I have been backpacking three times to Isle Royale and spent a week working around the island as a common loon bander. My last trip was just a few weeks ago and my first was more than three decades ago. I am also planning a return trip for next September to hike the Feldtmann/Greenstone trails from Windigo to Rock Harbor and plan to hike the Minong Trail in 2025. As an active volunteer with The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy and Michigan Audubon, I am a proponent of wilderness, habitat, and open space preservation. I generally support Proposal B as outlined in the ‘Wilderness Stewardship Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement.’
I support a reservation program to help control overcrowding in wilderness area, maintaining (and even expanding) the existing Adirondack shelters at campgrounds along the Lake Superior and associated bays campgrounds. However, I do think that the campsite usage program needs to continue to accommodate backpackers to adjust itineraries as weather or physical challenges require them to make adjustments to their hiking plans and the availability of commercial guides to introduce visitors to this unique Great Lakes wilderness. I believe new campsites should be added to campgrounds where itineraries show frequent bottlenecks occurring. I also believe designated campsites and privies help control negative impacts on the surrounding wilderness.
I believe the maintenance of historic structures in the wilderness enhances Isel Royale visitors’ experience and that the preservation of historic structures/sites is consistent with the Wilderness Act’s recognition that wilderness areas may also contain “features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” Consequently, I also think The Bangsund Research Station should be maintained as a historic and scientific site. The moose-wolf predator-prey study is the oldest of its kind in the world and as such this station is of international scientific and historic significance. Although it is probably beyond the scope of this wilderness plan, I also wish there were more historic interpretation opportunities for the Native American pre-colonial period usage of the island for copper mining, maple sugaring, hunting and fishing. If it does not already exist, some interpretive signage at McCargoe Cove should be added about it being the main portal of access for seasonal usage of Native Americans of the island archipelago. It would also be nice to see an example of a seasonal encampment at Windigo or Rock Harbor ran by Anishinaabe that show what life was like fishing, hunting and sugaring on Isle Royale.
Lastly, I want to express my opinion that visitor usage of Isle Royale should continue to be seasonal (April to October). Historically, the island has primarily been a Spring/Summer destination for Native Americans, colonists, and Americans. This should continue, even if Lake Superior stops freezing over. I believe this seasonal closure from visitors best reflects mandates in The Wilderness Acts such as “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” and the area should be without “human habitation.”
Isle Royale's ‘Wilderness Stewardship Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement’ of the National Park Service. Comments were due September 26th, 2023.