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THEY LIED — The feds ignored facts in order to sell out America’s public lands.

Thursday, October 4, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

This past September, the Trump Administration officials announced that the application for a mineral withdrawal, which would have protected Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining, was cancelled. The Administration ignored science and facts, and did not complete a promised study on the social, economic and environmental harm that sulfide-ore copper mining would do to America’s most visited Wilderness. There is no indication the required environmental assessment was ever completed nor was it ever put out for public comment, which is normal practice.

Secretary Sonny Perdue’s Promise:

In May 2017, in response to Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D, MN), two senior members of the Trump Administration – Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (USDA), and Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service – promised the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Committee that they would “absolutely” complete an all-important environmental study intended to determine whether the watershed flowing into the Boundary Waters is the right place to consider sulfide-ore copper mining.  

The study was initiated in January, 2017, when the U.S. Forest Service submitted its formal request that federal lands in the Boundary Waters watershed be put off-limits to new mineral leasing and exploration for 20 years — a type of action called a “mineral withdrawal.”   

Secretary Perdue Broke His Promise:

On September 6, 2018, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture cancelled the Forest Service’s application for a withdrawal before the environmental study was complete. In doing so, he not only broke his word, but also turned his back on the Boundary Waters and all who love it.

How do we know the environmental study was never completed?

  • The USDA’s September 6 press release never exactly said that the agency had completed it, and failed to provide a link to the study.  

  • The Secretary’s cancelation of the study happened nearly two months before the U.S. Forest Service’s estimated date for when the final environmental review document would be available (November 1, 2018).  

The U.S. Forest Service admits it did not complete the environmental study. In an email responding to our written request for a copy of the completed environmental assessment (EA), The Press Officer for the Forest Service responded: “We do not have a completed EA to send you, because we determined there was not any need to complete the process on an environmental assessment based on what we learned over the last 15 months.”

Here are some of the facts behind the decision to open up Superior National Forest to sulfide-ore copper mining:

  • 19  SCIENTIFIC STUDIES - The Trump Administration claims that after an “extensive review,” there was no new “scientific information.” However, public record shows that 19 new studies, reports, and scientific journal articles were submitted to the Forest Service on this issue.

  • 4,500 JOBS > 650 JOBS - This year, a first-of-its-kind  independent economic analysis by Harvard economists was published.  It compared the effects of the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed 20-year mining ban near the Boundary Waters, with the consequences of sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed. The authors modeled 36 employment scenarios and 72 different income scenarios comparing the proposed 20-year ban versus a Twin Metals mine. In all employment scenarios the 20-year ban produced more jobs over a 20-year period in the Boundary Waters region than the mining scenario. In the best-case scenario, Twin Metals Minnesota would only create 650 jobs versus the 4,500 jobs that will be created over 20 years if copper mining is banned and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is protected.
    Learn more about the Harvard Study.
  • $950 MILLION MORE FROM AN AMENITY-BASED ECONOMY THAN A COPPER MINE - The same Harvard study showed that a healthy Boundary Waters creates a healthy business boom for the long-haul: a 20-year mining ban would produce far greater economic benefit and diversity than the proposed Twin Metals mine with up to $900 million more personal income to the local area over 20 years if copper mining is banned. Learn more about the Harvard Study.

  • NOT ONE COPPER MINE HAS OPERATED SAFELY - In the history of sulfide-ore copper mining, no copper mine has ever operated and been closed for at least 10 years without polluting surrounding surface water or groundwater. The copper mining industry has a long and continuing history  of severe water pollution including acid drainage, heavy metals contamination, sulfates, and exceedingly high specific conductance, as well as increasingly frequent catastrophic accidents such as tailings dam failures. And even state-of-the-art mines are at risk for major infrastructure disaster. “Research shows that mines with high acid generating potential and in close proximity to surface and groundwater are at highest risk for water quality impacts.” US Copper Porphyry Mines Report, Bonnie Gestring; Earthworks.
  • 500+ YEARS OF POLLUTION - Conservative models of pollution show that waterways would carry contaminants into the Wilderness. A single mine in this watershed will continually pollute the wilderness for at least 500 years¹. Tom Meyers, Ph. D. said in one of his reports, “If the sulfide mines are developed in the Rainy Headwaters, it is not a question of whether, but when, a leak will occur that will have major impacts on the water quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”
    Learn more about the scientific research pertaining to sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness here.
  • WE THE PEOPLE DON’T WANT THIS MINE - Hundreds of thousands are speaking out against this mine. Polling shows that more Minnesotans than ever want to protect the Boundary Waters from the threat of copper-nickel mining. Polling results from President Trump’s chief polling firm, Fabrizio Ward, show that 70% of Minnesotans are against sulfide-ore copper mining in the areas near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

