Canoe campers permitted to visit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will be required to get educated on what it means to "leave no trace" after a pandemic-driven surge in visits last season saw everything from people cutting live trees to leaving campfires unattended.

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the million-acre wilderness, said in a statement Friday that there has been "unacceptably high amount of resource damage," and visitors will be required to watch three Leave No Trace education videos online and review wilderness regulations before they receive permits.

Ann Schwaller is the Forest Service's forest program manager for the BWCA. She told the Star Tribune in August that careless and illegal behavior was unrivaled.

"We are witnessing the effects from much more degradation and damage than we usually see in an average year," she said. "And it appears our use is much higher now compared to this same time during an average year."

Reservations for quota permit season, from May through September, begins at 9 a.m. Jan. 27 online at and by phone at 877-444-6777.

In general, about 150,000 people visit the BWCA every year. The Forest Service said some of the conduct last season included improperly disposing human waste, leaving trash in fire rings, and gathering in disruptive and oversized groups.

"It takes a commitment from everyone visiting these treasured lands to ensure that the lakes, waterways and forests of the BWCAW are protected against resource damage, so the wilderness character is preserved for future generations," the statement added.

More information about the permit process, whether in-person or virtual, also is online at Find more information about the Superior National Forest and the BWCA at these sites: