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South Fowl Law Suit

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The South Fowl lawsuit is all about a snowmobile trail reroute north of Grand Marais, MN.

The Tilbury snowmobile trail was built in the 1960s before the 1964 Wilderness Act. As with many trails, it was built by users, following logging roads. The 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act included the Tilbury Trail. For more than 25 years, the U.S. Forest Service neglected to close the Tilbury Trail and has yet to build a replacement trail, in accordance with the law.

The Forest Service finally did close the Tilbury Trail in 2003 and proposed a replacement following a northern route from McFarland Lake to South Fowl Lake outside of the wilderness.

The Conservationists With Common Sense organization supported the closure of the Tilbury Trail and its illegal use — illegal because the trail was partially inside the wilderness. We also approved the proposed northern reroute.

The Forest Service said fewer than a dozen visitors would be affected by the new route. The sight of snowmobiles through the trees would be for five seconds, their sound the equivalent of bedroom conversation.

Claims that North and South Fowl lakes are within the Boundary Waters are false. According to the legal description of the Boundary Waters and Forest Service maps, the wilderness ends at the lakes’ high-water marks. Prior to the passage of the 1978 act, the Fowl lakes were bargained out of the wilderness, but the lakes were mistakenly listed in the act. The lakes’ 10 hp motor limit shouldn’t have been implemented. The wilderness acts do not mandate the regulation of lands and waters not within the wilderness.

Of all the lakes listed in the 1978 Act, North and South Fowl lakes are the only ones not within the wilderness. All others are entirely or partially within the wilderness. As such, the Fowl lakes have not required motorboat quotas or the enforced banning of snowmobile use.

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