Eighty Years in the Making
A Legislative History of Voyageurs National Park
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The latter half of the 1960s saw the emergence of an "environmental movement" in the United States as a force for change and reform in the way we regarded and used our natural resources. The movement was gaining in public support and influence and politicians at state and national levels could no longer regard it as a short-lived phenomena, which would fade as the initial energy and interest waned. The new "environmentalism" seemed all encompassing, touching on a host of issues including alternative energy resources, global population growth, energy resources, air and water quality and the protection and preservation of our land and water resources.

Many Americans, including supporters of the Voyageurs National Park proposal, believed the NPS was the agency best-suited by example and tradition to see to the preservation and interpretation of our finest natural landscapes and ecosystems. For national park supporters the decade of the 60s was the time to move forward with long-sought projects. Public interest in environmental matters was high and where parks were concerned, there was a receptive political climate in Washington. This was generally true at the executive level and particularly so in the Department of the Interior, the home of the National Park Service.

Stewart Udall, who served as Secretary of the Interior during the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, embarked on an expansionist national park policy during his tenure in the 1960s. His program began under NPS Director Conrad Wirth and continued under Wirth's successor George Hartzog in 1964. Udall needed a superintendent who shared his vision for change and expansion of the NPS and Hartzog was that person. The Hartzog years of 1964-1972 are evidence that Udall chose wisely. At the state level, the Levander administration was moving aggressively with the VNP proposal as if to take advantage of the new interest in parks and recreation in Washington. The governor's conference on Voyageurs, held in Virginia, Minnesota was labeled by most participants as informative and useful in understanding the issues surrounding the park proposal. Assigning individuals on his staff with specific responsibilities for the park project was another indication of strong support for the park at the state level. And Elmer L. Andersen's announcement in November of the formation of the statewide Citizens Committee for Voyageurs National Park was another reason for optimism. It was in this relatively friendly environment that the Voyageurs project moved into another significant phase. Crucial to its success was the introduction of a bill in the next Congress by Eighth District Congressman, John Blatnik.

As the Ninetieth Congress prepared for its second session, Congressman Blatnik received a letter from Governor Levander in which he identified eight points he hoped the Congressman would consider in drafting legislation for Voyageurs National Park. He had discussed these items generally with Blatnik in December, but now they were spelled out in greater detail. Levander's eight points are summarized here:

1. Extend the proposed park boundaries southeasterly to include the Crane Lake Recreation Area.

2. Keep the twenty-five resorts on the southwest shore of Kabetogama Lake out of the park.

3. Guarantee twelve-month staffing of the park, thereby assuring availability of winter recreation opportunities including snowmobiling.

4. Prevent a major increase in federal land ownership through authorizing legislation. Privately held land should be exchanged or acquired at fair market value and suitable land exchanges made to ensure adequate timber supply replacement for that lost on the Kabetogama peninsula.

5. Guarantee private vendors an opportunity to operate concessions within the park.

6. Allow selective timber cutting for management purposes. Relax hunting restrictions for the first few years to reduce the deer herd. Retain state sovereignty over fish management.

7. Insure fair treatment for homeowners and cabin owners in the park.

8. Permit private operation of commercial houseboats. [242]

Levander's letter was sent to all members of the Minnesota congressional delegation. Its timely arrival at the beginning of the second session was a not-so-subtle reminder that the state administration wanted to see movement on the necessary legislation early in the new session. Blatnik's reply to Levander came quickly, but it was a cautious and guarded response. He told the governor what he had said publicly many times, that he wanted to hear all sides of the issue in hopes of working out a sound proposal acceptable to a majority of the people. He said he would not only study Levander's eight points but also consider other issues as well. He made no reference to a target date for submitting the bill to Congress. [243]

Blatnik's office forwarded Levander's letter to NPS Director Hartzog for comment. In his reply to the congressman, Hartzog said the NPS agreed with six of Levander's eight points but could not accept the public hunting provision and the inclusion of the 38,000-acre Crane Lake unit in the proposed park. Hartzog said public hunting was banned under a long-standing policy of Congress and because of an agreement between the secretaries of the Agriculture and Interior Departments, the NPS had, "eliminated the Crane Lake area from our final report on Voyageurs which is near completion." [244] Another of Levander's points referred to a provision for selective logging for timber management purposes—not commercial harvesting. Hartzog told Blatnik that timber harvesting is an incompatible use in a national park, but the organic act of 1916 creating the NPS did permit cutting to control insects or disease. [245] Levander's proposal for timber cutting was an effort to placate the Minnesota Timber Producer's Association and Boise Cascade. Both were vehemently opposed to the park, because they saw in the park proposal a westerly extension of the no-cut policy already in place in the adjacent BWCA.

