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Great Lakes Article:

Plan keeps Apostle Islands wild
The National Park Service is proposing official federal wilderness designation for about 80 percent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
07/15/03


About 80 percent of the land in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore would be declared official federal wilderness under a draft plan announced Monday by the National Park Service.

The decision was made as part of the Wilderness Study and Environmental Impact Statement conducted over the past two years by the National Park Service.

The agency had considered five different wilderness plans, announced a year ago, ranging from no wilderness to nearly all wilderness on the 42,160 acres of islands in the park.

After more than a year of public hearings, meetings and nearly 7,000 public comments, the Park Service opted to recommend 33,500 acres be set aside as wilderness.

The park's mainland unit, areas around docks and visitor facilities and historic sites, such as lighthouses, all have been excluded from wilderness under the plan -- as have all of Sand, Basswood and Long Islands.

The plan won't affect the park's waters or boats moving between islands.

Several public hearings are planned in coming weeks in Duluth, St. Paul and several locations near the park, although no dates have yet been set. The draft plan is open to public comments until Oct. 17. After that, the National Park Service and Bush administration would have to recommend the plan to Congress, which must act before the land is designated wilderness.

Park officials say the overwhelming majority of public comments favored some wilderness designation

"What we resoundingly heard is that most folks would like the park to remain as it is today," said Bob Krumenaker, park superintendent. "Our preferred alternative does exactly that -- it preserves the present character of the islands for future generations and it preserves the manner in which visitors experience them as well."

Official wilderness designations would ban motorized vehicles from those land areas as well as many mechanical devices. Because much of the lakeshore already is managed as wilderness to protect wilderness qualities until a decision is made, Park Service officials say they expect little change in the use of the lakeshore.

Still, some powerboat enthusiasts are leery of the federal action. Others questioned the value of the $200,000 wilderness study.

"It's already wilderness. I don't know what the changes will do," said Carol Miller of Iron River, an avid powerboater who, with her husband, Cal, had opposed wilderness designation. "It doesn't change any of the dock areas, which is what we were most concerned about. That's good. But it sure seems like a waste of money."

About 200,000 people visit the park each year; 75,000 get to the park's islands, which are reachable only by boat. About 29,000 of those travel on tour boats while the rest visit by private motorboat, sailboat, kayak or other device. Kayaking in the area has quadrupled since 1990.

For more information see www.nps.gov/apis/wstudy.htm or write: Wilderness study, Route 1, Box 4, Bayfield, WI 54814 or call Jim Nepstad at (715) 779-3397.

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