By Kathleen Floberg, Wilderness Program Director
Every summer Widji groups travel to various wilderness areas, National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, Provincial Parks, and other types of public lands in the USA and Canada. We are lucky in that each area has one thing in common: they all support efforts to get kids in the woods. In return, we do our part to respect all the areas in which we travel and our groups strive to be the model of how an LNT camper behaves.
Widji is required to obtain various special use permits in many of the places we travel. This permitting process can be cumbersome and restrictive in terms of the amount of people we can send to each area. For those of you who have ended up on a waitlist for a Bighorns or Rocky Mountain backpacking trip, you have experience these restrictions first hand. Even though these disappointments are frustrating, we try to keep in mind that these regulations exist in order to protect areas from overuse and exploitation.
You may have seen headlines in the news this winter about the new Boundary Waters permitting system. This new system met with some significant challenges in the initial roll-out and many of the new requirements negatively impacted the camps and businesses in the Ely area. Fortunately, the Forest Service met with a number of businesses in the area, including Widji, after the initial roll out failed. We were able to have productive conversations about how to improve the system for a second attempt. While there are still some kinks in the system, Widji was able to secure the permits we need to have another successful season in the Boundary Waters!
The strong relationships we have built over the years with all these public lands and permitting areas allow Widji groups to maintain these coveted permits. our hope is that these areas continue to be managed in ways that support efforts to get kids into the woods.