Boundary Waters permits will be issued in person starting mid-July

Photo courtesy Superior National Forest via Flickr.

The Superior National Forest is ending a temporary permitting process instituted last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May 2020, Boundary Waters visitors with reserved permits during the quota season have received it electronically, as well as the required wilderness ethics training.

Beginning in about two weeks, all permits will be issued in person, as they were previous to coronavirus concerns. The only exception will be permits issued on Sundays from the La Croix and Tofte Ranger Districts, which will still be issued virtually as those ranger stations are closed on Sunday. Unvaccinated individuals should plan on wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing while at a station picking up a permit. The Forest Service says it will set a firm timeline for phasing out virtual permitting after the Fourth of July holiday.

“We’d like to thank all of our visitors and permit holders for being flexible and patient over the last year or so as we provided virtual customer service and permit issuance. While the virtual sessions worked well temporarily, we are excited to move towards face-to-face conversations with our visitors again about their trips, Leave No Trace principles and wilderness preparedness,” said Shannon Rische, deputy forest supervisor.

The phase-out could benefit the wilderness. Increased bad behavior in the Boundary Waters, violating numerous Leave No Trace guidelines, has been reported over the past 18 months. One reason is the increase in visitors during a time when people were staying closer to home. The other is thought to be the weakened wilderness ethics education as part of virtual permitting.

This spring, the agency announced a new system for virtual permitting that was intended to improve education delivery. It required all members of a permitted party to view the series of education videos that was only watched by group leaders in 2020.

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