Rescues in BWCA have a cost

A trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area brings with it a sense of adventure as well as the possibility that things could go wrong. But when things do go wrong and an emergency is declared there’s a cost that is more than likely going to be borne by local taxpayers.
We’ve had several incidents this year that have involved multiple agencies responding. Some, like the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, are made up of volunteers. Others are paid employees at either the local, state or federal level.
These rescues don’t usually happen right near Ely, they’ve been located at the end of the Fernberg or up the Echo Trail. Add in the travel time and the fuel to the cost. Bring in an airplane or helicopter and the dollar signs start multiplying.
We fully support the work our emergency personnel do to get people out of a tough spot. But we also know there are calls where someone is tired of portaging or paddling and would like a ride out. Fortunately usually the answer is, “Too bad.”
But when resources are committed the costs that are involved need to be recovered from those who made the request. There is no free ride on the backs of local taxpayers. We’ve got enough issues of our own to deal with thank you.
We’re certainly not saying incidents in the BWCA should be ignored. If there is a serious injury or threat to someone’s safety, that’s a different story. And if you’re lost and need help getting back out, that’s fine. We’ve got people who can get to you day or night.
And when all is said and done there must be a recompensation. Whether this money comes directly from the affected party or from a fund generated by user fees could be debated. We just believe Ely, Lake/St. Louis County and Minnesota taxpayers shouldn’t be left with the bill.
We would think putting an emergency incident payment system in place would generate support from all sides of the BWCA management debate.