Put the cost of wilderness rescue where it belongs

Nothing has now become more apparent here in the surrounding areas of the BWCA, than the need to charge those who use emergency rescue operations. The taxpayers are footing the bill for rescues that are becoming a way of life for people who are ill-prepared and believe their cell phone will save them.  In the case of the Boy Scouts, a satellite phone.

This year alone off the Fernberg area of the Superior National Forest and BWCA, the taxpayers rescued a family lost on the Secret Blackstone Trail. Their foot gear going over ice and snow amounted to tennis shoes in freezing temps, and the fact they decided to hike the trail with two school age kids as the sun was going down. Wet feet are now an emergency?  I call it stupidity.

Next the taxpayers saved a 17-18 year-old kid from the same trail.  He took a hike on Secret Blackstone, and decided to go off the trail with improper gear, not enough water, no compass or map, and improper off trail clothing.  In both these cases, the cell phone played a big role in their “rescue”.

Then you have the Boy Scout group getting rescued via a satellite phone, because they were foolish enough to try leaving a campsite in high winds and rainy weather, and canoe-rolling waves so huge they can swamp a bigger motor-powered boat [which, of course, happened]. One Minneapolis newspaper quoted the wife of one of the adults in charge of those scouts as, “an experienced wilderness survivalist”.  Well I have news for her.  An experienced wilderness survivalist, would have NEVER attempted to even leave a secure campsite in those conditions plain and simple.  The Boy Scout motto used to say “Be prepared”.  Does that mean now you carry a phone to get yourself out of a jam on the backs of the taxpayers?

These are but a few of the rescues that are now starting to become a regular thing around here. The calls for help are increasing every year and most of them, if not all of them, are because of stupidity, lack of training, and lack of knowledge of the situations they freely put themselves into. And we the taxpayers are footing the bill.

I think it’s time Minnesota starts charging the parties being rescued, and take that cost off the taxpayers’ back. Our state lawmakers should be putting forth a bill to enact payment for services rendered in these rescue operations. Fact is, these “life-saving phone calls” are getting out of hand, and we are going to be getting more of them, not less of them, as time goes on.  It is time for Minnesota to take a hard line stance on this situation.

All one has to do, is imagine the cost for bringing a state chopper based in the Twin Cities up here, and the cost of manpower and equipment that responded locally, to rescue wet Boy Scouts from a situation caused by pure stupidity to get the idea.

Barry W. Tungseth

Ely, Minn.

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Agree 100%.

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