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Vegetable Lakes Non-Motorized, December 30th, 2004

Vegetable chain lakes now non-motorized

By Rhonda Silence, December 30, 2004

When U.S. Forest Service Gunflint District Ranger Dennis Neitzke gave his update to the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, December 21, there was only brief discussion of changes to the area known locally as the "vegetable chain." However, since that meeting, Cook County residents have come forward to express concern about the creation of a non-motorized area without public input. The vegetable chain is a series of lakes, which have been given vegetable names such as Tomato, Squash, Turnip, Cucumber, Onion, and so on. The lakes are outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and frequently fished by locals who travel to the lakes via logging roads on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). At the board meeting, John McClure of Grand Marais questioned the addition of a Semi-primitive Non-motorized Recreation (SPNM) Management Area to the final Forest Plan Revision. He said this management area had been included without public comment. McClure said the SPNM had not been included in Forest Revision Plan alternative "E," which was ultimately selected by the Forest Service in a modified form. Neitzke responded that creation of the SPNM was in the Forest Revision Plan Draft, in a smaller form. He said, "One thing we received several comments on, from the Friends of the Boundary Waters and other groups, was that more wilderness was needed. We didn't increase wilderness-we simply increased non-motorized areas." In a letter to the Cook County Board of Commissioners and US Senator Norm Coleman, McClure said the non-motorized area basically created an inaccessible wilderness area. "This is an area used by only a very few locals and in my years of fishing this area I've never seen another non-local person. There is very little motorized use now and to take this away from the local resident would not alter the primitive atmosphere of this unique area." McClure also expressed concern that the creation of this non-motorized area would negatively impact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries. "They recently planted fish in some of these lakes," said McClure. "This will wreak havoc with their stocking program. One of the lakes planted with Brook trout is Kraut Lake. The logging trail access to Kraut is about three miles long. Without use of an ATV to access this lake, I don't expect the DNR to continue their stocking program." Reached by telephone, DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor Steve Persons said he was surprised to learn that the Forest Service had designated the vegetable lakes a non-motorized area. "We were involved with the Forest Plan Revision, and I don't recall seeing this. It certainly would have stood out." Persons was hesitant to comment in detail on the SPNM, since he said he hadn't received anything from the Forest Service explaining just what that designation meant. However, he did express concern that it could negatively impact the DNR's stocking program. Persons said, "Numerous lakes had been stocked in the vegetable chain area, with the assumption that people could get to them." He said Kraut, Turnip, and Peanut Lake had been stocked with Brook trout; Squash Lake had been stocked with Rainbow trout; and Cucumber Lake had been stocked with Walleye. The DNR is also assessing the "Bean Lakes" for possible stocking. Persons said another implication could be lack of access to Boundary Waters lakes, Pierz Lake and Crystal Lake, which have been accessed in the past from the vegetable chain area. Asked if the DNR would stop stocking these lakes and look for others, Persons replied, "We're out of lakes. These are just about the only lakes in Cook County that we could use." Persons said he would have to wait to hear from the Forest Service how the SPNM would affect the DNR stocking but he said it would almost certainly increase expenses for Fisheries. "We do our stocking from the air, but for assessing we like to get in with a boat and live traps. In the Boundary Waters, we have to carry everything in." In addition to the added expense, not being able to carry in assessment equipment leads to less successful monitoring and stocking. "In the Boundary Waters, we use gill nets. We try to avoid that, since it's a lethal monitoring method. We like to avoid it, especially in lakes we're managing as trophy lakes." Persons said the DNR would most likely continue to stock and monitor the vegetable chain lakes. However, he added, "Particularly with trout lakes, management is very expensive. If we're not seeing any use, we may decide to stop," said Persons. At the County Board meeting, McClure reminded commissioners that in comments submitted to the Forest Service on the Revised Forest Plan, the board had opposed an increase in non-motorized areas. McClure said, "Restricting the very limited motorized use of this area will only affect the locals. Right now anyone can go into this area and hike or camp whenever they want to. No one is doing that now, so the limited motorized use seen in this area is not interfering with "silent sport" use, since there is none." Commissioner Bob Fenwick said Cook County commissioners would be meeting with the DNR and Lake County soon. He said this issue would be discussed at that meeting. In the meantime, McClure said he intends to try to get this designation removed from the Forest Plan. "There is just no need for it," said McClure.


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