The following letter, sent to Gunflint District Ranger Dennis Neitzke, spells out the CWCS position on the reroute of the Tilbury Trail:
December 12, 2005
Gunflint District Ranger
2020 W. Highway 61
Grand Marais MN 55604
Dear Dennis Neitzke,
The Tilbury Trail was built in the 1960s, and used primarily by cabin owners on McFarland Lake to access South Fowl Lake. The expansion of the Boundary Waters with the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act made this trail part of the Boundary Waters, but the Forest Service didn’t do anything about it. For you to say that the trail was just recently found infers that you, as well as other Forest Service employees, have not being doing your job. Environmental groups are more than likely the only ones who just recently found out about the trail.
Snowmobiles became popular in the 1960s, and by the early 1970s they were even more popular as a means of family recreation, especially winter ice fishing. Snowmobiling the Boundary Waters was very much a part of our culture in northern Minnesota and was arbitrarily banned without any EIS.
The controversy over the reroute of the snowmobile trail near Hovland and Grand Marais should have been resolved over 25 years ago. In exchange for the snowmobile trails lost within the Boundary Waters with its expansion and the ban of snowmobiles, the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act Section 18 states that trails were to be built outside the Boundary Waters.
To date, there are no federally funded snowmobile trails. One trail from Stub Lake to Moose Lake near Ely was roughed out shortly after the passage of the ‘78 legislation, but it was never completed.
The Forest Service should pay for the reroute of the Tilbury Trail, as fulfillment of the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act. Federal money should also be appropriated to build a snowmobile trail from Ely to Crane Lake, as proposed by the late Senator Paul Wellstone.
The reroute should not be determined by its closeness to the Boundary Waters, but rather by which route most closely resembles the original trail. The North route is shorter, safer and would require far less new trail to be built. The ‘78 legislation doesn’t include any buffer zone, only that the trails be built outside the Boundary Waters.