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      Volunteer Rangers in the BW??     

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OldTripper
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08/01/2020 09:49AM
Is there any such thing as a volunteer Ranger in Minnesota? Or within the USFS?

It saddens me deeply to read about all the reports of cans and bottles being hauled into the BW, people bathing in the lakes, campsites being littered up with fish guts and remains, camping gear just being left behind at a campsite at the end of the trip just because they don't’ want to haul it out, etc.

Two years ago I personally encountered a group of six on a portage trail and two of them were double teaming a very heavy blue barrel across the portage. It was obvious from the weight and the clanking I heard that the barrel was filled with glass bottles. I thought about saying something to them about no glass in the BW but being out numbered and seeing how rude they were in other areas (crashing into my canoe at the landing, overwhelming the landing with all their stuff, not sharing the portage trail very well, etc) I chose not to.

Since I missed my annual trip this year because of the covid, I am spending more time watching videos on YouTube that folks are posting. Again, it saddens me to see the violations that folks are filming and posting on YouTube. It’s mainly the cans, bottles, washing dishes or bathing in the lake that I see. I know that Rangers can’t be in all places at all times, but if there were volunteers up there doing some patrolling, I think you would catch more violators and the word would get out and folks might clean up their act a bit.

Here is an experience I had in Alaska:
A friend and I hiked six miles up a trail to a nice lake. We had our fishing equipment and were there to fish for Grayling. We were the only ones there, near as I could tell. We heard a noise and noticed a mountain biker working his way up the trail towards us. Once he reached us we chatted for a bit, he asked how fishing was and then he asked to see our fishing licenses. It must have been the puzzled look on our faces that prompted him to explain himself.

He said we was a volunteer with Fish and Game and there were many volunteers out hiking and riding the trails, helping patrol remote areas for Fish and Game. He explained he was volunteering for a non-sworn position, but had been given the authority to write citations for specific violations. He showed us his ticket book and the handheld State radio that Fish and Game used to communicate.

He explained that as he patrolled and found violators, most were compliant and not aggressive. He said his instructions were that if he encountered anyone who was violating the law and told him to pound sand or was aggressive towards him, he was to just ride off and avoid any conflict, but he was to get on the radio and call for assistance and a State Trooper would come to assist him and confront the violator. (This happened back in the mid to late '90s)

Anyone ever heard of this in Minnesota or within the USFS? Would you like to see something like this in the BW?

Would you do it?
Any pros or cons?
Your thoughts?

Thanks for reading this to the end!
 
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yellowcanoe
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08/01/2020 10:59AM
Here is a blog written by a forest steward in the Adirondacks. We also have them in the White Mountain National Forest.

Mountain Steward's efforts
 
jillpine
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08/01/2020 11:16AM
In the late 80's, I was visited on Quagda by a couple probably in their early sixties. They paddled up to our site. They were wearing dark green vests with gold-plated name tags and a USFS patch. They identified themselves as USFS volunteer rangers. They asked for our permit and ID; they glanced briefly at our camp, made a few comments to remember such and such and left. They weren't very friendly, and had an attitude of "you're lucky to be here" when we were doing nothing against any rules and managing a pretty low-impact approach (two people, single tent, very quiet set-up - guess we had left our party balls and boom boxes behind on that one). It was a little unsettling being approached by them. It was later in the evening, at our site, not on a portage. Even back then, I wondered if it was legit. I would especially wonder now, especially if alone.

So, whenever I think about USFS volunteers working in any type of patrolling capacity, I think about that experience and how it was kind of unsettling (timing of approach and attitude).

That said, if there was an opportunity to be a friendly, trained volunteer to answer questions, offer information / assistance at an EP, I'd sign up in an instant.



 
08/01/2020 11:18AM
For many years I was part of a volunteer trail patrol on shared-use trails (mountain bikers, hikers, hunters, anglers, trail runners, equestrians) in western North Carolina. Our mission was 'educate, assist, and inform'; I handed out hundreds of maps and helped more than a few forest users find their way back to their cars. Patrol members had no citation powers, but carried radios with which we could contact LEOs should we observe an especially egregious infraction.

