Dayton, Charles, 1936-

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Charles K. Dayton received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1961 and completed law school at the University of Michigan in 1964. He was a partner with the firm of Gray, Plant, Mooty & Anderson from 1970 to 1971, and then became legal director of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) in 1971. Two years later he formed his own law firm with John Herman. The firm continued Dayton's association with MPIRG, and was also counsel for the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Dayton & Herman became known for its interest in environmental law after the firm's participation in two cases that attracted statewide interest: a suit challenging logging of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota, and the litigation concerning pollution of Lake Superior by the Reserve Mining Company. A detailed history of the BWCA cases follows this biographical sketch. Dayton & Herman was listed by the Council for Public Interest Law as the only public interest law firm in Minnesota during the late 1970s. Dayton also became adjunct professor of law at the University of Minnesota in 1980.

The history of the legal battle to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area began as early as 1926, when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture designated the first roadless primitive area in northeastern Minnesota. Impetus for stringent preservation of this wilderness area, located in the Superior National Forest, was initiated with the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which further protected the BWCA. Unlike other wilderness areas covered by the act, the extent of timber harvesting and motorized travel in the BWCA was left to the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture. This special status, which allowed lumber companies to harvest virgin timber in what was perceived by many to be the last great wilderness in the eastern United States, came under increasing attack from environmental groups, In November 1972, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), represented by Charles K. Dayton, asked for a preliminary injunction that would ban further logging in the BWCA until the U.S. Forest Service released an environmental impact statement on existing timber contracts in the wilderness area. This action was based on the National Environmental Policy Act, which stated that an impact statement must be prepared for "major federal actions affecting the quality of the human environment." The case was tried in January 1973, as MPIRG vs. Earl L. Butz, et al (No. 4-72 Civ. 598) in U.S. District Court. During the trial, the plaintiff filed for a permanent injunction against logging in the wilderness area, based on the Wilderness Act of 1964 which required the Secretary of Agriculture to maintain the "primitive character" of the BWCA. On February 8, Judge Miles Lord agreed with the plaintiff's argument and ordered an injunction against logging on or near areas of virgin forest of the BWCA until the Forest Service released an environmental impact statement. Seven logging firms with contracts in the area appealed that decision in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the appellate court upheld the decision on June 10, 1974.

In July the Forest Service released its impact statement, which included provisions for the continued sale of timber contracts within the BWCA. With the prospect of renewed logging operations, MPIRG and the Sierra Club (which had joined the case earlier) went back to the court. They argued that the Forest Service had not complied with Lord's order, and in September, 1974, a preliminary injunction against logging was again ordered until the case could be heard. Nearly a year later, on August 14, 1975, Judge Lord issued a permanent injunction that banned logging in or near virgin forest. The lumber industries appealed that decision in February, 1976, and this time the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Lord's decision. MPIRG filed for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case.

While wilderness advocates felt that they had lost a significant battle for the BWCA, emphasis by 1977 had shifted towards protecting the BWCA through legislative action. Dayton reflected that "while we have a bad decision from the Eighth Circuit, the litigation has resulted in a stay in logging on existing sales for three and one half years, and a continued hold with respect to future sales in the BWCA, and has also provided the impetus for the legislation which is now moving forward in Congress." Even with the court's permission to log the BWCA, U.S. Representative James L. Oberstar, who was pushing his own BWCA bill through Congress, convinced the lumber companies to voluntarily halt logging for six months.

During the MPIRG vs. Butz case, another court action was initiated, this time concerning motorized travel within the BWCA. In October, 1974, the Minnesota Federation of Ski Touring Clubs (Minntour), represented by Charles Dayton, requested an administrative review of the Forest Service's "Land Use Management Plan for the BWCA," which allowed the use of snowmobiles in the wilderness area until April 15, 1980. Minntour contended that the use of snowmobiles was unlawful according to the Wilderness Act and that the Forest Service had no basis for granting any grace period in which to phase out the vehicles. On December 11, regional forester Jay Cravens responded that the law gave the Forest Service discretion in determining snowmobile policy. On April 30, 1975, the chief of the Forest Service, John McGuire, reviewed the management plan and upheld Cravens' decision, although McGuire reduced the phase-out period for snowmobiles to the end of the 1974-1975 season.