    An analysis by Key Log Economics found that of the more than 81,000 unique comment letters submitted to the Forest Service in 2017, 98.2%  supported a 20-year ban on sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. In addition, the Forest Service received petitions and postcards signed by 41,971 people that support the mineral withdrawal. Altogether, 121,539 people urged the Forest Service to protect the Boundary Waters. This scoping comment period generated the most participation in an environmental review process in Minnesota history.

  • IVANKA TRUMP’S LANDLORD -It all comes down to one foreign billionaire who happens to be Ivanka Trump's landlord. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are paying $15,000 a month to rent their home in the D.C. from Andrónico Luksic, owner of foreign mining giant Antofagasta, the parent company to Twin Metals Minnesota. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Chilean billionaire bought a Washington, D.C., mansion for $5.5 million, just after the November election on December 22, 2016, and that twelve days after the purchase, Luksic’s company rented the mansion to Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner.
  • It’s clear whose interest this Administration is serving. And it’s not that of the American people.  Antofagasta, which owns several copper mines in Chile, has an environmental and social track record that should concern anyone who cares about the Boundary Waters and the surrounding communities. We must continue to speak loudly for this quiet place.

1. Scoping comment letter (part 3) of NMW et al. Northern Minnesota Federal Minerals Withdrawal EIS 8-17-2017

We’re ready to take this fight outside.

Friday, September 14, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
4 things you can do right now to fight the Trump Administration’s decision to cancel the mineral withdrawal. 

September 12, 2018

Last week, Secretary Perdue went back on his word and broke his promise to each of us as American citizens by cancelling an ongoing Forest Service study. The completion of which was Perdue’s prerogative before making any decision on protecting the Boundary Waters, as he himself gave his word during congressional testimony. This study was to establish the science, economics and public opinion before making any decision. Over 180,000 Americans voiced their opinion and volumes of research were submitted proving the awaiting disaster. Without this study, we the people are now denied a reasoned and careful approach, through the silencing of sciences and our collective voices.

While there are many reasons to defend the Boundary Waters, I am personally in this fight because I want the Boundary Waters preserved for my kids and generations to come. It is my main motivation and the driver behind why I stay in this fight. 

However, no matter what your reason is for protecting the watershed of the Boundary Waters, there are four things you can do right now to fight this terrible betrayal:

  1. Sign the NEW petition and share it.
    We have an updated petition since the news from September will be automatically sent to your U.S. House member and both U.S. Senators to demand them to either stand with Trump or the American people. Then share the heck out of it—the more people the more power we have.
    Sign your name >

  1. Raise your voice or write it down.
    Do you have a lot of opinions on this and want to help? While we all needed a moment to let out our frustrations, it’s time to strike back. Post about it on social. Write a letter to the editor, no matter where in the U.S. you live. Host a house party and tell your friends and family. Ask others what they are doing to help save the Boundary Waters. There is no platform or conversation too small to make a difference.
    Like us on Facebook >
    Follow us on Twitter >
    Heart us on Instagram >

  1. Vote for the Boundary Waters.
    November 6. NOVEMBER 6!!! Remember this date, mark it on your calendar, and text your friends if they need a ride to go vote on November 6. Research candidates now and demand they protect the Boundary Waters. Tell them your vote is a Boundary Waters vote.
    Add it to your calendar >

  1. Donate. If you’ve got the money, we’ve got the time.
    I put this last because now, more than ever, we need people who can take meaningful actions. Not everyone can make a donation. If you can something as little as $3 makes a difference. Now that the Trump Administration opened up Superior National Forest to new mining prospects, we’re going to need to challenge everything the Administration throws at us.
    Donate Here >

The strength of our Campaign is that people like me and like you from across the country have banded together to protect this special place for any variety of reasons. We all know, once you have experienced the Boundary Waters, it is something that stays with you forever. It becomes a part of who you are and it is worth fighting for.

