For various reasons, we aren't running our Save the Boundary Waters Minnesota State Fair booth in the Dairy Building this year in 2021. However, we have great memories from our five years at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, such as meeting tens of thousands of Fair-goers to talk about the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the need to protect it forever.
What did we accomplish at the Minnesota State Fair together? Hundreds of volunteers joined us to talk to Fair-goers, tens of thousands of people from all across Minnesota and the United States signed our petition to protect the Boundary Waters from toxic copper mining, we met directly with elected officials at the Fair to ask them to protect the Boundary Waters, and we had a ton of fun with giveaways and merch, our photo booths, a giant Boundary Waters map, special events in the booth, and of course sampling so much food on a stick!
Every year at the Fair, 10,000-15,000 people sign petitions at our booth, and without it this year, we are missing out on these new petition signatures. The Boundary Waters still needs you! Click here to complete the most urgent action right now to protect the Boundary Waters.
Planning and running a State Fair booth was a ton of work every year, and we are so grateful to the staff and volunteer teams that made it happen. We couldn't have done it without the hundreds of volunteers who showed up in a big way. What a fun way to meet so many passionate Save the Boundary Waters supporters and engage volunteers who have helped with many other events and actions since.
We're not physically at the 2021 State Fair but we are hard at work educating and engaging people across the state and country at in person events as well as virtual gatherings! Visit our events page to find us in your community or virtually.
And we’ve got exciting new Boundary Waters merch! Use code FAIR21 at checkout in our online merch shop for 15% off apparel and other items during State Fair season!
This past Saturday, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it has closed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness due to the active wildfires and drought conditions. Backcountry access is prohibited, including all portages, lakes, rivers, and hiking trails. Overnight permits will be refunded. This is the first time in 45 years that the Boundary Waters has closed due to wildfire activity
The closure order will be reviewed weekly, and there is no scheduled time when the Boundary Waters will start opening sections again. This closure will negatively impact many outfitters and Wilderness-dependent businesses. Local businesses in northeastern Minnesota would appreciate anything you can do to help support them during the closure.
Here are a few things you can do to help right now:
Buy gift certificates from local outfitters & businesses to redeem in the future!
Trip cancelled? Ask your outfitter if they can apply your deposit from this year towards a trip next year instead of asking for a refund.
Shop online! Many outfitters and shops have merchandise and other items to shop in their store.
Here’s a list of some of the outfitters in our Boundary Waters Business Coalition you may wish to support during this closure:
Check out and support the many northern Minnesota businesses in the 350+ Boundary Waters Business Coalition.
Thank you to the firefighters, U.S. Forest Service, and community members who have worked incredibly hard to manage these wildfires during this intense drought.
More in the news:
MPR: Disappointed outfitters and paddlers adjust to BWCA closure
WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast - BWCA Closure and Fire updates
KSTP: Outdoor recreation businesses wait out fires threatening Boundary Waters
Quetico Superior Blog - Multiple articles
Green is my favorite color, in my head I could always picture that particular color: Pine and Cedar forests in a rainstorm. Never before have I seen it in the flesh. Ely knew I was coming
I drove up north in a rainstorm to do some work in the town as part of my political affairs internship. I remember coming around the bend on the highway after Tower, MN, and seeing the deep green of the pines through the raindrops on the windshield. It made me giddy. There would be a number of experiences throughout my trip that would take my breath away like the pine trees did, making me thankful to be a part of this cause and community.
During my several-day stint in Ely, I was fortunate enough to stay with The Schurkes, who run Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Clothing just beyond town. Although it was intended as a place to crash, I couldn’t wait until the day was done to head back to home base. I’d finish up emails with a sled dog’s head in my lap. I have not met a kinder family. They invited me not only to stay in their bunkhouse but welcomed me into morning coffee and family game night as well. When we would talk about my work with the campaign their love and respect for the land permeated the conversation.
Folks in town were lovely too. Whether it was the couple that I spoke to outside of our offices, or the family that chatted with me at dinner where I would have dined alone. There is a kindness, infectious in Ely.
