Ely Mayor Roger Skraba promises end to BWCAW porta-potty thefts



There's been a long-simmering resentment in Ely about the decision in 1978 to ban most motorized vehicles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Minnesota-Something border. And in recent years, Ely Mayor Roger Skraba has been somewhat of a poster child for locals acting out in defiance of the rules.

Since then, he's racked up a series of charges that he entered the restricted area either by snowmobile or motorboat. In March he pleaded guilty to breaking into a U.S. Forest Service boast house in the BWCAW in 2007 (when he wasn't mayor), and making off with a portable toilet.

The 48-year-old fishing guide was hit with $3,800 fine and 40 hours of community service on Tuesday for the porta-potty heist. The community service will include teaching youngsters to respect the wilderness rules he once flouted.

He sounded worn out at the sentencing, and happy to comply:

"I want to apologize, to the people and to you. I know I have not done it since (2007). I know I won't do it again,'' said Skraba, lamenting an increase in federal border agents patrolling in jets, unmanned drone aircraft and boats. "The game is over. It's foolish. I've had a life of this (hostility against federal regulations) and it is so done... It's time to change. It's not fun any more.''

Skraba told the Duluth News Tribune after the hearing that attitudes about BWCAW rules are "slowly changing'' in Ely.