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support over the past few years. While we face challenges ahead, we are in a strong position to fight back now and into the future. Please stay with us, stay informed, stay in the fight and make your voice heard.

For the Wilderness,
Alex



Trump Administration breaks promise to protect the Boundary Waters—gives in to foreign mining interests.

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The decision opens the path for Chilean-based Twin Metals, and any other interested party, the option to lease public lands next to the Boundary Waters for sulfide-ore copper mining.

September 6, 2018 

Today, Trump Administration officials announced that they canceled the application for a mineral withdrawal that would have protected Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. The Administration ignored science and facts and clearly did not complete a promised study on the social, economic and environmental harm that sulfide-ore copper mining would do to America’s most popular Wilderness. There is no indication the required environmental assessment was ever completed nor was it ever put out for public comment, which is normal practice. The study had already been downgraded from an Environmental Impact Statement to a less rigorous Environmental Assessment. This comes after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, whose office oversees the environmental assessment, told a congressional panel that they would “absolutely” finish this key study  and make no decisions until after it was concluded.

“The Trump Administration broke it’s word to us, to Congress, and to the American people when it said it would finish the environmental assessment and base decisions on facts and science,” said Alex Falconer, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “This is nothing less than a giveaway by the administration to a foreign mining conglomerate whose owner just happens to be Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s landlord.  It’s clear whose interest this Administration is really serving, and it’s not that of the American people.”

After reviewing the science and public comments from sportsmen, veterans, scientists and tribes the former Chief of the US Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, said: “I find unacceptable the inherent potential risk that development of a regionally-untested copper nickel sulfide ore mine within the same watershed as the BWCAW might cause serious and irreplaceable harm to this unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness area.”

The Boundary Waters is a national icon, one of the last truly wild places on earth, and a major economic driver for Northern Minnesota. The study would have analyzed the threats and costs to the community posed by sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the wilderness. Earlier this year the Trump Administration unlawfully reinstated mineral leases to Twin Metals which had previously been denied by the former administration, allowing them to circumvent environmental review. That decision is being challenged in court.

Today’s decision flies in the face of strong evidence that sulfide-ore copper mining would have an overwhelmingly negative impact on the land, water and economy of Northeastern Minnesota.

It also completely disregards the voices of over 180,000 American citizens who participated in good faith in public comment periods held by the US Forest Service. During the first comment period for the study 98% of respondents urged protection of this wild and beautiful place.

Now, it's up to us to speak loudly for the Boundary Waters. 

Donate now to defend the Boundary Waters.

Business Spotlight: Surly Bikes

Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Posted by
Amy Freeman

Surly Bikes is a Voyageur sponsor of Pedal to DC

I have a confession to make: my husband, Dave Freeman, and I do not consider ourselves to be cyclists. Before embarking on a 2,000 mile, two-month journey by bicycle from Ely, MN to Washington, D.C. we had little experience distance touring by bicycle, but we didn’t let that dissuade us from our mission to use this bike tour as a way to raise awareness about the threat of a copper mine being proposed upstream from our nation’s most popular Wilderness Area and Minnesota’s crown jewel— the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We were stoked to learn that Surly wanted to be a part of it by donating two Disc Trucker bikes to the cause.

We began pedaling from Ely, Minnesota on April 20, just a few days after one last snowstorm blanketed the northwoods in a foot of snow. Tree branches were still barren and the ice on most of the lakes was several feet thick. An entourage of a dozen people pedaled the first twelve miles with us to the South Kawishiwi River bridge.

