Campaign Updates

Amidst a vote loss, we have much to celebrate

May 7, 2024
Alex Falconer

Last week, U.S. Rep. Stauber (MN-08), the leading proponent of sulfide-ore copper mining next to the Boundary Waters, put his bill H.R. 3195 up for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 3195, which he ironically titled the “Superior National Forest Restoration Act,” was nothing but a blatant political attack on President Biden and against one of his signature conservation wins of his first term and an attempted giveaway to foreign mining companies.

H.R. 3195 would:

  • Rescind the 20-year mining ban of sulfide-ore mining adjacent to and within the watershed of the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park that we achieved in January of 2023
  • Automatically grant mining leases to Chilean mining giant Antofagasta for their Twin Metals sulfide-ore mining proposal alongside Birch Lake - without any environmental review
  • Arbitrarily truncate any future permitting or leasing to an industry dream of only an 18-month timeline for environmental review
  • Block any judicial review of any future mining leases

Not only would his bill allow Antofagasta to establish a massive sulfide-ore mining district along one of the main freshwater arteries that flows through the heart of our Wilderness, but it would establish a system of hastily performed environmental reviews for future projects that will undoubtedly lead to shoddy mine plans, limited public input, and no recourse for the American people in the courts if plans are inadequate, corrupted or just flat out wrong. Rep. Stauber’s bill passed the U.S. House primarily on partisan party lines 212-203. But, we have good news and reason to celebrate. We are not despairing. Here’s why:

  • This bill is Dead on Arrival in the Senate. If you remember from School House Rock (and/or your American civics class!), any bill needs to pass both the House and the Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President.
  • Minnesota Senator Tina Smith is holding steadfast that she wants the Boundary Waters protected for all generations to come. Not only is she publicly and strongly opposed to H.R. 3195 and working to block its introduction in the Senate, she also supports legislation to permanently ban sulfide-ore copper mining from the Boundary Waters Watershed.
    • Just this week, the Star Tribune quoted her as saying, “The Boundary Waters are some of the cleanest waters on Earth, and while I support mining, I can't support sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness' watershed. While I'm disappointed to see this bill pass the House, I'm going to do everything I can to organize my Senate colleagues against this legislation and protect the Boundary Waters.
  • We know even if H.R. 3195 were to pass the Senate, President Biden would veto it.


Our coalition to protect the Boundary Waters from any threats posed by mining companies vying to mine for sulfide-ore copper has never been stronger. This past week, more than 50 organizations from across the country representing millions of Americans came together to support our efforts to oppose H.R. 3195. Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters stepped up by sending staff to join me in lobbying for three days against this bill in the halls of Congress. Together, Matthew and I met with and delivered information to more than 100 targeted members of the House on both sides of the aisle. Our business community stepped up, signing letters and making phone calls to key members of Congress. And finally - you all stepped up. In short order, in what we at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters call a “fire drill moment,” - you responded immediately and when we needed you most. Supporters like you sent in thousands of messages to every member of Congress, made thousands of calls to key targeted members of Congress and got the attention of Democratic leadership in the House, who, for the first time in our Campaign history, instructed their members to vote to protect the Boundary Waters.

In several offices, I heard from staff, “Oh, you’re the Boundary Waters people. We’ve been hearing from you!” Never doubt how much impact your voice makes. Yes, we lost the vote at the end of the day, but here are a few more reasons we won.

  • Way back in 2017, Rep. Emmer had a similar bill in Congress that made it to the floor (H.R. 3905 from the 115th Congress). Back then, we lost 8 Democratic votes. Five of those Democrats are still in office today, and all five of them switched and joined us in voting against Rep. Stauber’s bill! It takes a long time to change a member’s voting pattern and after years of conversations with their staff and the members themselves, we won them over!
  • This time, we lost only 2 Democratic votes: Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington. Please call their office and tell them you are disappointed they were willing to sell out our Boundary Waters to foreign mining interests with no vested interest in our public lands: Rep. Golden’s office: (202) 225-6306 and Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez’s office: (202) 225-3536
  •  The White House issued a Statement of Administrative Policy AGAINST H.R. 3195 - which helped our lobby efforts with members who were considering voting in favor. Alaska’s new Representative, Mary Peltola, voted against H.R. 3195. This is a significant win since she comes from a very pro-extraction state and has taken some pro-extraction votes - but our time spent communicating with her directly and her office paid off to earn her support.

Our campaign has always been rooted in three main things. Science, good public policy, and perhaps most importantly, public opinion. Your support in the form of donations, calls, emails, and for many - direct lobbying efforts with elected officials saved the day for us. Yes, we lost the vote, but we made significant progress in the halls of Congress, and that will pay off. Saving our cherished wilderness was never going to be easy, and we have to stay focused on this long-term goal. The support we’ve gained in D.C. will pay off, hopefully in the near future, when we have a Boundary Waters majority in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. Please keep with us, help us continue to grow and fight and we’ll all, hopefully, someday soon, get to celebrate permanent legislative protections from sulfide-ore copper mining so all generations to come can enjoy the Wilderness as we can today.

take action

Make sure your U.S. Senators oppose a dangerous anti-Boundary Waters bill that passed in the House, should it be introduced in the Senate.