The governor's people, mindful of the rising anger often expressed publicly by leaders in the wood products industry, sought to demonstrate their understanding of the needs of the industry by appealing to the NPS to modify its timber cutting policy in the proposed park area. Fred Fagergren, NPS assistant director of the Midwest Regional Office, became aware of this concern when he was contacted by Roger Williams and Archie Chelseth, the two men on the governor's staff who carried the greatest responsibility for managing his administration's efforts on the park proposal. They suggested that Minnesota work with the NPS on a cooperative effort at timber management on Kabetogama that could make Voyageurs a, "proving ground for possible new techniques in the management of natural resources." [246] The NPS, of course, would not set aside the no-logging policy as Hartzog had stated in his letter to Blatnik earlier that month, and when Blatnik introduced his bill later that summer it contained no provision for commercial timber operations. The logging issue would arise time and again in subsequent public hearings, but the NPS held fast to its long-standing policy forbidding this activity in national parks. It was quite obvious even in the early stages of the park movement that Voyageurs would be no exception to that rule.

Mr. Blatnik said he continued to look for "consensus" on the Voyageurs issue, but he did little to spur movement toward that goal except offer to hear both sides of the controversy. He made no major speeches on the subject and, except for a meeting with Crane Lake residents in mid-1970, held no public hearings devoted solely to the park issue. The VNPA and its newly formed Citizens Committee for Voyageurs National Park and the park committee working out of the governor's office assumed the task of generating support for the proposed park, and thus movement toward consensus.

Rita Shemish, who led the campaign for the taconite amendment in 1964, was named executive secretary of the VNPA and its Citizen Committee. She devoted the early weeks of the Committee's existence to developing a strategy and building an organization whose mission would be to inform the public about the proposal for a national park in Minnesota and what its members could do to help promote the cause. Informed by previous experience in such campaigns, she concentrated her efforts on the members, and especially the leadership, of a whole range of organizations and clubs in Minnesota—social, political, professional, conservation, service, and religious. The basic objective of the Citizens Committee was to secure formal resolutions of support for Voyageurs from as many organizations as possible. Committee members would contact officers and members of an organization requesting an opportunity to present the case for the park, show a film highlighting the scenic beauty of the Kabetogama area, distribute appropriate literature explaining the national park proposal and why it was in the national and state interest to preserve this area. In addition they would provide information about the NPS, bring the membership of clubs and organizations up to date on the status of the campaign, show how their club or organization could help, and then provide them with a sample resolution endorsing the official NPS proposal for Voyageurs. When a group formally adopted a supporting resolution, its name was added to the growing list of clubs and organizations that had taken similar action.

Members of the Citizens Committee were also urged to get local media to make public the endorsing action of a local club thereby gaining additional positive publicity for the park. Shemish's office would prepare frequent progress reports on the campaign in the form of press releases for daily and weekly newspapers across the state as well as radio and television outlets in the larger centers. As the list of endorsements grew longer, awareness of the opportunity to secure a national park for Minnesota expanded across the state. In eight months, the list had grown to 330 with representatives from a variety of interest groups and all regions of the state as illustrated by the following sample: Minnesota AAA, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Republican State Executive Committee, Worthington Gun Club, Fairmont Teamsters Local 487, Little Falls American Legion Post #46, Minnesota Council of Churches, Rainy Lake Boosters Club, St. Paul Rotary Club, etc.

Conducting an intensive statewide campaign even with a small paid staff and many volunteers was a much more expensive venture than the VNPA had anticipated. Dues for membership in the Citizens Committee were deliberately kept low (two dollars) to encourage broad participation in the program. Therefore, the larger sums required to cover operational costs had to be secured through major fundraising efforts separate from the membership program. To accomplish this objective, the VNPA turned primarily to the business and professional community in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Members of this group had already taken the lead in the formation of the VNPA and sustained it with their leadership abilities and commitment to its objectives.

Rita Shemish, experienced in matters of fundraising and certainly knowledgeable as to the "giving" potential of this group, proceeded to name a finance committee headed by two prominent Twin Cities businessmen, Wheelock Whitney and Wallace Dayton. The Whitney-Dayton strategy was to arrange a series of "power lunches" hosted by prominent metro citizens. These hosts would invite prospective donors to a luncheon that was always followed by an informational program explaining the park proposal. The presentation explained why preserving this segment of the border lakes region would be a sound conservation move in the state and national interest, the economic benefits to the state, who the principal opponents were and why they were opposed to the park, and how the funds they were soliciting would be used in the campaign for Voyageurs. The host would also report on the substantial progress the Citizens Committee had already made in generating public support for the park.