I cannot count the number of times that Ely made me smile, but there is one moment of disbelief that sticks with me strongly. After a half-day of work, one of our outreach directors, Levi Lexvold, and I, strapped up a canoe and made the drive to Birch Lake, the intended site for the Twin Metals Sulfide mine project. We drove part of the rugged road before portaging the canoe down to a backcountry campsite where we launched. Out on the water, Levi mapped the mine plan for me: processing plant here where you see these pines, toxic tailings mound 50ft above the tree line there. Surrounded by pines, mossy rock outcroppings, and scurrying fish, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
With the still water reflecting the blue sky, I felt my heart sink at the prospect if the lake’s beauty alone was lost, not to mention in the 1000 lakes in the BWCA, then North to Quetico and West to Voyageur. Here in front of me was a place I had only gotten a taste of. What Twin Metals proposes to do is take that chance away from millions of Americans by leaching toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water that we cherish.
They say the mine will be done safely. It will not. They say the project is necessary. It is not. They say the town will be better off. It will not. As Minnesotans and Americans, we are lucky to experience this land, but that privilege also comes with a charge to protect it. Never will it be justified to sacrifice millions of acres of pristine, unique land to this toxic industry. Not everyone may have a personal connection to the land we seek to save, but everyone can do something about it. Contact your reps, donate, have conversations with friends and family. Together, we may just be able to Save the Boundary Waters.
This week is the Outdoor Retailer Show (often just fondly called “O.R.”) in Denver, Colorado. OR is the trade show that showcases the outdoor industry including brands, retailers, non-profits, designers and more. If not for the pandemic, the show is usually a massive gathering of outdoor industry professionals and enthusiasts, and we’d be there in-person.
This year many things are virtual for #ORShow, including the Conservation Alliance Breakfast event on Day 2, which this year highlighted our fight to protect the Boundary Waters!
The breakfast event included Conservation Alliance Executive Director, Brady Robinson, and Alex Falconer, Government Affairs Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters,as well as professional ultra runner and activist Clare Gallagher, and Joseph Goldstein, founder of Kids for the Boundary Waters.
Alex and Clare shared their recent 100-mile adventure run across the wilderness, which will be featured in a short film coming this fall. (Watch the teaser here!) Joseph shared his childhood connection to this wilderness and how he helped build a grassroots, national campaign for youth to protect the Boundary Waters, at the age of 13.
Watch the full virtual breakfast event here:
Share the Kids for the Boundary Waters lobby fly-in application with any young people you may know!
The application deadline is August 29 and trip scholarships are available.
We need you to help us keep our momentum going by becoming a Wilderness Warrior!
Wilderness Warriors receive weekly alerts about impactful actions they can take that help #SavetheBWCA. We will inspire you with ways to make a difference and show your love for the Boundary Waters -- from making sure your voice is heard by key leaders to speaking out on social media in support.
Anti-BWCA groups are trying to speed up the sulfide-ore copper mine proposed in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Join our forces by becoming a Wilderness Warrior and stand up for this amazing Wilderness.
On Wednesday, July 28th, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters gathered at Sociable Cider Werks in Northeast Minneapolis for an evening of fun, conversation, updates, and activism.
Both staff and supporters alike were incredibly thrilled to be able to gather in person for this event and enjoy each other's company. Those in attendance had the opportunity to enjoy free ice cream courtesy of Ben and Jerrys, brand new Superior Switchel from Superior Craft Elixirs, and delicious, fresh tasting beverages provided by the host cidery.
While indulging in tasty treats and drinks, supporters got to hear about some of the progress the Campaign has made over the past year. Executive Director Tom Landwehr and State Director Sydney Jordan spoke to a room packed full with attendees and shared recent Campaign updates, as well as a message of hope for the Biden Administration to take action to protect the Boundary Waters.
Thank you to everyone who came out and joined us. We appreciate your attendance and support and hope to see you at future upcoming events!
Again, a big thanks to Ben & Jerry’s and Sociable Ciderwerks for providing the space, free Switchels, and ice cream to our supporters!
