Chainsaw Sisters Saloon Site Protected as Boundary Waters Access (MN)

SAINT PAUL, MN 9/14/2009: More than twenty years after the well-known “Chainsaw Sisters Saloon” opened for business off the popular Echo Trail, the popular access point is now part of the Superior National Forest. The Trust for Public Land, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the U.S. Forest Service announced today that the property-targeted for second home development-would instead be a publicly protected entry point into the wilderness.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Friends), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have been working to ensure the land be protected for its continued access to the popular Mudro Lake entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located off the Echo Trail 18 miles north of Ely, Minnesota. It is the only public entry point to a system of lakes and portages for six miles and it accommodates six permit groups each day. An estimated 250,000 outdoor enthusiasts visit the Boundary Waters each year.

“Many people find Mudro Lake a welcoming entryway into the Boundary Waters, and as our state grows, protecting public access becomes even more critical,” said Shaun Hamilton, TPL senior project manager. “We deeply appreciate the help of the Minnesota congressional delegation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Without this partnership the public would have lost a critical access point into a very popular recreation area.”

The USFS purchased the property using appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Minnesota congressional delegation provided critical support in securing the funding. Congress created the LWCF in 1965 to reinvest revenue from offshore oil and gas royalties into protecting America’s natural, cultural, and recreational heritage by acquiring land to ensure that all Americans have access to quality outdoor recreation. In order to help communities protect recreational areas such as the Boundary Waters, the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee has prepared energy legislation that includes full and dedicated funding for the LWCF at the authorized annual level of $900 million.

“Minnesota’s forests provide benefits even to those who don’t experience them firsthand,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “Our forests’ clean our air and water and provide essential habitat for wildlife. I am pleased with the success of this project and look forward to more successes to protect the critical forest resources of our Northwoods.”

“This is a gift to future generations,” said Congressman Jim Oberstar. “The pristine beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness captivates all who travel there, and in this case it served as a catalyst to bring the Richards, TPL, and Congress together to protect this special place forever.”

The popular 30-acre Chainsaw Sisters location will be owned and managed by the USFS. The saloon and other buildings on the property have been removed. The current parking lot, however, remains and parking will be free to the public.

Superior National Forest District Ranger Mark Van Every noted that Mudro Lake has historically been one of the BWCAW’s most popular entry points. “Without TPL and the Friends of the Boundary Waters stepping in to purchase the site, we would have had to create a new parking area and portage on nearby federal land. This new access would have been costly, time-consuming, and longer than the access route we preserved through this purchase. We will all continue to benefit from this partnership effort into the future.”

To help the USFS protect this critical entry point, TPL acquired the property through an innovative collaboration with the Friends. In July 2006, the Friends transferred its revolving “Edge to the Wilderness Fund” to TPL. The new partnership created an opportunity for the two organizations to work together to protect and conserve land and water around the Boundary Waters. TPL purchased the property in December 2006 from owners Michelle and Mark Richards, while a public-private partnership sought the federal funding to allow permanent protection by the Superior National Forest.

Friends’ Executive Director, Paul Danicic, added that protecting land on the edge of the wilderness from private development was a high priority. “As private development increases at the edge of the Boundary Waters, protecting the Wilderness from external forces is of growing importance. When private, near-wilderness land becomes available for purchase, our partnership with TPL allows for important, strategic acquisitions like this one to protect the BWCAW ecosystem and preserve public access.”

In the tradition of the Boundary Waters “root beer lady” Dorothy Molter, the Chainsaw Sisters Saloon was a legend in the Northwoods. The saloon was so named for twin sisters and former U.S. Forest Service employees Marlene Carlson and Michele Richards.

Over the years, paddlers, hunters, anglers, snowmobilers, and the curious stapled $1 bills with messages of goodwill to the walls and ceilings. The saloon had a lively 18-year run before it closed in 2006. Owners Michele and Mark Richards decided to close the saloon and sell the property for a less rustic lifestyle.

“It was time,” Chainsaw Sister Michele Richards said. “I loved living in the woods for twenty years, but I was always working. Now that I live in town I have running water and electricity at the flick of a switch. I will also be able to enjoy the woods more frequently.”

Through its Northwoods Initiative-a regional conservation program focused on northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan-TPL is assisting communities and public agencies in identifying and protecting sensitive and threatened lands. TPL has helped conserve more than 125,000 acres of Northwoods wilderness.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, is a national nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 2.8 million acres. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness works to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness through advocacy and education. Founded in 1976 to help pass the legislation that permanently designated the Boundary Waters as federal Wilderness, the organization’s mission is to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Quetico-Superior ecosystem.