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November 6, 1997

S. 783 - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Accessibility
and Fairness Act of 1997

(Grams (R) MN)

The Administration opposes S. 783, which would prevent the phasing out of motorized river craft on Seagull Lake, Minnesota, within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and reopen three portages in the area to use by motorized vehicles. The BWCAW is a unique part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. It is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi, consisting of over one million acres of lakes, streams, and forests and it is the most heavily used wilderness in the United States. This high level of use necessitates careful consideration of all decisions by land mangers in order to balance public access needs with natural resource protection.

The phase-out of motorized river craft on Seagull Lake, scheduled for 1999, would help to preserve the natural resources of the BWCAW while maintaining reasonable motorized access to the area. The three portages that would be reopened by S. 783 were closed to motorized use by court order several years ago. Closure of the portages has not unreasonably restricted access to any of the lakes within the BWCAW as users have either continued to transport their boats over the portages by non-motorized means or found alternative routes. The quality of the wilderness setting has improved by the portages? closure.

The current management plan for the BWCAW strikes a careful balance between public access needs and natural resources protection. The Administration is committed to continuing to manage the BWCAW in a way that both protects its unique resources and provides for their use and enjoyment within the laws that govern the management of our Nation?s natural resources.

Pay-As-You-Go Scoring

S. 783 would affect off-setting receipts; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB?s preliminary scoring estimate of this bill is that any scoring implications would be negligible.