Didn’t get a chance to join us? Check out all of our upcoming events here.
|This month, we're teaming up with Royal Robins to give away over $500 worth of Royal Robbins apparel to keep you geared up and protected from sun + bugs on your next adventures! Learn how to enter on our Instagram|
Sam Chadwick: Do you have memories of outdoor recreation from your childhood - what were your early experiences being outdoors?
Michael Millenacker: My parents were separated when I was young. Every time my Dad picked us up for the weekend we’d go straight to some state park or something like that. We’d ramble around and I would always look forward to it. There weren't a lot of resources to go around so he’d take us out in nature and we’d just enjoy the day. My sister and I didn’t need electronics or money or things to have a great time. Those are my earliest memories of outdoor recreation. It was our thing with dad and it was always a great time.
SC: Any favorite places you remember going?
MM: The Merrimack River and Missouri River were a couple of our spots, both outside where we lived in St. Louis, then up in Western Iowa there were a few county parks that we’d go to nearby and spend the night. That was one of our big camping trips when we were little -- we’d pack up the car and go walk in a half mile and spend the night along the river. It was always a special time. Dad liked to go in the snow sometimes just to get out there. Somehow he’d always forget to bring something so we’d have to be creative and make things work. In some ways it was always his little trick, always his little challenge for us. I’m sure he always had a backup plan when I was younger but he liked to keep us on our toes.
SC:Tell us about your Boundary Waters connection
MM: My grandfather's big thing was always going up to Minnesota to fish in different places so my dad grew up doing that. Dad went up to the Boundary Waters and Quetico as well. I would go along with him and his friends at first, which was fantastic. I remember the trip being a physical challenge, even in junior high and early high school, to cross those lakes and portages with the heat and bugs.
It’s a spectacular place and that's why we need to preserve it and keep it safe, so everyone can experience it. It would take me two days or so to decompress and get into the mode of paddling, fishing, camping, and portaging before I finally let my mind go, forget about everything that's going on in life, and focus on being in the wilderness with loved ones.
Dad took me up there and it became an annual trip. He’s done that his whole life, sometimes 3 times a year now. He asks me: “Here are my trips this year, which one are you going to go on?”. I don’t get to go on as many of the trips these days. I started going up there at an early age and still enjoy the whole experience -- from the packing list and checking the weather to doing route planning. My dad would try to drag it out as much as possible and take 4 months to plan these trips when it really could be done in a few days or hours, but that was his process and I think it was his way of engaging with me as well. The preparation is a big part of it for me -- making sure you have everything you need, but at the same time cutting your weight.
SC: What are some favorite Boundary Waters trips stories or maybe least favorite?
MM: One of the craziest ones was when I went up and took my college roommate and business partner at the time. It was funny because I wasn’t into the outdoor apparel world yet. We took a fun day trip from our campsite to a nearby island. We wanted to get out there and adventure. Once we arrived after about 5 hours, the weather turned so we had to turn back around. The waves got bigger and the weather got cooler. We were paddling with everything we had to keep going and try to get back to the campsite. I’ll never forget the last portage. We were thinking, “we’re almost there, we only have one more pretty big lake to go.” We came up on hillside portage and the waves were against us. The water was cold enough that I knew if we capsized, it wasn’t going to be good. So, we made the decision to wait it out and spend the night under the canoe with nothing of course. That was when I figured out my windbreaker wasn’t waterproof. It was a learning experience for me that you really need the right gear for these trips, and we paid for it. We spent a chilly night under the canoe. We tried to get a fire started, but the wind shifted and put it out. Luckily we woke up at dawn and it was calm and clear enough for us to paddle back to camp. That was probably one of the most memorable, awful, learning, challenging, fun experiences I’ve had. There’s nothing like a night away from camp, unplanned, with no gear.
SC: What about wildlife, what wildlife have you seen in the Boundary Waters?
MM: We saw our share of bears and moose. I never had any dangerous or close run-ins with them. A few times a bear would come around camp and you just bang your pans and they run away. What I remember most are the loons. My favorite animal on the planet is the loon, especially the ones that live in the Boundary Waters. They’re so beautiful the way they sing at night. Another memorable experience was when I was with the same buddies on another trip with dad. We were by the campfire at night after everyone else had gone to sleep and all of a sudden the Northern lights came up and all the loons were going off. Experiencing Northern lights in the Boundary Waters for the first time was incredible. The loons are my favorite because they can swim fast enough underwater to catch fish yet they can fly.