In the BWCA, should I be approached by anyone asking about permits, etc, I would respond respectfully whether s/he was paid or volunteer. I feel that many of America's public lands would benefit from such volunteer presence. I'm now a volunteer trail maintainer, and know that neither the USFS or NCFS (NC Forest Service) could maintain our area trails with only paid staff.

TZ
 
OldTripper
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08/01/2020 04:37PM
yellowcanoe: "Here is a blog written by a forest steward in the Adirondacks. We also have them in the White Mountain National Forest
mountain steward's efforts "

Thanks for the link YC. I read part of the entries and it seems there are a lot of uninformed folks out there. Very sad.
 
OldTripper
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08/01/2020 04:41PM
jillpine: "They identified themselves as USFS volunteer rangers. They asked for our permit and ID; they glanced briefly at our camp, made a few comments to remember such and such and left. They weren't very friendly, and had an attitude of "you're lucky to be here" when we were doing nothing against any rules

So, whenever I think about USFS volunteers working in any type of patrolling capacity, I think about that experience and how it was kind of unsettling (timing of approach and attitude)."

That's a bummer that you had a negative experience with them. The guy on the mountain bike that we saw was a friendly, happy-go-lucky kind of guy that was just riding a trail he likes to ride and doing a little volunteer service at the same time.
 
OldTripper
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08/01/2020 04:44PM
TrailZen: "Patrol members had no citation powers, but carried radios with which we could contact LEOs should we observe an especially egregious infraction. TZ"
Due to all of the nonsense folks have been seeing and even reporting to us back here to us on the forum, I would love to see [well trained] volunteers with the powers to issue citations patrolling the BW. As the word got out of these patrols I think it would reduce the number of violations we see. But then again, maybe I'm living in a bubble with no concept of reality. :-)
 
mjmkjun
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08/01/2020 08:37PM
Currently, I think it would create a confrontational mess ('non-sworn' do-gooders vs yahoos and clueless-to-rules folks). This reflects an opinion that the majority of those who are trashing the campsites, inadvertently creating troublesome bears, and blatant disrespect of the rules they all read (glanced at)-- just don't give a damn. Yes, some are just uninformed and unaware. A minority.
Sworn officers/ Rangers are apparently understaffed and can't keep up, it seems.
Ha! Imagine tickets and citations and walkie-talkies buzzing from volunteers- to-rangers in a vast Canoe Country. Would an already understaffed USFS station get overwhelmed. Volunteers don't have the legal muscle needed. Would they have the people-skills required? A bad volunteer mind-set is underscored in what jillpine encountered. Two volunteers attempting to project that 'authoritarian quality' about themselves but coming off cold and condescending, instead. They were Intrusive and unprofessional.
More monitoring is needed, no doubt about that. However, It is the Ranger's tickets and citations that will not be questionable in the courts. "Fine? I'm not gonna pay that fine!"
Ultimately, I think the concept is a great idea. It's uplifting to know it is a success in some places.
 
3Ball
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08/01/2020 10:35PM
My first thought is that it would be very difficult to make this work. As I discuss things with people and watch the news, we too often afford no respect to our fellow citizens. This is such an adversarial time that if someone really had no authority I don't think that others would really care what they thought.
 
jhb8426
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08/02/2020 12:28AM
jillpine: "In the late 80's, I was visited on Quagda by a couple... They weren't very friendly, and had an attitude of "you're lucky to be here"..."

mjmkjun: "Currently, I think it would create a confrontational mess ('non-sworn' do-gooders vs yahoos and clueless-to-rules folks)....A bad volunteer mind-set is underscored in what jillpine encountered. Two volunteers attempting to project that 'authoritarian quality' about themselves but coming off cold and condescending, instead. They were Intrusive and unprofessional."

