger every year. But also, the great majority of the business people who made a living here for awhile are gone, forced out by bigger and better financed competition.

What would Ely look like today, after 50 years of "growing like crazy?" Who would be the business people and the "pillars of the community?" Most likely, not the people there today.
Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
09/14/2007 09:18PM
This one is for ditchpickle;

I hear what you're saying, and yeah, I need someone to set aside a "wilderness" for my recreation. Someone suffers, someone gets over. Here's my points:

There could be balance. Timber harvesting is allowed in the Chequamagan NF. What about Superior? Motor boats are allowed in some places like Burntside, Moose, Sucker. I think motor free in BWCA makes Ely unique. Might feel depressed, but take a look around Northern Wisconsin and the UP. By comparison Ely is thriving. Those areas that are thriving in some areas are making lots of money, but a good portion goes directly to corporate, wages probably average under $15/hr. Prices are better in Ely than the north in general.

SNF could cater to those who are not able to rough it BW style (motor boats, trailer hookups) and allow managed timber harvesting. They could also raise BWCA fees and pass the revenue along to the locale. Still the hard winters will limit your growth. Us paddling freaks need to see both sides of the coin but I would be willing to bet that if all motor restrictions were lifted from the BW, Ely would shrivel off of the map.
The Great Outdoors  
09/14/2007 11:04PM
Ely can only survive on three industries, mining, logging, and/or tourism.

There is a possibility of a few mines opening in the near future. They pay a living wage, and have health and pension benefits (normally)

Logging will be limited, and will not expand much, even though it is a renewable resource.

Tourism will be stable until towboats are banned, and BWCA permits are cut back. Members of certain Wilderness Protection Organizations, beware when your units call for these bans or reductions!!! You may be cutting your own throat.

Ely will never have a Blockbuster Video, Target, Wallmart, or any large chain. It's location prevents that. Some local politicians like to call Ely, a "destination city", when in fact it should rightfully (though not politically correct), be called "dead end"
It is basically a 90 day business climate, but a great place to live in spite of all the drawbacks:)
The Great Outdoors  
09/14/2007 11:16PM

I have lived in Ely my entire life, minus three years of military service in the late 60's.

I have seen the traffic back in the late 50's and early 60's before the Wilderness Act of 1964 took out the resorts and motors from most lakes in the now,BWCA. I helped tear down Basswood Lodge when I was a sophomore in HS. I can tell you, there is absolutely no comparison to traffic then and now.

Ely WOULD NOT shrivel off the map if motor restrictions were lifted.

I dare say the schools would have far more students, many of our young would be able to make a living and stay in their home town, but the town would still be in the 5,000-6,000 population range, not it's current 3,200.

Besides owning a tourism based business for almost 24 years, I worked as a mechanic in the mines for almost 33 years. There is no comparison to a mining company wage & benefits, but I enjoy talking to, and meeting many nice people from all over the U.S. in the bait shop. But, I am retired, widowed, and the kids are gone. The shop is now just a hobby, so it works for me.
09/14/2007 11:30PM
How is Ely any different from any other small town?

This generation is moving out of small towns and rural areas in large numbers. Everyone wants to move to the "big city".
Here in Nebraska small town populations are way down all over the state, graduating classes are smaller and the housing market is flooded with houses for sale. Not many move into these towns, but many move out.

I'm sure that there are many small towns that would kill to be in the situation that Ely is.

If we turned back the clock to pre-wilderness times for the BWCA...

Why would I take my RV and motorboat to Ely? How is it any better than any of the other thousands of lakes that I could choose from in Minnesota? Why would I go to Ely to stay at a resort? I've got hundreds of resorts to choose from.

IMO there is only one reason that Ely is not a ghost town today. That is thanks to the creation of the BWCA. If it were not on the doorstep of the BWCA it would not be unique. If you mention wilderness canoeing in the US, Ely is going to be near the top of the list. If it wasn't for the BWCA how many people would even know where Ely is?

The Great Outdoors  
09/14/2007 11:51PM
When you are on the edge of the wilderness, everyone knows where you are.

Why did they build the wilderness known as the BWCA by Ely/Grand Marais??

Ely was a very popular tourist area years ago, far more than now. Ely would not be a ghost town if more motor use was allowed, though it never will. If you are ever in Ely, please stop in, we can have a cup of coffee, and I can give you a lot of background information of the town's history, far more than can be put on a forum.
09/15/2007 12:43AM

I will accept that invitation one day even though it was not intended for me. It's always good to hear from someone who's been there and watched it happen.