Some Rapid Fire Questions!
Canoe or kayak? We’re kayakers
Mosquitoes or flies? Mosquitoes are worse, it depends on if the flies are biting that season Portage the pack or the boat? The boat. It’s always better not having something on your back in those hot sweat mosquito ridden portages, but you need a good harness
Shoes stay dry or wet? They get wet for sure, there's no way around it
Summer or winter? I’ve never been to the Boundary Waters in the winter, I think that'd be an amazing trip. We always went in spring or fall because that was supposedly when the fishing was the best and there were fewer bugs.
SC: What are Royal Robbins company mission and values and how does that connect to conservation?
MM: I was living in NYC working in the fashion industry at the time and dad took me on a Boundary Waters trip. I was in the front of the kayak and he said “So, what do you do? It sounds like you make really nice sweaters and these fancy pants that nobody really needs”. It hit me on that trip that he was basically saying, “Son, what are you going to do with your career that’s meaningful?” I thought I was doing great making good money in NYC, but he was pressing on my values.
On the way back out we stopped for pie at the old Chocolate Moose restaurant next to the Piragis Northwoods Company store in Ely. We walked into Piragis and saw these amazing outdoor brands. I started reading some of their brochures -- they were all talking about environmental conservation and giving back. This would have been in the early 90s. I looked around and thought, “This is what I do now, except with department stores and boutiques.” I could go into this industry and do what I know how to do, but be able to give back and have a good answer for that question my dad posed to me. After that experience and 3 years in NYC, I got a job with Royal back in 1995. That’s really what got me into the industry. Luckily, I found it was a great way to tie in my passion for the outdoors with my everyday job.
I love what we do and I’ve always thought that the harder we work, the more we can give back to protect the environment. Our vision at Royal Robbins is: We’re the world's most versatile clothing for a sustainable outdoor lifestyle. Having versatile clothing allows you to adventure more with less. We try to make every decision as sustainable as possible as well. Our brand mission, what really gets us up everyday, is: to ignite the human spirit through the power of adventure. Challenging yourself, adventuring, and getting outdoors helps you grow as a person. Adventure is in the eyes of the individual.
SC: What Royal Robbins apparel in particular would be good for a Boundary Waters trip?
MM: I’d recommend the men’s Alpine Tour short and the Alpine Tour or Alpine Road pants. It’s rugged apparel that stretches, moves and breathes. On the women’s side, there’s the Expedition shirts. They have excellent sun protection, plus they’re lightweight and quick drying. They’re highly functional, but stylish as well. These styles come in our Bug Barrier collection, which uses Insect Shield® technology to protect against bugs. Anything with insect repellant is a must for the Boundary Waters.
SC: Why is it important for decision makers and everyday people to advocate for the protection of the Boundary Waters and other wild places?
MM: Wilderness gives people a rest from what is happening in the world -- all of the screen time, the hustle and bustle, the go go go. We need that time to rejuvenate and reclaim what we’re all about. It gives us time and peace to think and also poses a physical challenge to us. The more wild places we have, the better off we’ll be. There’s getting to be fewer and fewer of places we can truly unplug and reflect. That’s why I believe it's important for citizens and business leaders alike to do what we can to try to preserve those wild places.
SC: What are some ways that the business, brand, employees work on conservation - how do you engage with conservation and equitable access?
MM: Our partnerships with Save the Boundary Waters, Yosemite Conservancy, and The Conservation Alliance. One of our newer partners is the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund. I like to tell our employees that the harder we work, the more we’re going to be able to give back. Locally, we do trail cleanups in Golden Gate national park near our headquarters in San Francisco. Given our brand’s unique heritage in Yosemite dating back to the 60s, we participate in clean ups there as well.
View this post on Instagram
REI Coop has been a valued partner in our national effort to defend the Boundary Waters for years. REI has helped engage the outdoor community and elected leaders in our efforts to permanently protect the Boundary Waters Wilderness from proposed copper mining. We are so grateful for REI’s support and collaboration!
