Our Mission is: "To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history."

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Update September 29, 2003


Our meeting on August 3rd was a great success. The meeting began at about 1330 and lasted until 1510 with nearly 35 island folks in attendance.  After the meeting Stu Sivertson then led a tour of the historic fishery on Washington Island. Dinner began about 1730 featuring planked fish. We all experienced a unique day on Isle Royale, which began with thick fog, but culminated in one of the nicest sunsets of the year.

Below you will find a paper written by Roy Snell titled, "Hounded  by Regulations, even on Vacation".  Roy makes a powerful argument in favor of the National Park being created on Isle Royale. Like many of us who have spent a lot of time around the island, Roy believes that NPS is a positive force for the preservation of Isle Royale for future generations. We also believe that our group can be a positive force for authentically maintaining the cultural history of Isle Royale. This can be done by maintaining an appropriate and dignified partnership between NPS and IRFFA. Examples of tangible benefits can be seen by the two pictures next to this paragraph which show the results of efforts  led by Enar Strom and Jeff Sivertson restoring the net reel and the old gas barrels at the Sivertson Fish Camp. Further tangible benefits will seen upon completion of the documentary (see below for further information)  and the interpretive program. I hope you will take the time to carefully read Roy's well reasoned thoughts. Give Roy some feed back on his paper on the message board if you so desire.

Kind Regards,
David C. Barnum


Award winning journalist David Stokes and I embarked on a journey around the island to start filming and interviewing the families that have been on the island for up to 6 generations. The results were overwhelming. We started off in the Belle Isle area and met with the Anderson's on Johnson Island. We spent a wonderful evening on Captain Kidd with the Osborn's. The next day did more filming on Captain Kidd, then moved on to Tobin Harbor. We had great interviews with Grant Merritt on Merritt Island. We also interview Roy Snell and family. The next day we were on Mott Island and had the opportunity to meet with Phyllis Green, Superintendent and Liz Valencia, Cultural Resource Officer. Both indicated a strong interest in supporting our efforts at producing a documentary on the Isle Royale families. We also filmed and interviewed Wes Farmer at Coffee Pot Landing.  That evening we finished our work at Fisherman's Home, filming and interviewing Mark Rude.

Since we have returned David has been busy cataloging up to 30 hours of tape that he has shoot so far. At this point we plan to do some filming on the island this week as well as next summer. The editing process will begin after next season. We hope to have a finished product by the summer of 2005.

IRFFA Board & Officer Meeting September 17th, 2003

The board and officers meet via tele-conference on September 17th. The following items were discussed and decided:

1. Winter meeting is tentatively planned for Minneapolis on Saturday January 17, 2004. Brian Bergson is going to look into a location. We may use the same place as last year. We will provide more information by the end of October or early November.

2. Summer meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 26, 2004 on Belle Isle. We choose this date so that those interested can also attend the IRNHA meeting which occurs the next day.

3. Carla Anderson and I will begin working on the interpretive program. We will soon be looking for volunteers in this effort.

3. Dues. After lengthy discussion, it was decided that charter dues for IRFFA will be $100.00 per adult family unit. Future and permanent annual dues will be decided at a later date. Dues are tentatively set to be renewable every July 1st. The definition of an "adult family unit" is any family or single 21 years or older. For example, the Barnum family consists of myself, my brother Steve, and sister Mary. We three families will contribute $100 each for 3 family memberships. The officers felt, though this level of charter dues are high, it is needed initially to raise a sufficient amount of funds to further our mission. These funds will be used for website improvements, development of the interpretive program, the documentary, filing bylaws,  and other activities related to our functions and meetings to be determined by the board. The board decided that no more than $2500.00  would be spent on any single activity without agreement by the membership.

To date I have invested over $2000 in this effort. I am not asking for any reimbursement for expenses prior to 2003. The amount I have spent in 2003 is under $500.00.  Everyone needs to realize that these efforts can have a big payoff in the long term in preserving our family history, heritage and culture, while at the same time allowing us to make a big contribution to the public and NPS.  Your tangible support is now desperately needed if we are to achieve our goals.

Here are the mechanics of what we are asking you to do now. Send  a check for $100.00 to the below address:
Payable to :
                 Isle Royale Families & Friends Ass. (or IRFFA)
                 David C. Barnum
                 250 Briargate Rd.
                 Cary, IL 60013-2520

Please provide the following information so that we can build a database:
City & State:___________________________ Zip:______________
Island Location:_________________________
Brief History: (See below)
A brief history of your family on the island is essential for our database. Please provide names, DOB of the original purchaser(s) of your land and as much detail as you can about your family history. Also, please provide us with the above contact information of other family members interested in being part of our group. At the moment our data base is limited. We include many families as possible in our efforts. We are counting our active members to encourage all interested family members to join IRFFA now.

We hope that each of you who hold this endeavor close to your heart will contribute the charter membership fee as soon as possible. We also ask that you contact interested family members to do the same.

   Hounded by Regulations, even on Vacation,
             by Roy Snell

As compliance professionals we deal with regulations all day long. Recently I learned that even while on vacation we do not escape them. I just returned from an unbelievably restful vacation in a very remote and serene location. My wife, and our four girls make this trip once a year to a cabin purchased by my grandfather 70 years ago. It is on a deserted 45 mile-long, 9 mile wide island in Lake Superior. My grandfather stayed all summer and used the cabin to write many of the 90 children’s stories he published.  There are no roads, electricity, running water, and very few people. There are harbors, inlets, coves, and 400 smaller islands around the main island. There are lakes on the island only accessible by foot and there are islands on those inland lakes. It is called Isle Royale and it is an archipelago of serenity. 

