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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
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Questions swirl for BWCA opening currently set for May 5

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness remains on track to open for the 2020 paddling and hiking season starting Tuesday, May 5.

At least for now.

WTIP was informed by top officials within the US Forest Service Eastern Region office in Milwaukee this afternoon that “the current Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness closure order is in place through May 4. The Forest Service is consulting with state, local, and tribal partners in order to evaluate next steps.”

This means the choice to open the BWCA on Tuesday is likely still being evaluated over the weekend. The choice includes opening the BWCA for both day and overnight use starting May 5.

Babete Anderson is the acting director of public and government relations for the US Forest Service Eastern Region. In an email sent to WTIP at 2:30 p.m. on May 2, Anderson said: “Shutting access to recreational sites or areas is a particularly difficult decision for the Forest Service, and the agency is looking forward to the day when these sites can safely reopen and are once again filled with people enjoying their public lands.”

As all camping is currently prohibited across the Superior National Forest at this time, including the BWCA, WTIP specifically inquired if the camping closure will be lifted and overnight permits will honored starting May 5. Forest Service staff from Grand Marais to Milwaukee are providing information to WTIP and a response is likely coming soon.

In addition to the camping ban, all campfires are currently not allowed on the Superior National Forest.

In recent days, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz extended the statewide stay-at-home order until May 18. Previous statements from the US Forest Service indicated the opening of the BWCA could align with actions taken by the state. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Fishing Opener is set for Saturday, May 9, with state officials noting that outdoor recreation is not only allowed near one’s community, but encouraged.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.