It's too bad that nature and human prosperity seem diamettrically opposed. Maybe Ely would have more money, but I would have never gone there had it not been for the BWCA.
09/15/2007 08:30AM
Predictions of the future are not usually worth much but perhaps a couple things are worth considering when you think about a local economy like Ely or Grand Marais. First, the baby boomers are headed into retirement and I've seen some data that tells us they are headed into rural communities and away from cities. Second, the virtual workforce continues to grow. More and more people are choosing a place to live, then use whatever technology is available to make a living. I tend to think that this is already present in Ely and Grand Marais (on the basis of the number of inquiries I receive wondering about teaching online from those regions) and will continue to grow. What kind of future might that suggest? Could someone ever develop enough of a "green" economic development plan to satisfy the environmentalists and create sustainable communities around the BWCA?
The Great Outdoors  
09/15/2007 12:01PM

Feel free to stop in, or any other forum visitors for that matter, when you're in the area!!
09/16/2007 08:40PM
I had the pleasure of visiting The Great Outdoors and meeting both Jim and Brian and it is well worth your time. Jim is a encyclopedia of BWCA knowledge and Brian helped educate me on mid western leeches. Definitely worth the stop.
09/16/2007 09:26PM
I understand your point of view. I would argue as well that most resorts throughout the state are going belly up or are being sold to private families as the property was worth too much. It has happened all over. who is to say that it would still be thriving the way it was. Nobody can know because it didn't happen, and to assume it would still be thriving is still just an assumption.
09/17/2007 09:05AM
Thanks for dedicating a post to me. That was very kind. Do you really think that the "friends" would allow any more logging in the area? If you have read any of my posts you would see that I don't want motors all over the BWCA. I think a designated wilderness is needed. My point all along is that I understand how the locals feel. Ely has been my second home for 35 yrs with 15-20 trips a year. I have watched it unfold. I know the locals and have relatives that live in Ely. So for you to tell me that the area would be better off or a "ghost town" or "shrivel off the map" without a motor restriction is foolish. TGO is right. I can tell you one thing for sure, the whole town would not fight over one city janitors job that pays $35,000 a year.
09/17/2007 10:29AM
I make some presumptions and appreciate being corrected by someone who knows better. What I see is a very nice town for the north country. "Better off or ghost town are not my words". Shrivel off the map in terms of what it's famous for, yes. The BWCA makes Ely the canoe capital of the country. Does that make more or less money than northern fishing vacation land with or without motors? I don't know.
The Great Outdoors  
09/17/2007 03:18PM
It is a very true assumption that it would still thrive, as I have seen the town when the resorts and town were booming, and can compare it to today's economy.

You cannot put restrictions on how many people can visit (BWCA permits), remove 30-40 resorts, and close down many old logging roads to travel for hunting (even though they are not in a no motor area) and not expect the economy to take a hit.

The average age of the population is getting higher every year because there are few to no living wage jobs for young people. This also accounts for the school enrollment dropping.

I could go on and on, but would fill up the entire forum with an unending letter and bore everyone. I posted an open invitation for anyone to either call or stop in to discuss these issues, and would be more than happy to do this if you are ever in town:)

Comparing the town back then and now is interesting conversation, but the bottom line,it is what it is!

There is no going back.
09/18/2007 08:23AM
It's mostly been said, but I'll give my 2 cents.

I really don't see much difference here with other Northern MN towns. I was born and raised on the Range. Without digging for census numbers, I would feel confident saying the entire population of Northern Minnesota has been declining steadily since the mid-80's. Every town from Duluth to the Falls. Granted, this is mostly due to mining, but it's not only the BWCA periphery who's economy has been in decline. It's all of North Central to NE MN. The only real difference is that the decline in non-mining industry is due to legislation and it seems that's where the bitterness comes in. But still, people up there don't want more people up there - and that's what you'd have if you tried to "grow" the economy. As was said, be careful what you wish for. The economy finds its "carrying capacity" and that's how many people will be able to make a living there. The way I see it, there are already enough bums and transients per capita in both Ely and GM. ;-)

Kids grow up, are encouraged to go to college, and find they can't find relative work in their small home towns. It happened to me, it happened to most of my graduating class and every class after that. In fact, it's been happening ever since kids were encouraged to hit the 4-year college program. It's nothing new and it really has nothing to do with any environmental advocacy groups or their counterparts. It's the result of a mature capitalist society. In my opinion, it's a good thing we have "wacko nutjob" groups like the "Friends" around. The extremes are needed to prevent corporate America from ruining what's left of our "wilderness".

If you can't make a decent enough living there - move. I did. And I love going back - regularly.