The South Kawishiwi River is basically ground zero for the proposed Twin Metals copper mine. The water that flows under the bridge makes its way through several lakes and then into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which means any pollution from the proposed copper mine would flow into the Wilderness Area. Dave and I have engaged in several adventure advocacy projects with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters to raise awareness about this threat to our nation’s most popular Wilderness Area. In 2014 we paddled to Washington D.C. in a Wenonah canoe that people signed as a petition to stop the proposed mining. In the fall of 2015 we paddled into the Boundary Waters and remained there for 366 days for this same cause.

Spending a whole year in the Wilderness, bearing witness to this 1.1 million acres of lake-studded Laurentian mixed forest, inspired us to write a book. That became a reality one year after we exited the Boundary Waters: A Year in the Wilderness, published by Milkweed Editions. When the book came out we went on a traditional book tour, driving and flying around, living in hotel rooms, living in hotel rooms, eating junk food and getting zero exercise. We thought that there had to better way for us to do this, so we proposed a book tour by bicycle. Dave suggested that if we’re traveling around the country by bicycle, we might as well tow a canoe and gather signatures on it. Then, we thought, if we’re towing a petition canoe, we might as well go to Washington D.C. 2018 seemed like the right timing since this year is the 40th anniversary of the passing of the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act.

We were on the road for 60 days and stayed in hotels for 5 nights, camped for 7 nights, and stayed with friends, family, and strangers for the remaining 48. People welcomed us into their homes and often fed us and stuffed our pockets with snacks for the next day. We tried to compensate them for their generosity with a signed copy of our book, if they don’t already have one, and stories from our travels, but I think the real gift we gave each other was just slowing down and being present in people’s lives.  

Our Disc Truckers saw us through all sorts of challenges along our route. They were always comfortable to ride. We never even got a flat tire. From the hills of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region to the muddy, rutted C&O Canal, and all sorts of trails and roads in between, we didn’t have to give much thought to our bikes because they simply performed exceptionally well in whatever situation we could throw at them.

Pedal to DC allowed us to spend time outside being active, observing the natural world, living and traveling simply, while spreading our message about the Boundary Waters. We spent two months feeling the wind, sun, and rain on our bodies. Our muscles were tired at the end of the day, and our minds bright and active from hours of quiet contemplation as we rode. The snowbanks slowly disappeared as we pedaled south. We noticed frogs calling for the first time and watched sandhill cranes migrate overhead. We felt spring gradually turn to summer and as the temperature soared into the 90s, we appreciated resting in the shade of a tree along a country road in a way we never would if we were rushing past in an air-conditioned car. Beyond this, the trip allowed us to engage with people, educating them about the Boundary Waters and encouraging them to take action by signing our canoe—and a petition that we delivered to our elected officials and decision makers when we finally reached D.C.

Thank you Surly, for the Disc Truckers and for standing behind a cause you believe in. We’re so glad that you’re playing a role in preserving the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we let our elected officials know how important our public lands and waters are to us. Please sign the petition at savetheboundarywaters.org. You can find posts from the Pedal to DC and see what we’re up to now on Instagram and Facebook @FreemanExplore.

Keep Exploring!
Amy Freeman


The Boundary Waters Works for Minnesota

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
A new, independent Harvard study proves that protecting a Boundary Waters-based economy creates more jobs than a Twin Metals mine.

The Boundary Waters is good for business. Northeastern Minnesota’s diverse and growing Wilderness-based economy consists  of numerous industries – including tourism and recreation, small businesses, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, services, forest products and taconite mining – which can coexist peacefully as long as sulfide-ore copper mining does not occur within the Boundary Waters watershed.

This month, a new independent Harvard study was published to show the strength of the Arrowhead economy—over 72 times—in a first-of-its-kind economic analysis that uses a twenty-year period to examine the impacts of copper mining in the withdrawal-study area versus a 20-year mineral withdrawal.

The analysis focused on how three factors would play out in the greater-Ely region of Minnesota:

  1. Employment and income generated by the Twin Metals mine

  2. Employment and income generated in the recreation industry

  3. Income associated with in-migration into the area for its natural amenity values

To do this, the independent economists modeled 72 different scenarios comparing the proposed 20-year ban versus a Twin Metals mine. In all but three of scenarios, the 20-year ban produced greater economic benefits. This means that in almost 96% of the scenarios, protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining won out, even under some of the most conservative circumstances.