This method, which was certainly not unfamiliar to those invited, was successful in raising a substantial amount of money to keep the campaign moving. The finance committee also used letters signed by Whitney and Dayton that made direct appeals for contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. In one letter they said, "We are asking you, your organization or foundation, to contribute from $500-$3,000 to help finance this citizen effort during the critical weeks ahead." [247] The response to these fundraising exercises was sufficient to provide the kind of support that was absolutely essential in sustaining the expanding role of the Citizens Committee in its effort to increase public knowledge about the park. It would be wrong to say that all of the funding for the Voyageurs campaign came from the business community in the Twin Cities area. Successful fundraisers were held in Duluth and significant financial support came from individuals across the state. But the fact remains that the fiscal support coming out of the Twin Cities area was absolutely crucial to the success of the Citizens Committee campaign, especially in northeastern Minnesota.

One section of the state that the VNPA and its Citizens Committee stressed in their campaign to win support for the park was John Blatnik's Eighth Congressional District. Their strategy was to develop a strong Citizens Committee chapter in the Duluth area, the largest population center in the district. In early March, Judge Chapman, president of the VNPA, came to Duluth to meet with the newly organized chapter and to review plans for promoting the park in northeastern Minnesota. Chapman noted the strong support for the park in the Twin Cities area where the committee was successful in getting numerous endorsements for the park in just the first two months of its existence. Also, the extensive media coverage of the park controversy, including numerous supporting editorials in the Minneapolis Tribune, helped sway public opinion in favor of a national park. Public opinion polls consistently showed the park to be popular in the metro area. Chapman said what was needed was a similar aggressive effort in the Duluth area, dedicated to winning converts to the park cause. That would have to be done by following the methods and procedures worked out by Shemish and the VNPA executive committee for the newly organized Citizens Committee.

In contrast to the Twin Cities area, subsequent experience showed that the Duluth chapter would get no assistance from the Duluth media or the local chamber of commerce. Quite the opposite was true for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where the press was generally supportive of the park. In the case of Minneapolis, the chamber had taken the lead in organizing the VNPA several years before and was openly aggressive in its support of the park proposal. [248] It was a "consensus building" campaign that helped convince Congressman Blatnik that Voyageurs was indeed a popular cause even in his own district. [249]

The Duluth chapter of the Citizens Committee was the largest of those formed in outstate Minnesota. It lobbied state, local, and county elected officials, made numerous public presentations explaining the park proposal, secured new supporting members, wrote and encouraged others to write letters to Blatnik urging legislative action, and most important of all, secured resolutions of support from a wide range of organizations across the Eighth District.

To measure the impact of the campaign in northeastern Minnesota, the VNPA engaged a professional polling organization to conduct an opinion poll in the Eighth District in late May 1968. The results showed that only twenty-one percent opposed the park on the Kabetogama Peninsula. Sixty-one percent favored it and seventeen percent were undecided. [250] This remarkable show of support for the park was due to the work of the Duluth and International Falls chapters of the Citizens Committee and, in no small measure, to the tireless efforts of Rita Shemish. Those who worked closely with her on this campaign never ceased to be amazed at her energy and enthusiasm for her task. In addition to the newsletters, press releases, and more formal communications originating in her office, she would often send the volunteers personal handwritten notes thanking them for their devotion to the campaign and stressing the importance of their individual effort in moving the campaign toward its goal—a national park for Minnesota. Also, many editors and politicians received letters exhorting them to actively support the proposed park. She never forgot to thank them either—if they responded favorably to her request.

In early spring 1968, Bill Krueger, the most influential radio and television commentator in the Duluth area, acknowledged in two editorials the success the Citizens Committee was having statewide in obtaining a greater consensus for the national park. He also added that despite the opposition from Boise Cascade and some resorts, "we will have the park on the peninsula. We cannot hope to have unanimity on this matter." In his April editorial he said it was time for Congressman Blatnik to proceed with authorizing legislation. [251] This was as close to a media endorsement of Voyageurs the public in the Duluth area would ever see or hear during the eight years of debate over the park issue. This, despite the wide-ranging support shown by many citizens and organizations included one of the region's most influential sportsmen's organizations—the United Northern Sportsmen.