If I had to listen to skidders, chainsaws and motorboats in the distance while I was having my morning coffee on what used to be a beautiful morning....I'd have to start putting my leisure money into someone else's economy.
The Great Outdoors  
09/18/2007 03:12PM

"If I had to listen to skidders, chainsaws and motorboats in the distance while I was having my morning coffee on what used to be a beautiful morning....I'd have to start putting my leisure money into someone else's economy"

Would it be fair to say if we had the money from jobs that could pay a living wage, we may not need your money?? :)

Corporate America from ruining what's left of our wilderness!!

Man, I must be dealing with a close descendent of chairman Mao:)
09/18/2007 04:31PM
Southpa I think you did help hit it on the head. It wasn't just the advent of the BWCA. there are also many other issues at stake here that affected the ELy area.

Yes, you can say it is an accurate assumption of how it was 40 years ago. The problem is that much change has happened since then.

Mining going, waterfront realestate and taxes skyrocketing as personal "Lake homes" become more the rage than going to a resort.

You can say other area's are thriving, but they are not small towns. "Brainerd" is no longer a small town. It is also 1.5 hours closer to the Twin Cities.

Who is to say that of your 40 resorts 10-20 would remain, and most would be all inclusive type deals(as they all try to be in order to make mucho dinero) and that they would bring people up, but those people would spend their money in the resorts, and the 20 resort owners would make lots of dough, but the rest of the city would be out of business.

Again, just a hypothetical but compared to many small towns throughout MN. That has been the case. Resort Towns are dying off as are family owned resorts, and the remaining resorts are turning into Corporations, and really trying to keep wages down.

This Hypothetical just presents a different option than your "factual assumption" which may be just as true as yours, "because I have seen it happen elsewhere in small towns."

I enjoy the debate though!!!

09/18/2007 08:40PM

Fair enough. :)

Let's be frank - government = corporate America for all intensive purposes and agendas. I'm no commie, but I'm no fool either. :) You are welcome to disagree.

I have to admit that I'm quite perplexed by your position. I'll give you the respect you deserve in that you've eeked out more of a living "up thar" than I ever did/could. This issue no doubt hits closer to home for you than for me, as I'm not from Ely nor do I live there. You seem to think that somehow the BWCA and the way it's managed cripples the economy of the area. I wholly disagree. Perhaps it's the use of the land that you take issue with? Or if I may be so bold, there may just be a chip on your shoulder that prevents me from seeing your rationale. It's really none of my business anyway and I mean no offense. :)

More tax base means more people and more money to support the utilities, infrastructure and basic needs of the larger populace. You would be no better off. Is Mpls better off? For every con you have about Ely and the economy, I can shoot one right back at you regarding The Cities. International Falls and the Cook area both have/had fairly large lumber industries. People there are no better off than Ely no matter how much wood they chop. You bring in a lumber company or two, maybe create a few hundred jobs....meanwhile you lose at least that many visitors to the B-dub because they decomission a dozen or more entry points and take 20,000 acres off-limits so they can cut the trees.

Sorry, I think the area is being managed just fine. You can only have so many tourists in a season but you can also only cut so many trees. :) And I'm always against the proposition of losing more of our dwindling natural world. I guess it's too bad that it has to be your backyard.

The Great Outdoors  
09/18/2007 10:05PM

Along with 23 years in the bait business, I also worked in the taconite mines for 32 1/2 years. This is where I can see both sides to the debate, and can give a very credible evaluation to tourism vs mining.

The bait shop is for sale, and now just a hobby for me, as I do not put in any long hours anymore.

I still enjoy meeting, and talking to the many people that come through.

PS-I'm still thinking you're a borderline Commie :)
Joe Blow  
09/18/2007 11:25PM
If I may offer my 2 cents...

First off, let me say that I am an environmentalist at heart, but I'm also a humanist. That's why I can relate to both sides of the coin here. Hypothetically speaking, if my family lost it's home or business and had to pack up/ship out because of legislation being passed (to whatever end), yeah, I'd be pretty miffed too. I also know the value that comes along with the wild places on this planet...few exist these days.

Granted, 150,000 visitors a year hardly constitute a "wilerness," in it's truest sense. Nonetheless, I believe the tradoff of motorizing the BWCA would equate to total destruction of the intrinsic value of the place, not to mention the literal degradation that would be sure to follow over the course of time; a 2000+ spike in Ely's population is hardly worth it.

"Progress" is a dual-edged sword. Be careful what you ask for, Ely. Don't let the human condition trick you into feeling you have to take a step backward to move forward. Also keep in mind that the forces in play come from many angles, not just those 1.1 million untouchable acres around you. The first step to a solution is to accept things as they are, then move toward developing a sustainable solution and move away from outdated, harmful practices. But I digress, it's a difficult problem to solve, and now I'm starting to sould like an idealist...