To make this long-term study unbiased, the authors left out additional variables, such as the negative impact of mining on real estate values, that would have otherwise made the economic advantage of protection even more stark.

In conclusion, the study showed that a healthy Boundary Waters creates a healthy business boom for the long-haul: a 20-year mining ban would produce far greater economic benefit and diversity than the proposed Twin Metals mine with up to 4,500 more jobs and $900 million more personal income to the local area over 20 years if copper mining is banned.

Here’s just one example of the growing, local economy that was recently featured by the White House at their Made in America event last month.

Business Spotlight: Littlbug

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Posted by
Dave Freeman

Littlbug is a Voyaguer sponsor of Pedal to DC.

Warm, hearty meals are a quintessential part of backcountry exploration for most people. Out of the simple pleasure derived from a steaming cup of coffee or golden brown walleye-fillet fresh off the skillet deep in the Boundary Waters, Littlbug created a simple, durable, compact stove that’s fueled by twiggs and small sticks that are abundant and easy to gather through out canoe country. Like a warm meal, clean water is one of those basic things that we all need and we are so thankful that Littlbug understands the importance of protecting the Boundary Waters and the more than 800 lakes, rivers, and streams which flow through our nation’s most popular Wilderness.

A sulfide-ore copper mine called Twin Metals is being proposed just outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and any water pollution from the mine could flow directly into the Wilderness. To raise awareness about this eminent threat my wife, Amy Freeman, and I decided to tow a canoe covered in signatures from the edge of the Boundary Waters to Washington DC. Our 2 month, 2,000 mile journey took us through 9 states and we did over 40 presentations and events in communities all along the way. Littlbug donated $1,000 to help make Pedal to DC possible and we are so thankful that they are supporting the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and our efforts to protect this national treasure. Littlbug understands that wild places like the Boundary Waters are critically important and need to be protected for future generations.

While I often take a Littlbug stove on Boundary Waters canoe trips, I have also used it farther afield. In 2014 my colleague, Paul Schurke, and I joined 6 Brazilians to retrace President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1914 first descent of the River of Doubt. This remote, and rapid studded river in the heart of the Amazon remains extremely wild. We planned to spend 5 weeks on the river without resupply so we would need to carry all of our food and fuel with us. We decided to take two Senior Littlbug stoves so that we could cook our meals using small sticks that we gathered on the sand bars and rock shelves where we would camp. This saved us a considerable amount of weight and expense because our party of eight would have used about 4 gallons of fuel during the expedition. Littlbug stoves allowed us to boil water and cook our food quickly and we rarely had to wander more than 100 feet to gather all the wood we needed. When folks think about that Amazon they often envision hordes of mosquitoes. Luckily for us, the mosquitoes were not bad because we were there during the dry season, but we enjoyed keeping a small smudge fire burning in one of the stoves in the evening to help keep our campsite bug free.

Thank you Littlbug for making such a great little stove, and for helping to protect our public lands. The Boundary Waters belongs to all of us, and its important that we all speak loudly for this quiet place.

Lake of the Week: Sawbill Lake

Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Posted by
Cooper Silburn

Acres: 898.1
Campsites: 13

Sawbill Lake, the 38th point of entry into the Boundary Waters, is one of the most beloved and memorable lakes for Boundary Waters explorers. In 1957, Frank and Mary Alice Hansen started up the renowned Sawbill Outfitters near the lake. Like many of the other outfitters surrounding the Boundary Waters, Sawbill Outfitters has helped make the Boundary Waters a more accessible Wilderness to people from all around the country.

Head northeast and you’ll find your way past Brule Lake, with the potential to make it to Gunflint. Going northwest will take you towards Little Saganaga Lake and Kekekabic Lake. There are many route options for your trips out of Sawbill, so be sure to take the time if you can and get out to some of the places deeper into the Boundary Waters than you might not normally venture. Don’t pass up the opportuniy to visit Sawbill Lake if you get the chance. It will always be worth your while.

