This week, during a hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08) testified on how the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) decision to move the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) reservation system from the lottery system to a first-come, first-serve basis devastated small businesses in northeastern Minnesota.
Stauber spoke on the critical need to pass H.R. 1475, the Letting Outdoor Tourism Thrive for Every Recreation Yearly (LOTTERY) Act, which would return the BWCA reservation portal on recreation.gov for boat permitting back to the effective lottery system.
During his testimony, Congressman Stauber detailed how the new system crashed only hours after going live and how this impacted the local economy, stating (in part), “This year my office was inundated with calls from outdoor enthusiasts and Forest Service cooperators upset about recreation.gov crashing minutes into its go-live time. Only about 1,400 of the tens of thousands of available permits were allocated.”
Stauber followed, stating, “At this point, outfitters in my district were hemorrhaging money. One of my constituents, who is a cooperator, estimated they had already lost about $15,000 in income for their small business for the summer ahead.”
During the hearing, Ranking Member John Curtis (UT-03) asked Congressman Stauber whether a companion bill to the LOTTERY Act had been introduced in the Senate.
Congressman Stauber responded, stating, “My hope is that one of my two state Senators, Senators Klobuchar or Smith, will do just that.”
Congressman Stauber also illustrated the frustration of cooperators and outdoor enthusiasts and expressed his disappointment with the USFS by reading complaints pertaining to the new reservation system aloud.
Congressman Stauber said (in part), “Mr. Beum, in your testimony you state, reinstating the previous lottery system would cause management challenges. Mr. Beum, I tell you what, management challenges for the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. don’t even equate to the problems the cooperators have in Ely and Grand Marais.”
Stauber finished, stating, “My constituents matter more than your management problems. Mr. Beum, I will say this, the United States Forest Service must start listening to the people.”