The sportsmen club's study committee prepared a position paper on the proposed park, which the club approved on February 13, 1968. [252] This was a thoroughly documented thirty-page review of the NPS proposal. The report's particular value lay in its analysis of issues related to establishment and management of the park. Topics such as land acquisition, wildlife management, timber resources, water levels on the four large lakes, and use of aircraft in the park—all were presented along with identification of opposing opinions and suggestions for the most effective ways to meet the challenges posed by each. In retrospect, one of the most valuable parts of the report dealt with the subject of land acquisition. The complexities of existing land ownership were identified along with a review of proposals already advanced for bringing the land under federal ownership should the park be authorized. One method cited in the report was outright purchase at fair market value along with the observation that with congressional passage of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in 1964, this method had become an effective way to acquire new park lands. [253]

In recalling some of the "benchmarks" in the struggle for authorization of Voyageurs, former Governor Andersen said that the United Northern Sportsmen's report was a remarkable and timely piece of research. It was completed just a few months before the first Voyageurs bill was introduced, and it came from a highly respected sportsmen's group in Congressman Blatnik's own district. [254]

In early 1968, the United Northern Sportsmen Club's report, a growing number of organizational endorsements for the park, and fresh opinion polls with positive support for the park, all pointed toward greater public awareness and backing for a national park on the Kabetogama Peninsula. But whatever comfort park supporters could take with these gains in public approval, it was soon diluted by the unexpected, spirited opposition to Governor Levander's call for inclusion of the Namakan-Crane Lakes area in the proposed park.

Commonly referred to as the "Crane Lake Addition," it included most of Namakan and Sand Point Lakes along with lands adjacent to those lakes. It was what the USFS called their Crane Lake Recreation Area—a property they had successfully kept out of the official NPS proposal after a bitter interagency dispute in 1963-1964. There was almost no public knowledge of that argument. However, this time the USFS would have to "go public" with their case and they were determined to make a strong case to keep it under multiple-use management. They realized that Congress would determine the fate of their recreation area if Blatnik included the Crane Lake Recreation Area in his legislation. They saw little hope of stopping the transfer at that level. Their best hope was to build such strong local opposition to the loss of the property that the congressman would change his mind. For too many years the USFS had watched many of its prime scenic areas disappear into adjacent national parks. Therefore, to secure these areas they gave them special recreation or preservation status hoping thereby, to preclude their transfer to the NPS. Such was the case with the Crane Lake Recreation Area, which was formally established in 1966. [255]

The Superior National Forest staff, through its supervisor, John Wernham, argued vigorously for retention of the Crane Lake Recreation Area. In an address before service clubs in Ely, Minnesota, in the fall of 1968, Wernham defended the ability of the USFS to manage prime forest recreation lands and offered a challenge to the NPS. He said retention of the Crane Lake area under USFS management would afford the "opportunity to compare areas with similar terrain, vegetation, and wildlife when managed by practices applied to National Parks, Wilderness Areas (BWCA), Recreation Areas (Crane Lake) and forest lands in other ownerships. We would have an opportunity here to determine for future generations what should be the management practices for forest recreation lands." [256] This proposal, credited to Frank Kaufert, dean of the School of Forestry at the University of Minnesota, was a response to a long-standing insult, felt at least by some foresters who contended that the NPS arrogantly assumed, "they alone recognized and appreciated higher social and spiritual values inherent in natural things." [257] Throughout the ensuing debate, the USFS continued to defend their management standards for the Crane Lake Recreation Area and urged that it be kept out of the proposed national park. The highest officials of the USFS forcefully made their case at all of the congressional hearings on the park. For example, in testimony at the hearings before the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs in July 1970, USFS Deputy Chief John McGuire said that under USFS management, the Crane Lake Recreation Area, "will create an opportunity for the Forest Service to blend the management of the Superior National Forest with the new park in a way that will maximize the public benefits that can be realized from the boundary water region. We are anxious to share our long experience in dealing with protection and public use of the resources that characterize this area." [258]

Levander's call for inclusion of the Crane Lake Recreation Area was just as unpopular with the resorts and business community of Crane Lake as it was with the USFS. The vehemence of the Crane Lake community's opposition as expressed through its commercial club was a surprise to the Levander people. Anticipating some opposition, Levander proposed a boundary that would be drawn along the north shore of Crane Lake, thereby excluding the resorts and business activity along the south and west shores. But, when the governor's coordinator for Voyageurs, Roger Williams, met with Crane Lake residents to discuss the park proposal, he found that they didn't want any of the Crane Lake area included in the park proposal. They were satisfied with USFS management of the recreation area and were opposed to a park policy that would eliminate hunting and timber harvesting. They also feared that a national park would bring in too many people, thus discouraging their traditional clientele who liked the uncrowded aspects of the area. And they were very concerned that the park would encourage greater private and commercial development on the Canadian side of the boundary lakes.

