It never ceases to amaze me how stupid people continue to get more stupider every day.

Editor’s note: Not sure stupider is an actual word.

Columnist’s note: Not sure anyone edits my columns so I’m making an executive decision and declaring stupider a word.

Now back to the subject at hand: Dumb dumbs — particularly the type that like to eject their garbage anywhere at any time or trespass on private property or generally treat nature with contempt.

It’s ridiculous how little regard some people have for anything. Example one: I was on a snowmobile trail just the other day and drove by what I believe was a half-full 7-11 slurpy cup that had been discarded, leaving a pretty red stain on the snow (a change from the usual yellow stains that can be found here and there). Who does that? Morons. Probably the same fools who drive snowmobiles through people’s yards in town.

But that’s a different column.

Let’s get back to the dimwits who figure it’s okay to do whatever they want as long as no one is looking.

Example two: Last summer my son and I spent an hour cleaning garbage out of a quarter mile worth of ditch in front of our hunting land. We filled a good-sized garden trailer with trash. We aren’t located in a high traffic area but apparently the people that do use that road have no issue throwing everything from empty gallon milk jugs (??) to beer cans to fast food wrappers out their windows anywhere and anytime.

Typically I’d lump those litter bugs into tidy little stereotypical package that includes a truck with an aftermarket muffler or a car with a spoiler, but it seems this type of troglodyte can be found everywhere including places you wouldn’t expect to find them — like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness, home to over a million acres of untamed, untouched and extremely popular, federally owned land enjoyed by many people each year.

I’ve never been into the Boundary Waters adventure. Being a lifelong resident of Northern Minnesota, I am lucky enough to know plenty of remote spots that look, feel, and are basically the same as the BWCAW but don’t require a permit to visit.

So I stick to those places and avoid expensive hiking boots and backpacks. However, for many people, a trip the BWCA is a special treat. It’s an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and bask in the splendor of a camping trip as close to rustic as you’re ever going to get in 2021.

Here’s where things get interesting: It’s not a secret that the BWCA has a reputation for attracting a good percentage of granola type, REI shoppers whose dream come true would be the Green New Deal on steroids so it’s ironic that even a percentage of those who dream of a carbon free existence aren’t above disrespecting nature.

How do I know that? Well, according to a news release issued this month by the U.S. Forest Service, because of an unprecedented amount of “resource damage” to the BWCA in 2020, those looking to visit this year will not only have to get a permit (the normal process), but they also have to sit through on being a good little camper and not screwing everything up for the rest of the world.

Everyone treated like a kid because a handful of jerks can’t do the right thing.

Federal forestry officials say that last year more people than ever cut down trees, left human waste behind that was disposed of properly (you know, leaving your poopy where it doesn’t belong), left trash in campfire rings, were disruptive, visited with too many people, and left campfires unattended.

Permit holders will be required to watch three educational videos that are part of a virtual “Leave No Trace” program. And, for those who are really slow – which seems to be a lot of folks these days – there’s even a website with photos and everything at, meant to teach people how to be better human beings.

Good luck with that.

“It takes a commitment from everyone visiting these treasured lands to ensure that the lakes, waterways and forests of the BWCAW are protected against resource damage, so the wilderness character is preserved for future generations,” the agency says.

Some federal officials seem to think the increase in bad behavior was due to a spike in usage because of COVID-19. The logic behind that leap is that quarantine led to more people seeking outdoors opportunities since they couldn’t do anything else, which naturally led them to the BWCA.

I’m assuming the working theory is a bunch of folks who normally wouldn’t go there did and were the problem.

I’m not buying that theory completely. While I’m sure more people spent time in the woods hiding from the virus, I don’t think a new clientele is entirely to blame. I’m more inclined to believe that we are at a point where an entire generation of people who grew up without manners or respect for much of anything is now out and about in the world and spreading their stupidity far and wide.

No amount of coddling or video lessons is going to change that attitude.

Good thing for those of us who know a thing or two about a thing or two in northern Minnesota know some great spots to hide from that bunch and still enjoy the beauty the Northwoods provides in a respectful way.

Permits for the 2021 BWCAW season became available on Wednesday at Wilderness permits are required year-round to enter the BWCAW for day use and for overnight travel. Quota permits are required to enter the BWCAW for overnight trips during the quota season, May 1 - September 30.

Quota permits are available for a fee, on a first-come, first-served basis at any wilderness permitting-office and may be reserved.


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