Business Spotlight: Seven Sundays

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Seven Sundays is a Voyageur sponsor of Pedal to DC.

Seven Sundays all started because of a honeymoon to New Zealand. It may have been predestined, but it was here over the course of this month long trip of backpacking and camping where we found ourselves, fell in love with nature, and discovered muesli. Within a 6 months, we were in a Uhaul headed back to Minnesota from our fast paced New York City life. In the Summer of 2011, we sold our first bag of Seven Sundays in the Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis. At the same time, we were starting a family. Admittedly, the balance of starting a food business and raising kids has been challenging at times. It has afforded us flexibility, though, and we have always prioritized carving out time to disconnect and "just be" in nature.

In our humble opinion, there is no better place in the world (outside of New Zealand perhaps) to disconnect than the Boundary Waters. We have taken many trips over the last 7 years, from week long adventures with no kids covering lots of water and portages, to a short and sweet 36 hour stint with our 2 boys (including a potty training toddler) this summer. Every moment of packing, portaging and paddling has been worth the effort. Likewise, every dollar we have donated to Save the BWCA as a family and as a business has been worth it. We are so thankful for people like Dave & Amy Freeman who are working hard and speaking loudly for this quiet place. The least we can do is provide them with a little nourishment along their journey.


Seven Sundays was an extremely valuable source of support and of sustenance to the Freemans on their bike tour across the Eastern United States to spread the word about the Boundary Waters.  You can read more about Seven Sundays and their mission to “flip the breakfast aisle on it’s head” on their website. We are grateful for the support of Seven Sundays.

Business Spotlight: Piragis Northwoods

Monday, August 6, 2018
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Piragis Northwoods is a Voyageur sponsor of Pedal toDC

We got really, really lucky one day in the spring of 1975. Nancy and I were hanging out in the Zoology Department at The University of New Hampshire as technicians and grad students when our major professor, Dr. Jim Haney, asked if anyone might want to work with zooplankton in Ely, Minnesota. Hell yeah, we both said, but the job was just for one person. With two volunteers, Dr. Haney called the EPA in Ely and made it clear that the work they needed done would require two people. Voila! We both had a job for the summer as contractors with the US EPA in where? Ely, Minnesota? Where the heck is Ely and what were we in for?

The rest is really one very long history but it still in many ways feels like the summer of 75 to Nancy and me. We did our jobs for EPA, came back in 76, got other jobs with the DNR and taught biology at Vermilion Community College. That all ended abruptly and we got into business and founded our company in 1979. We never looked back really. With degrees and some life experiences we found Ely to be home. It seemed right. We were in love with each other and the Boundary Waters and we couldn't imagine going anywhere else. Now, some 40 years later we're still happy and we have carved a niche that we're really pretty proud of.

In our tenure up north in Ely we've seen the Boundary Waters get more protection as a wilderness in 1978 and we've seen threats appear to the wilderness. The biggest threat that has lingered for a long time resurfaced in the last 10 years when the price of copper rose to record levels and mining companies became interested again in the ore deep in the crust just outside the Boundary Waters. This time the threat was real and imminent. As biologists we understood the threat to the water from acid runoff of copper mines. The sulfide ores around world are all dangerous to the watersheds and they always pollute wherever they are mined. Nancy and I had to act to stop any mine near the wilderness waters of the BWCAW.

Our little business, Piragis Northwoods Co. lead by two nature freaks from the east managed to prosper with a lot of hard work, great employees and a little luck. We've grown slowly and steadily and sustainably since 1979 to the point today where we employ over 50 people in summer and 20 year round. Our concern for the Boundary Waters has not waned over these years. The wilderness is what Ely is all about. It brings us business, pays our salaries and support all the families we employ. We love the wilderness just for its purity and its ability to bring us back to reality whenever we travel by canoe, ski or snowshoe. The lakes and streams here are vulnerable to acid pollution. The wilderness experience we and thousands of others seek could so easily be lost. Our work to stop copper mining in our watershed is because we love this wilderness and all it means to us. It's also because we love our business, our customers and all our dedicated employees. It's important that this threat never materializes and displaces all of us in this sustainable world with a boom and bust town and a dead watershed.