This action prompted snowmobile groups to appeal the decision. The Sierra Club then asked for a ruling regarding motorboat use. McGuire responded in November, 1975, standing firm on the ruling that the Forest Service had discretionary authority over the use of motorized vehicles in the BWCA. However, he pushed the ban on snowmobiles back another year to allow the snowmobile groups to exhaust all channels of appeal. Finally, after a review by the Secretary of Agriculture (who had jurisdiction over the Forest Service) and an April, 1976 hearing in Duluth, Minntour and the U.S. Central Ski Association commenced action in U.S. District Court for a declaratory judgment on the secretary's discretionary authority in the BWCA. In January 1977, the court reaffirmed that the Secretary of Agriculture (hence the Forest Service) could determine the extent of motorized travel in the BWCA. However, by this time Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture, had decided to close the wilderness to snowmobiles (September 1976).

In 1977, two bills were introduced in Congress in an attempt to resolve the BWCA controversy. Representative Oberstar, whose district included the BWCA, introduced a bill (HR 8722) that proposed to maintain the past system of a portal zone (or National Recreational Area) surrounding a wilderness zone. Logging, snowmobiles, and motorboats would be permitted in the 459,000 acre Recreational Area, whereas the wilderness zone would be fully protected. This bill was supported by most of the residents living near the BWCA. Another bill (HR 2820) was introduced by Donald Fraser. This bill, supported by most environmentalists, designated the entire BWCA as a wilderness area with no motorized vehicles allowed and no logging permitted. Though differences between the bills seemed irreconcilable, Phillip Burton, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks and Insular Affairs, submitted a compromise bill (HR 12250). This bill proposed to establish a small (206,644 acres) National Recreational Area and allowed some motor use. Further compromises were attempted, and on at least one occasion Charles Dayton was involved in the congressional negotiations. HR 12250 was finally passed by the House on June 5, 1978.

A Senate companion bill (S3242) was introduced by Minnesota's Wendell Anderson later that month. This bill was more liberal than the House bill in allowing motors in the BWCA, but in October 1978 a compromise between the two houses was reached and the BWCA Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act became law. The act created a BWCA Mining Protection Area, allowed for limited use of motorboats and snowmobiles in the wilderness area, terminated all timber contracts within one year, and provided restitution for resort owners in or near the BWCA.

From the guide to the Charles K. Dayton papers., 1922-1979., (Minnesota Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dayton, Charles K., 1939- . Charles K. Dayton papers, 1922-1979. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Charles K. Dayton papers., 1922-1979. Minnesota Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Anderson, Wendell Richard, 1933- person
associatedWith Boise Cascade Paper Company (International Falls, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Burton, Phillip. person
associatedWith Consolidated Papers, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Flint, Richard. person
associatedWith Fraser, Donald MacKay, 1924- person
associatedWith Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. corporateBody
associatedWith Heinselman, Miron L. person
associatedWith Kainz Logging Company (Ely, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Federation of Ski Touring Clubs. corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota Public Interst Research Group. corporateBody
associatedWith Northern Forest Products Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Northwest Paper Company (Cloquet, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Northwest Paper Company (Cloquet, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Oberstar, James L. (James Louis), 1934- person
associatedWith Olson, Sigurd F., 1899- person
associatedWith Rom, Bill. person
associatedWith Rom, Bill. person
associatedWith Sierra Club. North Star Chapter. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Central Ski Association. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Forest Service. corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Central Ski Association. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Boundary Waters Canoe Area (Minn.)
Boundary Waters Canoe Area (Minn.).
Superior National Forest (Minn.).
Conservation of natural resources
Conservation of natural resources
Forest protection
Forest protection
Forestry law and legislation
Forestry law and legislation
Forests and forestry
Wilderness areas
Wilderness areas


Birth 1936



Ark ID: w6865fb4

SNAC ID: 25914803