Williams said that Crane Lake residents thought it, "ridiculous to build a quality park facility on one side of the border, while allowing private take-over on the other side." [259] When Robert Congdon, president of the Crane Lake Commercial Club, testified at the Washington hearings in July 1970, he spoke again of the same concerns of Canadian development that Williams had reported in 1968. No mention was ever made by the Crane Lake representatives that the Midwest Regional Office of the NPS had reported that they were given assurances by the Ontario government that they would cooperate with the U.S. through appropriate land management regulations on the Canadian side should the park be authorized. [260]

The park movement now had two more adversaries, the USFS and the Crane Lake community. Both were openly courting public opinion with their opposition to the Crane Lake addition and in an indirect manner threatening to slow up the movement for a park on the Kabetogama Peninsula. It is interesting that only a few active pro-park people at that time were ever aware of the original and unpublished 1963 NPS proposal calling for a park extending from Crane Lake to near International Falls on Rainy Lake. Nor were they aware of the protracted dispute between the USFS and the NPS over the inclusion of the Crane Lake area in that proposal. Actually, most supporters came into the park movement in 1966, and by far the greatest number joined the effort after the formation of the Citizens Committee in December 1967. They were committed to supporting the official NPS proposal on the Kabetogama Peninsula. All of the campaign literature referred to the park on that site. When it became apparent that the controversy over the proposed inclusion of the Crane Lake Recreation Area could interfere with the primary goal, leaders in the VNPA and Citizens Committee were instructed to stay out of the Crane Lake dispute altogether. The official position of the VNPA was to support the NPS proposal, which described a park on the Kabetogama Peninsula. If the Crane Lake addition came up while promoting the park at a public meeting, the correct response was to simply say, "If Crane Lake is to be included in Voyageurs Park, Congress will have to add it."

When Blatnik was approached by a Minneapolis Tribune reporter in mid-February, 1968, he was asked when he expected to introduce legislation on Voyageurs. He replied, "around Easter." He acknowledged support for the park in his district was growing, but he was still concerned about what he called the major remaining issue, "negotiations on an agreement for land exchanges to compensate timber interests, principally Boise Cascade Corporation, for loss of major holdings on the peninsula." [261] He said that the state was responsible for these negotiations. The same article said that Blatnik favored incorporation of Crane Lake into the park and that he had suggested this to Governor Levander before the governor convened the Virginia conference in November. He saw Crane Lake as an issue but one that could be resolved by Congress. He knew that Secretary of Agriculture Freeman would have to oppose transfer of U.S. forest land to the Interior Department to accomplish the addition of Crane Lake, Secretary Freeman would, "have to bow to that determination." [262] What he apparently didn't realize at the time was that the Crane Lake community was adamantly opposed to the inclusion, and that they were gearing up for a battle to keep it from happening. It was the kind of confrontation Blatnik disliked most—constituents openly and aggressively opposing him on a local issue.

As spring came to the northland in 1968, opposition to the park was most evident at the geographic extremities of the proposed park—Rainy Lake and Kabetogama on the northwest and Crane Lake on the southeast. In the northwest, stiffening opposition came from local and other second-home owners regarding the proposed federal control of the Kabetogama Peninsula to satisfy the wishes of perceived "outsiders." And the gnawing land exchange question with Boise Cascade remained to be resolved. In the southeast the resistance to the Crane Lake addition advocated by Governor Levander and John Blatnik triggered angry responses from the USFS and the community at Crane Lake. The latter, a proud and independent resort community could see no economic advantages to a national park at their back door. The USFS, through its supervisory staff at Superior, served notice that it would aggressively resist efforts to transfer the Crane Lake Recreation Area to the NPS.

The USFS was not alone in having to oppose potential loss of a chunk of its acreage to satisfy the objectives of an NPS project. In 1968 territorial losses threatened national forests in two western states where new national park proposals were nearing the final stages of congressional review—Redwood in California and North Cascades in Washington. Congress authorized (both parks in the fall of 1968.) In testimony at the Redwood hearing, Secretary Freeman strenuously opposed using USFS lands in the Redwoods Purchase Unit, "as trading stock to acquire private timberlands within Redwood National Park." At the same hearing he testified that some of those who proposed a Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota were suggesting a raid on Superior National Forests—in aid of the project. "We will continue to resist all efforts, large or small, to put National Forest lands on the trading block to bargain away the resistance of private timberland owners whose lands are needed for important public programs." [263] When Roger Williams read this testimony, he immediately sent out a memo to members of his committee saying, "We have been discussing exchange of Boise lands for Forest Service lands within the Kabetogama Purchase Unit. It becomes obvious that the Forest Service will object vigorously to any proposal involving their lands whether they are located inside or outside a Forest Boundary." [264] In the same memorandum, Williams emphasized Blatnik's reluctance to introduce park legislation until the state "negotiates" the land exchange issue with Boise Cascade. Williams said that moves were underway to resolve the land exchange question and that to facilitate discussions with Boise, the State Division of Lands and Forestry had prepared three alternative exchange proposals that would soon be ready for presentation to Boise officials.

