My former boss and mentor, the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento is smiling down on us right now.
The reason is that we just heard today that federal land managers decided to reject a proposed mine in the heart of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness.
Throughout his career, Vento made protection of the Boundary Waters one of his main issues. He successfully fought to keep this place wild by securing portions of the pristine inter-connected waterways free of motorized boats. So – as a result of his efforts, you can experience only the sounds of crying loons, the scream of a fly reel with a tight line, Moose splashing in the shallows, and ripples from a paddle as you portage a canoe just like the ol fur traders and pioneers did way back in the day.
Now, with this rejection, these sounds will be amplified!
For those that don’t know, the Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of the most spectacular places in America and a key driver of Northeastern Minnesota’s economy. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited Wilderness Area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world. It helps drive more than $850 million in economic activity every year that supports nearly 17,000 jobs.
So yes, this is a big deal! There are simply some places just too wild to ruin from development. Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of them. Thank you to all the groups who worked on this, especially Save the Boundary Waters, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, National Wildlife Federation among others.
Below is a release by a coalition of groups…
Guided by science and public opinion, land managers say “no” to proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threatening Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Wilderness
Broad coalition of Minnesota business leaders, sportsmen, veterans and conservationists praise the decision & urge permanent protection
Next steps: Comprehensive environmental review will determine whether the watershed – which drives enormous economic activity as America’s most popular wilderness area – should be removed from the federal mining program altogether
Ely, MN—Today, guided by science and public opinion, federal agencies charged with stewardship of taxpayer-owned public lands denied the renewal of two mineral leases adjacent to Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and upstream of Voyageurs National Park. The decision halts a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine project from destroying the pristine waters of America’s most popular wilderness area – a prime hunting, fishing and recreation destination that helps support 17,000 jobs and drive $850 million in economic activity annually. Sixty-seven percent of Minnesotans opposed the project.
In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it will begin a comprehensive environmental review to determine whether the watershed of the BWCA is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. Numerous scientific studies show the dramatic risk such a mine would pose to the water-intensive, ecologically sensitive wilderness of the Boundary Waters. Nearly 8 in 10 Minnesotans support such a study.
This past summer, more than 74,000 people and 200 sportsmen’s organizations, businesses, and conservation groups sent letters expressing support for not renewing the expired Twin Metals leases and protecting the BWCA watershed. Rural communities in particular benefit from recreation in U.S. National Forests, which nationally drive $11 billion in consumer spending within 50 miles of forest boundaries.
“The Boundary Waters is a special place for Minnesotans who love hunting, fishing and recreation and who depend on thousands of jobs sustained by America’s most-popular wilderness,” said Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “Science has clearly shown that copper mining would inflict devastating harm on this priceless wilderness. Today’s decision reflects strong support from a majority of Minnesotans who want to prioritize the wide-ranging value our communities gain from a healthy Boundary Waters, rather than open an industrial mining zone less than a mile from the wilderness edge.”
Rom added: “It’s a strong first step, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can protect the BWCA for future generations. Our coalition keeps growing as sportsmen, veterans, businesses and other interests sign on to support our efforts.”
“The Forest Service and Interior Department have wisely recognized that the Boundary Waters is an American crown jewel too special to risk. Too special for anglers, too special for hunters, too special for canoeists and communities and wildlife. This decision recognizes that the long term values for the local economy and future generations far outweigh the speculative short term benefits of sulfide mining in such a cherished landscape.” said Collin O’Mara, President & CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
Expired mineral leases held by Twin Metals were initially issued in 1966, before modern American environmental laws existed, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the law that requires environmental impacts to be considered before decisions are made regarding where mines can be sited. As a result, these leases never underwent environmental review.
The environmental review initiated by the Department of the Interior will be a comprehensive, watershed level analysis that will look at the value of the land and water, including their economic, social and cultural importance. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world.
These decisions only affect proposed copper nickel mining in the Boundary Waters watershed and will not affect Minnesota’s taconite industry. Taconite and other iron deposits are in a different geography and in a different type of ore.
Sulfide-ore copper mining – one of the most toxic industries in America– has never been done before in Minnesota. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is a broad national coalition of business people, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and others that was founded by residents of Ely, Minnesota in 2013. The Campaign works to protect the interests of the people of the United States in a healthy Boundary Waters Wilderness. A strong majority of Minnesotans opposed the Twin Metals project, including 61 percent of residents in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District (which includes the Iron Range and Duluth).