I totally agree that this would be bad. Reminds me of the wannabe volunteer reserve cops I've encountered trying to project their authority when in reality they have none.
 
jillpine
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08/02/2020 01:00AM
Quadga. Not Quagda
 
missmolly
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08/02/2020 05:30AM
OldTripper: "TrailZen: "Patrol members had no citation powers, but carried radios with which we could contact LEOs should we observe an especially egregious infraction. TZ"
Due to all of the nonsense folks have been seeing and even reporting to us back here to us on the forum, I would love to see [well trained] volunteers with the powers to issue citations patrolling the BW. As the word got out of these patrols I think it would reduce the number of violations we see. But then again, maybe I'm living in a bubble with no concept of reality. :-)"


That's the solution. Give them the power to issue citations. Put some bite behind their bark.

Also, equip them with radios, cameras to document the offenses and offenders, and mace.
 
08/02/2020 08:46AM
mjmkjun: "Volunteers don't have the legal muscle needed. Would they have the people-skills required? A bad volunteer mind-set is underscored in what jillpine encountered. Two volunteers attempting to project that 'authoritarian quality' about themselves but coming off cold and condescending, instead. They were Intrusive and unprofessional."

A lack of people skills demonstrated by an over-zealous (and highly opinionated) volunteer generated problems for our Volunteer Trail Patrol. That volunteer went into screaming lecture mode on a couple of trail users who reported the incident to Forest management. A week later, after years of helping Forest users, the Volunteer Trail Patrol program ended.

TZ
 
mutz
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08/02/2020 11:26AM
TrailZen: "mjmkjun: "Volunteers don't have the legal muscle needed. Would they have the people-skills required? A bad volunteer mind-set is underscored in what jillpine encountered. Two volunteers attempting to project that 'authoritarian quality' about themselves but coming off cold and condescending, instead. They were Intrusive and unprofessional."


A lack of people skills demonstrated by an over-zealous (and highly opinionated) volunteer generated problems for our Volunteer Trail Patrol. That volunteer went into screaming lecture mode on a couple of trail users who reported the incident to Forest management. A week later, after years of helping Forest users, the Volunteer Trail Patrol program ended.


TZ"




I think the problem would be volunteers trying to enforce or preach there own likes, dislikes and opinions in comparison to professional paid employees enforcing the rules and laws as they are written. The other problem is how much training does a volunteer need in order to be competent , four hours, a full eight hour day, a week?
 
merlyn
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08/02/2020 12:01PM
I like the idea of volunteer rangers but don't think they should in any way have any enforcement or inspection powers. Confronting someone breaking the rules ( drunk, high or just an ahole) is a very good way to get hurt. An untrained volunteer, maybe a little power drunk,, checking my camp could very well create a situation we both regret. Leave enforcement to those trained professionals.
Just about everyone has a cell or camera, we could all (discretely) be volunteers. Wi.D.N.R. has a poachers hot line, something like that. Yes I know there is limited cell coverage in the BWCA but some kind of work around may be possible.
Probably dumb idea #1 Require your permit number be displayed at your camp site visible from the water. Yeah lots to work out but knowing you could be identified might slow up or stop some bad behavior. Stupid stuff will still go on because their stupid people.

 
analyzer
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08/02/2020 12:11PM
I'm not saying I'm against it, but keep in mind, it's already busy up there. Volunteer Rangers would have to camp somewhere as well. They would be taking up campsites. There have already been occasions of people camping where they shouldn't out of desperation.
 
merlyn
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08/02/2020 01:33PM
"No one expects the Spanish inquisition! "
Sorry, I had to add that Monty P. quip.
Stupid idea #2 The FS carves out a special campsite for use by FS personal only on or near busy lakes. Solves the one less site problem and even if empty it may give pause to some knowing that a ranger could come in at any time.
 
Northwoodsman
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08/02/2020 04:19PM
Just station them on EP's to answer questions, provide directions and tips, check permits, search for glass bottles and tins cans, etc. When you purchase a permit do you agree to have your gear searched and inspected?
 