So life is good yet today in our end-of-the-road town. We still paddle, hike, ski, and enjoy every season. We have traveled the world since 1979 and have seen great wilderness areas and wild coastlines kayaking from Greenland to Chile to Vietnam. Nancy and I still find the Boundary Waters to be the wild country we love best. There's nothing like the call of the loon on a clear wilderness lake far from the maddening crowds of normal life. It focuses our attention on the present and why we work to protect it.

I have hope for the future of our business and our great wilderness if we can weather the current storm and put to rest all the claims to riches that lie beneath it today, safe and deep in the earth's crust.


 Steve and Nancy Piragis founded Piragis Northwoods in 1979, and their doors are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., so be sure to stop by and say hello on your next Boundary Waters trip. We are grateful for the support of Piragis Northwoods. 


A leader for the next generation of Boundary Waters protectors

Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Posted by
Joseph Goldstein

One morning this July, I was fortunate to join hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts at the Conservation Alliance Breakfast in Denver, CO. The Keynote speaker was Mr. Timothy Egan, the inspiring author of one of my favorite books, The Worst Hard Time. He spoke about just one of the many things that has made America great over the last hundred years: Our rich legacy of shared public lands and wilderness. It is a uniquely American concept, and it has a storied history that is both tumultuous and eerily familiar in our current political climate.

As Mr. Egan spoke, I began reflecting on my own “conversion” story – that moment in time when wilderness reached into my soul and changed me irreversibly. It isn’t difficult for me to pinpoint – I was six and we paddled into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) for the first time. I spent the next week, shoeless and shirtless, running through the woods, climbing trees, swimming and drinking from the clearest of lake waters, building fires, catching and learning to clean fish and, of course, being utterly transformed as I watched the stars and listened to the stillness of the night. That week remains amongst the most vivid of my life’s memories.

That trip instilled a hunger in me for wild places, and soon we were travelling all kinds of wilderness, summers and winters, our trips getting longer and our adventures far reaching – trips across the arctic ice in Svalbard, two weeks living and travelling with Inuit hunters in Western Greenland. But always - no matter where I travelled or how exciting the adventure – every year the BWCA called me home again.

All that changed in a blink. In October of 2014, at age 13, my travels came to a screeching halt. Unusual bruising led to a blood draw, which landed me directly in the pediatric ICU with a diagnosis of High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Just like that, our adventures were on indefinite hold. I was suddenly staring at 3.5 years of daily chemotherapy and wondering, not how I’d survive my cancer, but how I could possibly survive without my wilderness.

Inspiration, though, comes from surprising places. The summer before my diagnosis I’d been in Ely, MN, the last town at the end of the road before one heads into the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and I’d learned that a sulfide-ore copper mine had been proposed right on the edge of the Wilderness, within its watershed. This type of mining has never been done without significant environmental damage, anywhere, and has been deemed by the EPA as America’s “most toxic industry.” I’d signed petitions while in Ely and promised I’d do what I could to help the campaign to stop this dangerous and toxic mine.

About two weeks after my diagnosis, a representative from the Make A Wish Foundation came to visit me at the hospital. She told me I’d been granted a wish, and talked about the foundation and the work they do on behalf of critically ill children. It was shocking – the idea that my “bad luck” had earned me a wish like that…it set the wheels spinning. Especially as she told me about the wishes they’d granted other children: trips, celebrity visits, shopping excursions, even a swimming pool and pony.

For me, choosing my wish was simple: To Save the Boundary Waters.

As it turns out, though, wishes take work, even with an organization like Make A Wish in your corner. The political nature of my wish made it impossible for them to help and, ultimately, my wish was “closed” as ungranted. In the meantime, though, I had learned how fight for what matters: my life, (my hair!) and the Boundary Waters.

Over the next 3.5 years, whenever my treatment allowed, I travelled to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and leadership to make our case in defense of the BWCA. I wrote blogs, gave speeches, made phone calls, wrote letters and granted interviews – whatever I could do with my time and energy to try and protect this wilderness that myself and so many Americans love so much.. The Boundary Waters are 1.1 million acres of pristine water and unspoiled woods.  It has a long history of environmental protections put in place dating back to 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt established the Superior National Forest. I felt as though I walked in the footsteps of environmental giants with every trip, every meeting, and every small success in the fight.