There was a fox at our door, a moose swimming in our harbor, and loons singing all day and night. We saw northern lights, shooting stars, and the big dipper was so bright we needed sunglasses. Rarely did we see people or boats. There are no lights or noise that we are normally accustomed to hearing. There is no electricity, cell phones do not work, no running water, and the 1920 cooking stove requires wood to function properly. It is a marvelous step back into a simpler time. Even the National Geographic magazine on the shelf is dated, August 1948. 

The reason such a large island is deserted is that the government passed a regulation designating the island become a national park in 1940.  At the time of the government takeover there were dozens of commercial fisherman, resorts, and several families that had cabins on the island. Commercial fisherman and resort owners were evicted and their buildings were burnt to the ground. The cabin owners were given a choice between a check of about $500 or keeping the cabin for the life of the current family members. At the death of the last family member the government would burn the cabin and you would receive no money.  If you took their offer of $500 your cabin was burnt as soon as you left. Many cabin owners sold out because they mistakenly thought the government would bring too many tourists, overpopulate the island and ruin the experience.  There are 10 cabins left now.  I have two uncles on our “Life Lease.” My Uncles are in their late 70s.  Soon we will no longer be able to use our cabin. One uncle has given us permission to put him on indefinite life support; however it is more likely we will be spreading his ashes next to the ashes of our cabin (which of course is illegal due to a government regulation.) 

The government’s intent was to return the island to its original state. They believe it to be one of the few biological ecosystems in the world. For instance, the island has a wolf population that fluctuates from about 12 to 40 depending on the moose population which fluctuates from about 700 to 1,500. When there are a lot of moose, particularly old slow moose, the wolves do well, and their population increases. When the moose are few in number but young and healthy, the wolf population quickly drops. All of the animals are “trapped” on the island which is in the middle of a lake so temperamental that it once snapped a boat named the Edmund Fitzgerald in two.  Flora and fauna can neither enter nor leave the island easily. The ecological balance is contained by Lake Superior. The government has returned the island as close to its original state as possible.  There are strict regulations about where you can go, when you can go there, and what you can do when you get there. 

There is a plaque on the island dedicated to the man who fought for the regulation to take over the island. On this trip I stopped, looked at the plague, and thought once again, “How odd─a plaque to the guy who stole our utopian cabin.”  Only in America. I am often asked what I think about the government takeover and the fact that in a few years we will loose our cabin. My answer has always been the same. I am glad he did it and he deserves a plaque for it. Actually I believe that those of us who sacrificed our property to save the island should be on the plaque. However, from the government’s perspective, listing those who were evicted doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. If the government had not taken over Isle Royale there might be a road down the middle of the island lined with resorts, restaurants, a big casino, and a landing strip with a wind sock. Thousands of cabins would probably line the shore and cover many of the 400 small islands that surround Isle Royale.  At any given time there could be thousands of people on the island. Last year there were only 18,000 visitors a year to Isle Royale, some national parks have that many visitors in a day. Human population on the island is monitored and indirectly discouraged by the strict government regulations. It seems ironic to me that the overpopulation the original “sell-outs” feared was exactly what the government prevented. I am sure many cabin-owners regret selling out. 

There is a small island across from our dock called Musselman's Island that had its two story cabin burned 50 years ago. While I was sitting on my dock one day last week an old man in a small boat pulled up and introduced himself as Musselman Jr. himself. Like everyone, he griped about the government but despite the fact he has no cabin, he was still coming to the island 50 years later. Would he still be coming if the island looked like the city he currently lived in? What would be the point? My grandfather went there in 1932 to get away to a remote location. That was its appeal and value. Although we and others have lost our cabins they would have been “spiritually worthless” by now anyway because the original reason for going there would have been destroyed by capitalists (I love capitalists, but we need to protect a few places from them). What would Isle Royale look like in an unregulated country? Would profiteers have ravaged its trees, minerals, and wildlife?  Many beautiful pieces of land have been significantly change by “progress.” Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely disappointed that we will loose the cabin.  I cannot describe the wonderful experience it is to sit on our porch overlooking Tobin harbor and listening to the loons sing. It has become an annual family retreat of rejuvenation and bonding. Our last day on the on the island will be a terrible day.  It is irreplaceable. Regulations stole our cabin and saved Isle Royale. From the big picture perspective, I would say it was a reasonable trade. From a small picture perspective it is an extraordinary personal sacrifice by our family.   

Regulations often hurt a minority of people while attempting to help the majority of people. Regulations get old and need to be fixed. Regulations cause a lot of additional work. Regulations sometimes do not go far enough and other times they go too far. Some regulations are indefensible. Collectively, regulations affect our countries living style, personality, and culture. Look around the globe and you will see unregulated countries.  In my opinion, under regulated countries work no better than over regulated countries. When you get tired of fighting with the oftentimes frustrating regulations it is helpful to step back and look at alternative unregulated approach some countries take.  Without regulations people can suffer spiritually, physically and economically.  To achieve the overall benefit of regulations we have to take the bad with the good.  When you are out there dealing with the complaints such as “Why do we have to do this?”, “This is not fair!” and “This makes no sense.”, it helps to know that without regulations the environment we created in the United States would not work.  There is no perfect system.   

Compliance professionals can proceed with a greater conviction and peace of mind if you understand and support the overall purpose and impact of regulations.  It helps to support the notion that you must support the bad with the good for a regulatory system to work.  For the system to work we can not just support and comply with the regulations that “make sense.”  If you don’t believe that regulations, despite all of their problems, are necessary and are overall very helpful, your job as a compliance professional will be very painful.

                            Our Mission Statement

To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history.

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Last modified: June 28, 2007