OldTripper
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08/02/2020 05:27PM
You all have given some very good comments and made some good points. Too many for me to comment on individually, but I thank you for sharing your thoughts. Disrespecting our Boundary Waters is a simple problem with a complex solution. My original disgust that prompted me to start this thread was watching YouTube videos that showed cans and bottles in the campsite. I wonder if they get carried out or just taken to the middle of the lake and sank? After watching all the rioting that went on in Minneapolis and now in Seattle and Portland (I have friends at these locations) I shake my head and wonder, when will people start being held accountable for their actions? As the saying goes, "You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice".
I'm just wondering what the BW will look like in 10 years.
Thanks again for your comments.
 
mjmkjun
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08/02/2020 08:35PM
TrailZen: "mjmkjun: "Volunteers don't have the legal muscle needed. Would they have the people-skills required? A bad volunteer mind-set is underscored in what jillpine encountered. Two volunteers attempting to project that 'authoritarian quality' about themselves but coming off cold and condescending, instead. They were Intrusive and unprofessional."


A lack of people skills demonstrated by an over-zealous (and highly opinionated) volunteer generated problems for our Volunteer Trail Patrol. That volunteer went into screaming lecture mode on a couple of trail users who reported the incident to Forest management. A week later, after years of helping Forest users, the Volunteer Trail Patrol program ended.


TZ"

What a bummer! Big egos. psst.
 
MikeinMpls
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08/03/2020 08:46AM
I'm late to the thread, but Michael Furtman and his wife did this, back in 1986. He chronicled their summer as volunteer rangers in his book "A Season For Wilderness: The Journal of a Summer in Canoe Country." It's an interesting read.

Mike
 
jillpine
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08/03/2020 09:47AM
MikeinMpls: "I'm late to the thread, but Michael Furtman and his wife did this, back in 1986. He chronicled their summer as volunteer rangers in his book "A Season For Wilderness: The Journal of a Summer in Canoe Country." It's an interesting read.


Mike"


For the record, it was not Furtman who checked our permits at Quadga. That would have been really neat. I had his 1984 edition of the fishing guide on that trip.
 
MikeinMpls
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08/03/2020 10:50AM
jillpine: "MikeinMpls: "I'm late to the thread, but Michael Furtman and his wife did this, back in 1986. He chronicled their summer as volunteer rangers in his book "A Season For Wilderness: The Journal of a Summer in Canoe Country." It's an interesting read.



Mike"



For the record, it was not Furtman who checked our permits at Quadga. That would have been really neat. I had his 1984 edition of the fishing guide on that trip. "


Oh, I understand. Wasn't implying that he did, but rather that there is an accounting of a summer as a volunteer ranger out there.

Mike
 
Northland
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08/03/2020 01:57PM
OldTripper: "TrailZen: "Patrol members had no citation powers, but carried radios with which we could contact LEOs should we observe an especially egregious infraction. TZ"
Due to all of the nonsense folks have been seeing and even reporting to us back here to us on the forum, I would love to see [well trained] volunteers with the powers to issue citations patrolling the BW. As the word got out of these patrols I think it would reduce the number of violations we see. But then again, maybe I'm living in a bubble with no concept of reality. :-)"


I think training would be the key. Not just to benefit the volunteer rangers, themselves, but for the liability aspect. There would also have to be some kind of background done, as you don't want someone who might escalate a situation with an unhappy (at their instructions, etc.) paddler. Maybe a "suitability evaluation" would be a better term.

If the concept works in some parts of the country, it's likely because the end-users are generally respectful and compliant - even if they make a mistake or sometimes have to be told what to do and what not to do. I think it's like that in the BWCAW, partly because the area is remote, but also because those users need several things: a relatively large amount of specialized equipment (boat, bear containers, portage packs), skill, and attention to detail. This kind of discourages the average outdoorsman or woman.

That the FS has managed to have this program this long without any incidents or overly-negative feedback about their rangers is a testament to the general attitude of people who frequent the BW. Most people up here want to use the resource, but also want to protect it and maintain it.

Conversely, in my experience, on many public lands the users are not as...um..."polite," or generally cooperative. A lot of that has to do with access: the easier it is to get to, the more people it attracts. And they're often not people who have an interest in the resource, itself, but in other activities, drinking being a big one. Anyone who has stayed at a public campground on a holiday weekend knows what I'm referring to. No special knowledge needed, no special gear. Usually just a car and a cooler.

Now, will there be a time when the BW becomes like that? Probably not. Of course, people always said there'd be no drug smuggling or illegal border activity on the northern border, but we have it. Not a lot, mind you, but it's there.

