BWCA motorboat talks persist

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) Mediators say there’s a glimmer of progress in the contentious talks over motorboats in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Motorboat advocates proposed Monday to again allow trucks to haul boats across a portage into Trout Lake, one of the biggest and most popular fishing lakes in the Boundary Warters.
In return, Paul Forsman of Ely and his allies offered to support a proposal by environmentalists to ban motorboats on short stretches of three rivers just outside the Boundary Waters and northwest of Ely.
Brian O’Neill, a Minneapolis attorney representing a coalition of 33 environmental groups, rejected the linkage. “This is just out of the question,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill then suggested a compromise that would reduce overall motorboat access to the Boundary Waters while leaving open the possibility of reopening the Trout Lake Portage to some form of mechanized transportation of motorboats.
Forsman and his allies didn’t like that, and offered a counterproposal that the environmentalists declined to embrace.
Nevertheless, federal mediators say they saw the proposals and counterproposals as signs of progress.
“You’ve expanded the area of potential resolution,” said Scot Beckenbaugh of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He stressed that both motorboat advocates and canoe-only environmentalists had moved off their previous public positions of no compromise on the truck-portages issue, at least at Trout Lake.
Trucks also hauled motorboats across two other portages before environmentalists successfully sued to remove the vehicles from the Boundary Waters.
Monday was the fifth full day of negotiations by the Boundary Waters committee, which was formed in August. The talks continued Tuesday.
A similar panel, which is negotiating Voyageurs National Park issues, meets next week, also in Duluth.