P.S. - This issue is not's not just Ely's's EVERYONE'S
09/19/2007 05:32AM
"The first step to a solution is to accept things as they are".

It appears to me that the wounds are still too fresh. It may take another generation...or two.
Joe Blow  
09/19/2007 06:55AM
Yeah snakecharmer, too right. Only time will tell, or heal for that matter. Easier said than done, you can't force feed and shove change down people's throats when they are used to their way of life as-is. By NO means do I presume to make it sound like an easy thing for folks to accept. I hope nobody takes it as such...

09/19/2007 07:12AM
I wish they would bulldoze my town under and let the forest grow back over it, but alas, there never was a forest or a natural lake within 250 miles of it (at least since the last ice age)

No motors, 2 oxen limit on conestoga wagons.
The Great Outdoors  
09/19/2007 10:34PM

Bulldoze all the houses and businesses, make a bunch of lakes, plant trees, and, as snakecharmer said, in two generations it will all have been forgotten, and therefore "natural" :)

As I said before, they "built" a wilderness here (BWCA), they can do it anywhere.
The Great Outdoors  
09/19/2007 10:40PM
PS-No Oxen allowed, as they are considered dray animals.
The Great Outdoors  
09/19/2007 10:42PM
PPS-Scrap the Conestoga wagon too, no mechanized travel allowed :)

Just like bicycles and portage wheels (with few exceptions) in the BWCA!!
Joe Blow  
09/19/2007 11:26PM
"As I said before, they "built" a wilderness here (BWCA), they can do it anywhere."

TGO - That may be true, but nowhere in the lower 48 is there such a pristine labyrinth of Canadian shield lakes like the BWCA. Open your eyes...there's a REASON it was "built" there. That broken record of an argument is getting a little tiresome, if I might say so myself...
09/20/2007 06:18AM
Is there Canadian Shield lakes in Minnesota west of the BW? How about Maine... are those ones in the Canadian Shield?
09/20/2007 07:12AM
Canadian Shield - To the North and the West of Lake Superior. Maine is beautiful but in a different geographical region. The Canadian shield does extend west of the BW, probably into North Dakota.
09/20/2007 08:43PM
I can understand why people in the area would be upset that the government took "their" land, but it happens every day all across this country.

People lose their homes and business every day! States take and pay for land for highways. Farmers have their fields taken for roads...people have their houses taken for owners have the buildings taken, or worse have the highway re-routed around their store, cutting business and forcing them out of business.

Eminent domain, claims houses, lands and business all the time! Some are paid a fair price for the land, others are not, all of them lose what could of been in the family for years.

It sucks...but people all over the country have lost just as much if not more than folks around the BWCA. I'm not dimishing the sacrifices of people who lost jobs in the BW, but they are not the only ones who have.

But, and expanding roads are a sign of economic prosperity, and progress, right?
Joe Blow  
09/21/2007 08:50AM
", and expanding roads are a sign of economic prosperity, and progress, right? "

Exactly Beavers (like the sarcasm, btw). Which is why I made the statement earlier about Ely being careful what they wish for. Development does not always equate with "progress." And in this case, if you build it, they WON'T come anymore. At least 150-200k annually anymore - I'd bet on it.

And GTO - I wasn't trying to bite your head off. It's just that I would like to see some folks start to thinking differently about the area. But I digress, the formation of this wilderness hasn't set me back (I'm in the "benefit" camp) so who am I to point fingers...
The Great Outdoors  
09/21/2007 05:59PM
Joe Blow,

No problem with your comment, but I was merely trying to make a point with my "built a wilderness" statement.

I saw Ely in the 50's and 60's when tourism was bigger (yes, bigger) than it is now.

Those were different times, this is now.

Not trying to return to the past, just making people aware of it.

Many do not know the history of the BWCA.

No, I am not bitter.

Life goes on :)
08/02/2010 10:19PM
Great thread.
08/02/2010 10:39PM
08/02/2010 10:46PM
quote gbusk: "Great thread."\
I do agree.
08/02/2010 10:55PM
quote eagle93: "Not to sound selfish, but their backyard is a wilderness that belongs to the entire nation." Cant say it any better than that.
08/03/2010 10:57AM
10-4. And due to the fragility of that Wilderness, I firmly believe that nobody should be allowed in there unless they are under the supervision of a local Guide licensed by either Cook, Lake or St. Louis County.
Great Melinko  
08/04/2010 09:40PM
Friends of the BWCA, who dosent love lawyers? Oh wait don't they have that slimy fish named after them. I wonder why that is?
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