With all that said, I would never want to be a person who takes enforcement action (issues citations, warnings, etc.) without being sworn, at a minimum. Because sadly, we're staring to see different kinds of public land users than we did years ago. In Minnesota, it's not uncommon for a group of folks to go out in the woods, start a gigantic fire, and party until the wee hours, leaving trash, coolers, and a small mountain of cans and bottles in their wake. While I tend to think of that as a worst-case scenario and rare occurrence in the BW, it can still happen, and you need to consider whether or not you want (or want to be) a non-sworn volunteer with no training approaching a group like that.

Just food for thought.
 
Northland
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08/03/2020 02:34PM
I know Mike Furtman. I'm sure he was very good at it.
 
OldTripper
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08/03/2020 05:49PM
MikeinMpls: "I'm late to the thread, but Michael Furtman and his wife did this, back in 1986. He chronicled their summer as volunteer rangers in his book "A Season For Wilderness: The Journal of a Summer in Canoe Country." It's an interesting read. Mike"
I forgot I had that book.
Thanks for the reminder!!
 
OldTripper
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08/03/2020 05:59PM
Northland: "I think training would be the key. Not just to benefit the volunteer rangers, themselves, but for the liability aspect. There would also have to be some kind of background done.

That the FS has managed to have this program this long without any incidents or overly-negative feedback about their rangers is a testament to the general attitude of people who frequent the BW. Most people up here want to use the resource, but also want to protect it and maintain it.

Conversely, in my experience, on many public lands the users are not as...um..."polite," or generally cooperative. A lot of that has to do with access: the easier it is to get to, the more people it attracts. And they're often not people who have an interest in the resource, itself, but in other activities, drinking being a big one. Anyone who has stayed at a public campground on a holiday weekend knows what I'm referring to.

We're staring to see different kinds of public land users than we did years ago. In Minnesota, it's not uncommon for a group of folks to go out in the woods, start a gigantic fire, and party until the wee hours, leaving trash, coolers, and a small mountain of cans and bottles in their wake.

Just food for thought."

Northland, you bring up some good points. The one I see the most of is your last comment, different type of folks using the woods. We used to go to the woods to hunt or camp. Nowadays, it's to find seclusion while you party hard. And many of them have the attitude that public lands are "their lands" to do what they want, not "our lands" that we all get to use. I see the illegal fires, trees being cut down, camp fires left unattended, tons of litter being left behind, negligent discharge of firearms, etc.

For the past 15 years, I have been volunteering with State Parks to ride ATV trails, do trail inspections and monitor use on the trails, which includes law enforcement by the Ranger. I am always with a sworn Ranger when I am volunteering. I will say that in those 15 years, I have seen a shift in public lands use where folks tend to do what they want to do instead of following the laws and/or rules. Some truly don't know any better, some just don't care...
 
mjmkjun
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08/03/2020 06:43PM
OldTripper: "MikeinMpls: "I'm late to the thread, but Michael Furtman and his wife did this, back in 1986. He chronicled their summer as volunteer rangers in his book "A Season For Wilderness: The Journal of a Summer in Canoe Country." It's an interesting read. Mike"

I forgot I had that book. Thanks for the reminder!! "

Yes, thanks for the book tip, MikeinMpls. I just ordered a copy to read on my upcoming BW trip.
 
jhb8426
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08/04/2020 12:43AM
Overall I think this is a bad idea from having to deal with the average yokel who really has no respect to totally unqualified wannabe cops. A real recipe for disaster on a number of fronts.
 
Snowbound
member (7)member
 
08/04/2020 06:43AM
The USFS has an active volunteer program, or at least they did 15 years ago when I did it. There were 4-8 volunteers embedded in each of the 4 districts. They were mostly college kids and spent the whole summer on the crew. There was a $25 per day stipend and free housing. The volunteers were involved in all the work (clearing & brushing portages, digging latrines, erosion control projects) except public contacts and law enforcement. Rangers generally travel in pairs for obvious reasons. By pairing a ranger with a volunteer the presence in the field is effectively doubled. If you’ve encounter rangers much, you’ve probably seen volunteers. They were the quiet one holding the canoe or checking the latrine while the ranger asked for your permit. I’m not sure what the program is like more recently or this summer with the pandemic. For all the grief the USFS gets the, the crew’s are dedicated and know how to WORK. It was a great experience and a path some took to USFS employment.
 