Working out a land exchange agreement whereby forest lands outside the proposed park would be exchanged for Boise lands on the Kabetogama Peninsula had been on the state's agenda beginning with the Rolvaag administration in 1965. There was always hope that an acceptable plan could be worked out when the paper industry was still under the control of the M&O paper company. However, some time before Boise officially assumed control of its M&O subsidiary and certainly after the merger, the company's position hardened on the subject of land exchange. There had been no movement on this issue in three years. The task of developing workable exchange proposals by the Division of Lands and Forestry wasn't made easier by Freeman's opposition to the use of USFS lands as "trading stock" and as Conservation Commissioner Leirfallom discovered in the first week of June 1968, Boise officials were not even interested in looking at any proposals from the Levander administration.

Boise Cascade's firm policy against reviewing any land exchange proposals coming from the Levander administration was explained with great candor in a June 4 meeting that Conservation Commissioner Leirfallom held with Boise's Woodlands Manager, George Amidon. Leirfallom had requested the meeting in hopes of opening the lines of communication with Boise and getting them to study the state's new exchange proposals. When he returned to his office in St. Paul, Leirfallom dictated a memorandum summarizing his conversation with Amidon. [265] The memo reveals just how far apart the governor's office and Boise Cascade were on the Voyageurs issue at that time.

Examination of the files on this question shows that from early 1965 onward there never was a time when land exchanges between Boise and the state or federal governments was possible. Some of the points made by Amidon during this meeting that support this observation included:

  • Boise Cascade was not happy with the Levander administration's performance on matters relating to the timber industry.

  • Former Governor Andersen was unreasonably antagonistic and unfair (to the company), and they were concerned about the extent to which he represented the administration's ideas.

  • From 1962-1965 the M&O had been cooperative and participated in possible exchange discussions. However, after the Freeman directive expanding the no-cut zone around the BWCA, the company backed off from further discussions feeling that they had been misled. (Boise Cascade took over the M&O in 1965.)

  • Freeman's action was an indication that wilderness groups were running hog wild. Therefore, Boise Cascade refused to discuss with Wayne Olson, congressional representatives, and other politicians any exchanges that tended to put Boise into agreement with wilderness devotees and preservationists with whom they did not agree. They would have to take the same attitude with the proposed exchange proposals coming from the Levander administration.

During the course of the meeting Leirfallom sought to assure Amidon that the governor was vitally interested in the property of the timber industry and suggested that Boise's interests would be better served by, "maintaining a constructive dialogue" with the state administration and other parties concerned. Perhaps as a way of revealing to Amidon that not everyone in the Levander administration thought the same way on Voyageurs, he told Amidon that he himself had to acknowledge that, "a lot of these park experts are short on practical knowledge of the area." He was referring to some of the not-so-pleasant weather, the swamps, mosquitoes, wood ticks, etc. that park visitors would encounter. In this memorandum and other documents and in discussions with Levander staff people working on the Voyageurs project, the commissioner left some doubt about his own enthusiasm for the Voyageurs project. [266]

Boise Cascade's reluctance to even discuss land exchange proposals with public officials was well known among the leading advocates of the park. Some supporters eventually came to see this as part of Boise's strategy to defer introduction of enabling legislation. Boise also noticed that Blatnik, who had made the exchange agreement a precondition before submitting his park legislation, always placed the blame for the lack of a land exchange agreement squarely on the Levander administration, and this was contributing to increased tension between Blatnik and the governor. Elmer L. Andersen and other VNPA leaders thought Blatnik's insistence on a resolution of the exchange question before submitting his park bill was unrealistic. Andersen expressed this concern in a letter to NPS Director Hartzog in mid-April 1968. "I believe there is a time when you agree on the policy of a matter and a later time when you work out all the details. I do not believe Boise Cascade is ever going to agree on any program but will seek to feed questions to Blatnik that could keep this in study and report form for a long time. I believe Representative Blatnik is sincere, but I also believe he is exceedingly conscious of any opposition and sensitive to it, where what is needed at this point is some courageous leadership. That is why I get a little impatient, but do my best to restrain it." [267]

Representative Blatnik hoped to introduce his Voyageurs legislation at about the same time the NPS released its new park plan, a revision of the 1964 draft plan. Blatnik told a reporter in February that he might be submitting his bill around Eastertime, and in a telephone conversation sometime in March, Hartzog told Elmer Andersen that the NPS would be ready with its plan by May 15. However, when Andersen picked up his April 5 Minneapolis Tribune and saw that the release date had been set back to sometime in June, he became very angry. He began making telephone calls to Washington, D.C. and Omaha trying to reach Director Hartzog and Regional Director Fagergren but with no success. He finally reached John Kawamoto, the park planner who had been closest to the Voyageurs project since it was launched. Kawamoto explained that the delay was related to the director's decision to present the final report in a master plan format, and this would require more time. [268] Hartzog's shift to a master plan format was actually caused by Blatnik's dissatisfaction with the NPS's already-prepared draft plan. The Congressman thought it too general and superficial. He wanted the text and illustrations in the plan to emphasize public use. He was determined to reassure the opposition at home that once the park was established it wasn't going to be "locked up." This was a not-so-vague reference to the opinion held by many local residents concerning the management restrictions of the adjacent BWCA. Kawamoto, assigned to help put the 1968 plan together in its final form, said that it was never the intent of the NPS to adopt the management policy of the canoe country wilderness. Nevertheless, as a way of guaranteeing that the plan would meet his conditions, Blatnik requested that the NPS planners work out revisions and details of the plan in his office. [269]

