- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

ELY, Minn. (AP) - An environmental group is suing the U.S. Forest Service alleging it allows too many motorized tow boats into Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Wilderness Watch wants the Forest Service to begin a new permitting process each season to ensure the motorized tow boats are at the legal limit.

Twenty-three outfitters offer towboat services into the Boundary Waters. Many canoeists use the tows for quicker access to Quetico Provincial Park just across the U.S. border in Canada.

The Forest Service’s 1993 plan caps towboat trips at 1,342 per year, but the agency has allowed 1,639 trips in 2011 and 2,124 last year, according to the group’s lawsuit.

Motorized access to the Boundary Waters has been an issue ever since legislation creating the wilderness area went into effect in 1979. Motors are allowed on part, or all, of 18 lakes in the Boundary Waters.

Towboat traffic is especially heavy on the Moose Lake chain east of Ely, said Kevin Proescholdt, Wilderness Watch conservation director in Minneapolis.

“On typical summer days, the towboats are zipping back and forth, quite a bit on that chain of lakes,” said Proescholdt. “And for those of us who prefer to paddle, it really diminishes the wilderness experience when there are these towboats zooming past us again and again and again.”

Bob Olson, who runs Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, tells Minnesota Public Radio (http://bit.ly/1LWOJtq ) that the lawsuit is another attempt by an environmental group to end the use of boat motors in the wilderness area.

“To me it’s just another way to take all of the motors out, which is their goal,” he said. “So they just keep picking away at it. It’s just a long line of trying to take things away.”

Outfitters pay the Forest Service 3 percent of their towing fees and submit reports at the end of each season. The lawsuit alleges some outfitters underreport the number of towboat trips made and the number of boats used.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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