Snowbound
member (7)member
 
08/04/2020 06:43AM
The USFS has an active volunteer program, or at least they did 15 years ago when I did it. There were 4-8 volunteers embedded in each of the 4 districts. They were mostly college kids and spent the whole summer on the crew. There was a $25 per day stipend and free housing. The volunteers were involved in all the work (clearing & brushing portages, digging latrines, erosion control projects) except public contacts and law enforcement. Rangers generally travel in pairs for obvious reasons. By pairing a ranger with a volunteer the presence in the field is effectively doubled. I’m not sure what the program is like more recently or this summer with the pandemic. For all the grief the USFS gets the, the crew’s are dedicated and know how to WORK. It was a great experience and a path some took to USFS employment.
 
thefourofus
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08/04/2020 09:25AM
I also would be very skeptical that a volunteer Ranger force would be a good idea. Just as there are many different types of people that use the BW, I think there would be people who volunteer for vastly different reasons. At some point there will be an incident that doesn't end well that all parties will regret.

Back in 2016, my group ran into a supposed volunteer who threatened to write us tickets at the EP for Little Gabbro Lake. We exited on July 21st, the day after a large storm came through. That was the night a Scout and volunteer were killed on Basswood. We were on Gabbro and had more than 20 trees come down around our campsite and we lost one tent to the wind. My wife mangled a toe when I rushed her out of our tent as trees were falling down around us. Needless to say, our group got very little sleep that night.

On our way out, the portage to the parking lot was blocked by dozens of trees. My wife was now disabled and we had a couple young kids in our group of seven. The trip out was very difficult going over and under trees and sometimes through the woods. It was really more of a bushwhack than a portage. It didn't help that it was 95 degrees, 100% humidity and we ran into two groups going the other way.

When we got to the EP, it was quite a mess also. Trees were down in the parking area, those two groups still had loads of gear spread around and a large volunteer trail clearing crew just showed up and unloaded their gear. We just finished our first of two trips across the portage and had nowhere to drop our stuff except for partially in the roadway. My wife and the kids stayed with the stuff and we headed off for our second trip.

Just as I was entering the trail, I heard some one yelling. It was a man in a white pickup truck yelling at my wife and using obscenities because our canoes were partially in the roadway. He said he was a volunteer ranger and if our stuff wasn't moved when he got back in five minutes, he would ticket us.

When I got back over by my wife, she was upset, the kids were scared and he quickly drove off. He and I were both lucky that he didn't return as I probably would have done something I would later regret. Didn't this guy have a clue what just happened out there the night before? Couldn't he see what was happening now? How he can get all high and mighty at this time and act so threatening to my 5 foot tall, 95 lb wife with a broken toe was just unbelievable to me.

The big offense was having our stuff partially in the roadway when there was still plenty of room to get by? If he was truly a volunteer ranger, they sure didn't screen very well.

As a side note, the young people in the trail clearing group were all very nice and organized and I was very impressed. By the time we made our second trip back down the portage, they had half of it cleared (probably 20 trees) already.
 
sylvesterii
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08/04/2020 11:38AM
The Forest Service, the DNR and the Quetico parks service can't even agree on what rules should be, let alone vague principles like "Leave No Trace." The last thing I could possibly want to deal with is a "volunteer" ranger trying to enforce it.

It is sad to see the the damage and poor stewardship being displayed this year (although there have always been people who do that), but I don't think Volunteer Rangers is the answer.
 
mychurchmyhome
member (20)member
 
08/04/2020 02:48PM
Yes. The Superior National Forest depends on volunteers in a number of ways. I would start with calling their office.
Especially this year, with the high use and extremely ignorant campers creating a lot of resource damage.
I used to volunteer during the winter, I told them I was using them for their equipment. Dog sledding and overnight winter camping to monitor use. the Keckekebic and Pow-Wow Trail have volunteer groups, also.
 
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