The 1968 plan was actually a revision of the NPS's draft plan but with alterations to meet the congressman's conditions. It was designated a master plan and was completed in a two-week period with park planners working in daily sessions with Jim Oberstar, Blatnik's administrative assistant. Reflecting on this assignment ten years later, Kawamoto said in a tactful manner, that it was not a career highlight for him and it was, "kind of a strange way of writing a master plan." [270] The plan, through its text, large-scale maps, and photographs, described a park with year-round activities for the visitor. The use of motorized watercraft, deemed essential on the three large lakes in the park, would be encouraged and in winter, the plan mentioned the use of "over-snow equipment as appropriate when used on existing roads, designated trails and frozen lakes." [271] Kawamoto would say later that in the end when the plan was released, it had the concurrence of Blatnik who had no objections to any part of the plan. [272]

Long experience as a legislator taught Congressman Blatnik that timing was extremely important when you introduce legislation. In this instance, he wanted the NPS to release its master plan recommending a Voyageurs National Park, minus the Crane Lake area of course. He would follow a little later with a meeting at Crane Lake to explain to the community the reasoning behind his intent to add the area to the proposed park. Blatnik's office alerted the rest of the Minnesota delegation of his intentions.

The date for the master plan release was to be July 2 and the legislation would follow on July 9. However, both events had to be rescheduled when Blatnik learned that his plan had been leaked and reported in press accounts back in Minnesota. Those opposed to the park, including the Crane Lake Commercial Club, went into action to generate even more opposition, especially to Blatnik's intention to include most of the Crane Lake Recreation Area in his park bill. His carefully drawn timetable had to be revised providing even more time for opposition forces to organize against the park project. [273]

Public knowledge of his legislative intent and particularly the angry response at Crane Lake drew a charge from Blatnik that placed the blame on Governor Levander for the Crane Lake uprising by, "failing to do his homework with property owners at Crane Lake." [274] He either didn't know or wouldn't acknowledge the fact that Roger Williams, Levander's point man on Voyageurs, met with Crane Lake residents several times since the first of the year regarding the proposed Crane Lake addition. Nor did he acknowledge that including the Crane Lake area was a suggestion he himself had made to the governor in late fall 1967. However, he did have to acknowledge, to his staff if not publicly, that to get his park legislation on track again he would have to meet with the Crane Lake community as soon as possible. He said he wanted to pay the Crane Lake people the courtesy of talking to them before he submitted his bill. To that end he asked his staff to schedule a meeting at Crane lake for July 13 when he could make the case for his position and cool things down before submitting his bill on the new date, July 19.

Just to keep the Levander administration and Congressman Blatnik's office together on the Crane Lake issue, Roger Williams sent a letter on July 11 to Jim Oberstar reaffirming the state's position on Crane Lake and urging him to review the matter with Blatnik, "to ensure a consensus between your office and the state administration prior to our discussion with Crane Lake residents this weekend." [275]

Representative Blatnik's meeting with the Crane Lake Commercial Club took place on Sunday, July 14. The congressman, in defending his plan to include the Namakan to Crane Lake area, said it would provide a much greater range of activities for park visitors, help preserve more of the voyageurs route in the border lakes region between Canada and the United States, provide access to the park from the east, and help business by bringing more visitors to the Crane Lake community. He also stressed that the park boundaries he and the governor were proposing would exclude all but four of the twenty-nine resorts in the community. Before leaving the meeting, Blatnik said he would try to reduce the total acreage planned for inclusion from 38,233 acres to about 34,000. However, he remained firm in his resolve to include this area in his legislation. When the commercial club took a vote on the question the next day, 165 were opposed and only fourteen were in support of the park with the Namakan to Crane Lake addition. When the same group was asked about the NPS proposal for a park on Kabetogama without the Crane Lake addition, the results were essentially the same. [276]

