Photos: School trust land inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Environment ·

1 Bill Hansen, owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, portages between Sawbill Lake and Alton Lake, Wednesday, May 2, 2012 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The veteran outfitter grew up on the edge of the Boundary Waters, at Sawbill Lake. He says the economy of Northeastern Minnesota benefits from the wilderness and the semi-wilderness surrounding it, in the Superior National Forest. 
2 A rugged campsite overlooking Alton Lake is a popular destination for visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This section of land is school trust land, and theoretically could be generating income for public education in Minnesota. But because it's inside the wilderness, no logging or mining can take place here. Minnesota owns 2.5 million acres of school trust land, mostly in the northeastern part of the state. 
3 Bill Hansen, owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, portages between Sawbill Lake and Alton Lake Wednesday, May 2, 2012 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The state Department of Natural Resources cannot issue a permit to cut trees or build a mine on school trust land inside the BWCA wilderness. That means no revenue from logging or mining leases is flowing into the school trust bank account. 
4 Bill Hansen, owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, portages between Sawbill Lake and Alton Lake Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Hansen's family has made a living outfitting visitors to the BWCA for more than fifty years. He says some politicians use the issue of state land locked inside the wilderness to generate outrage among voters. He says the state was a willing partner in the creation of the wilderness, and continues to benefit from the tourism economy. 
5 Clear water reflects boulders and cedars on Alton Lake, Wednesday, May 2, 2012 from a plot of school trust land inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The BWCA is rugged country, and even without wilderness restrictions, logging here would rarely be economically feasible. Over the last two years, a task force of state and federal officials, along with interest groups from a range of viewpoints, has sketched the outlines of a swap. The state would give up its land inside the Boundary Waters, and take over other acreage outside the wilderness in the Superior National Forest. 
6 Bill Hansen, owner of the Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, surveys a campsite Wednesday, May 2, 2012, near the shore of Alton Lake on a plot of school trust land inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Campsites like this one on Alton Lake have been occupied by native Americans for thousands of years. Now they attract thousands of visitors from all over the world. 
7 Bill Hansen, owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, talks about school trust lands inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wednesday, May 2, 2012, from a plot of school trust land along Alton Lake inside the BWCA. Hansen says the Boundary Waters itself would benefit from a land swap. If state ownership of small parcels is reduced, it would be easier for the U.S. Forest Service to manage. 
8 The shore of Alton Lake at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 
9 The shore of Alton Lake as seen Wednesday, May 2, 2012, from a plot of school trust land inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 
10 A section of school trust land as seen Wednesday, May 2, 2012, near the shore of Alton Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. With mining companies prospecting for more than $2 billion worth of copper, nickel, gold, and other valuable minerals, some lawmakers want to target mining on school trust lands. 
11 A portage between Sawbill Lake and Alton Lake is needed to reach one plot of school trust land inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Officials are negotiating a trade of state land inside the BWCA for federal land in the Superior National Forest. Some elected representatives from Northeastern Minnesota say the state would benefit from a pure land exchange; they're not interested in having the federal government pay for part of the land. Environmental groups worry that in a pure land exchange, the high value of wilderness land would need to be balanced by a large number of acres in the forest. They don't want to lose stricter federal protections over vast sections of the forest. 
12 For Bill Hansen, places like a Boundary Waters campsite on the northern edge of Alton Lake are a Minnesota treasure. Scrappy jackpine and cedars grow out of granite boulders and the entire landscape is reflected in crystal clear water.