In February of 2018 I took my last dose of 3.5 years of daily chemotherapy. It was remarkably anti-climatic, and as I swallowed the pills and headed up for my homework it occurred to me that as I closed the door on cancer it was time to up my game on behalf of the BWCA. And so on June 19th, in front of the Washington Monument and with a small group of equally committed teenagers by my side, I launched my new initiative: Kids For The Boundary Waters (Kids4BW). The fight for the BWCA is most especially about us KIDS; we will be inheriting whatever mess gets left behind.  This is our future, our water, our public lands, our resources, our health, our country at stake.

Kids For The Boundary Waters will focus on honing a message of conservation and protection of the BWCA and teaching kids how to advocate - how to write letters, make phone calls, follow up, and how to make personal appeals during DC fly-ins.  We all have a huge stake in protecting this wilderness, and beyond that, in learning to effectively and efficiently navigate the political system. Today, we vote with our dollars and our voices, but very soon we will be voting with our ballots. The more engaged we become as teenagers, the more we understand our power and our ability to effect change, the more likely we are to STAY engaged.

Though the Kids4BW campaign focuses on preservation and protection of the BWCA, it is my belief that teaching kids about the process of advocacy will undoubtedly spill over into political action in defending - and visiting! -  other wild places as well. The BWCA was a “gateway drug” for me, getting me hooked on camping, on backcountry biking, on dogsledding, on backpacking, and on adventuring to remote, wild places around the world. Wilderness adventures instill a hunger for more.  And although there are a multitude of reasons why people choose to pick up a paddle – or throw on a pack - and head into the wilderness, one thing is certain: Universally we all come out changed for the better.

Since our launch in June, we have been hard at work creating the infrastructure and making the connections necessary to recruit and get our message out. But most importantly, Kids4BW recently activated its network to call and write in opposition to the Nolan-Emmer amendment to the 2019 Interior Appropriations Bill. During floor debate, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) read aloud from 7 handwritten letters she had received from Kids4BW advocates, and at the last minute the amendment was withdrawn when Rep. Emmer realized he did not have enough votes for it to pass. We count this as our first official (shared!) victory on behalf of the Boundary Waters!

I know I speak for every member of our Board when I say we take this fight very, very seriously and are committed to doing everything possible to defend the BWCA. Beyond that, we are wholly dedicated to training the next generation of advocates in how to effectively use their voices and their considerable power. I truly believe my generation will become an unstoppable voice for environmental protection, defense of our public lands, and protection of wild places across America.

Living with Cancer is no joke – it’s hard in ways that are difficult to articulate, and it takes things you have to fight very, very hard to reclaim. But Cancer is also a surprisingly good teacher. Most importantly, it trains you to fight like hell for the things that matter. Although I’ll still be sorting lessons for years to come, the one thing I have learned for sure is that sometimes life only gives you one chance to get it done. And I think this is it. This is my chance to help save America’s most visited and pristine water Wilderness.

When you volunteer, it’s easy to get trapped into thinking that the work doesn’t matter unless you “change the world.”  What my work has taught me is that it’s all about the small steps forward, about getting back up despite setbacks, about consistently showing up and about staying even when you’re discouraged, when the work you’ve done gets undone, or when other things compete for your time. Change happens when you suit up and show up, over and over and over. It may not be enormous, instantaneous change, but many small steps over a long period of time add up. And though we are “not obligated to complete the work, neither are we free to abandon it.”  

I hope you’ll join me in this fight. Meanwhile, paddle on!

Joseph A. Goldstein


Joseph Goldstein is a student at Glenwood High School. He lives on a farm in Springfield, Illinois with his parents, three brothers, three dogs, 10 cats, 12 sheep, and a variety of chickens, ducks and other farm critters. He plays the guitar and trombone (marginally) and skis and mountain bikes (awesomely). You can follow the Kids for the Boundary Waters campaign online at their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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