Representative Blatnik didn't fare any better when he met the same day with members from the Northland Multiple Use Association and the Minnesota Arrowhead Association in International Falls. Both groups consistently opposed the park on Kabetogama, and at this meeting they urged Blatnik to defer submission of his bill until the state legislature had an opportunity to examine alternative management schemes involving St. Louis and Koochiching Counties. But Blatnik held his ground and told the group that he would introduce his bill when he returned to Washington and that if he delayed much longer someone or maybe all other members of the Minnesota delegation would introduce park legislation anyway. [277]

In making this observation of the inevitability of Voyageurs legislation, Blatnik was tacitly recognizing the growing popular support for Voyageurs across the state. He knew that his colleagues were hearing from constituents who wanted explanations for the delay. One can also be certain that other members of the Minnesota delegation knew full well that Blatnik wasn't going to be upstaged on this issue and that he would act in the face of growing local opposition. Even the International Falls Daily Journal, certainly not an advocate for the park, recognized in an editorial Blatnik's courage in facing such strong opposition to the park. "Excluding declarations of war, perhaps no issue has ever exerted more pressures on a congressman than those on Eighth District Congressman Blatnik during the past four years of the Voyageurs National Park controversy. It must be said, to Blatnik's credit, that he held off introduction of the bill as long as he possibly could to allow study and a consensus within his district." [278] True to his promise, Blatnik introduced his first Voyageurs bill on July 19, 1968. The Minneapolis Tribune noted the occasion with a heading that read, "Voyageurs Park Proposal Ends Turbulent Ride to the Potomac." [279]

Blatnik's 1968 Voyageurs bill entered the legislative stream less than four months before the fall elections. He realized that there would be no opportunity for hearings in the closing weeks of the Ninetieth Congress and therefore noted in his preliminary remarks that his bill would expire at the end of the year and would have to be reintroduced in the new Congress. "This will give people an opportunity to suggest further modifications, and of course there can be changes within reason." He also said that for the first time the public will have a, "definite proposal describing the features of the park, and setting forth terms and conditions under which the park would be established by law." [280]

Among the provisions in the bill were a number of what Blatnik called "safeguards." These were intended to minimize "any adverse effects" caused by the new park for local residents. They included all of Levander's eight points. Among other things, the safeguards provided for hunting and trapping, boundary placement to exclude almost all of the private resorts bordering the park, and reimbursement to the two affected counties for any loss of tax revenue due to federal land acquisition. Levander and Blatnik were deeply concerned over the bitter feelings emerging from the controversy over Voyageurs and sought to mollify the local opposition by including provisions in the legislation that they surely knew were not permitted in national parks. These conditions continued to appear in the text of the legislation used at the field hearings in 1969 and the Washington D.C. hearings in 1970. Most disappeared in the conference committee report of the final bill sent to President Nixon in January 1971.

Local residents who read about the safeguards in their local newspapers and heard them mentioned and discussed at public hearings were no doubt reassured when Blatnik included them in his legislation. Later, when the final version of the authorizing legislation dropped the hunting, trapping, and payments in lieu of taxes provisions, and the NPS began to administer the park on the basis of the authorizing legislation, they accused the federal government of misleading them.

Much was made of Levander's eight points and Blatnik's safeguards by the originators of the measures themselves. Blatnik and Levander frequently made references to "protecting the interests" of local residents by their carefully drawn legislation. However, the NPS could never accept public hunting, commercial logging or payments in lieu of taxes in legislation for Voyageurs or any other national park. Of course the call for inclusion of the Crane Lake Recreation Area was off limits (even though many in the NPS knew it would be a better park with that area included) because of the interdepartmental agreement. Even in the face of Director Hartzog's declaration that hunting, logging, and the tax provision could never be accepted by the NPS, they continued to appear in succeeding revisions of the legislation. It is not surprising that many residents in northeastern Minnesota, especially those nearest the park, would come to the conclusion that they had been deceived. It is interesting to note that twenty years after the park was established one can still hear this claim in communities near the park.

Adding the Crane Lake Recreation Area seriously complicated efforts to move the park proposal forward. Local residents now had another reason to oppose the park and for many, it confirmed their suspicions that this was simply a land grab. No matter that most of the added land and water area was already under the control of a federal agency. What really disturbed many was that management by the NPS would mean more restrictive policies upsetting traditional recreational use patterns.

The VNPA board, although not officially opposed to the Crane Lake addition, was nevertheless surprised by the intensity of the opposition expressed by the Crane Lake community. Some members agreed with the editorial board of the Minneapolis Star that, in combination with other opponents, the entire project was in danger. "It seems to us that the big question is whether or not the inclusion of the Crane Lake tract jeopardizes the chances for passage of a Voyageurs bill. Crane Lake people seem strongly opposed to the enlargement. If they and other opponents are potent enough to defeat a bill in Congress then the NPS proposal would seem the wiser course..." [281]

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Last Updated: 23-Jan-2009