REI was an early joiner of our now 350+ member Boundary Waters Business Coalition. When called upon, they have added the Coop’s weight to important letters sent from businesses to decision makers in the federal government, helping to highlight the importance of Boundary Waters protection to the outdoor industry.
As a founding and pinnacle member of The Conservation Alliance, REI supports vital environmental conservation campaigns across the country, including Save the Boundary Waters (we’ve received generous Conservation Alliance grants, funded by its member companies, since 2015). The REI Minnesota team has also supported Kids for the Boundary Waters in their efforts to train and bring hundreds of youth advocates to Washington D.C. to meet with decision makers.
Over the years we’ve enjoyed meeting REI Coop members at store presentations we’ve hosted about the Boundary Waters, the “Boundary Waters Day” at the Bloomington MN store, and having REI help promote our events, like the Paddle Day of Action events we hosted in May 2021.
Explorers Dave and Amy Freeman have presented at REI stores about their adventure advocacy expeditions, and the Bloomington location put the Freemans’ eye-catching signature canoe on display in their store!
Spreading the word about the beauty of the Boundary Waters and the toxic threat of copper mining on the Wilderness edge is critical to our fight. We’re grateful that REI’s media publication Uncommon Path (previously called the Coop Journal) has covered the copper mining controversy in its articles.
And, we’re psyched to announce that REI Coop is sponsoring our Queer Boundary Waters trip this September! Save the Boundary Waters is co-hosting this Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness expedition specifically for a group of outdoor industry and adventure community members who identify as LGBTQ+. Ely Outfitting Company is guiding this trip in collaboration with Mikah Meyer, adventure travel influencer and founder of the Outside Safe Space, and Save the Boundary Waters. Outside Safe Space promotes LGBTQ+ welcoming spaces in the outdoors.
Thank you REI Coop!
You can buy our cool Save the Boundary Waters stickers at REI’s MN stores (in Bloomington, Roseville, and Maple Grove).
Established in 1909, the Superior National Forest is home to America’s most visited wilderness and Minnesota’s crown jewel, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Superior National Forest contains 3.9 million acres of land and 445,000 acres of surface water. There are 1,300 miles of cold water and 950 miles of warm water habitat. The proposed Twin Metals mine would put all of this, and the entirety of the northern forest ecosystem, at great risk.
An October 2017 study of the Arrowhead Region’s economy reveals a diverse and growing economy in which numerous industries – including healthcare, tourism and recreation, small businesses, manufacturing, construction, services, forest products and taconite mining – can coexist peacefully as long as copper mining does not occur on Superior National Forest lands in the Boundary Waters watershed.
Sulfide-ore copper mining is typically done in dry, arid environments. With 445,000 acres of surface water, the Superior National Forest is far from dry or arid. This type of mining has never been done without polluting the surrounding areas, which in this case would be the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This mine puts wildlife habitats, water quality, biodiversity, and entire ecosystems at the risk of irreparable damage (read more about the science here).
A sulfide-ore copper mine would be detrimental to the health of the Superior National Forest and all of the natural inhabitants of it. Help us protect the crown jewel that lies within it by taking action and contributing to Save the Boundary Waters today.
Fun facts about the Superior National Forest:
-Is the largest and only wilderness of substantial size east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the everglades
-Is the most heavily used wilderness in the US (less than 1% of the acreage of the NWPS, but receives 10% of the use) and ties with the Mall of America as Minnesota 's #1 tourist attraction
-Is a Class I Airshed as defined by the Federal Clean Air Act
-Is listed as one of the 50 greatest places to visit in a lifetime (along with places such as Antarctica, Amazon, Grand Canyon, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal) by the National Geographic Society and is included in 1,000 Places to See Before you Die -- a gift book that provides an around-the-world listing of must-see places off the beaten track
This year was my fifth year walking with our supporters in Ely’s 4th of July Parade. In past years we have normally pulled or portaged our petition canoes, and each year the number of supporters joining us in the parade and the cheers from the crowd have grown as more folks become aware of the threats posed to the Boundary Waters by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining.
After the great turnout of support in 2019, we decided to put together a float for 2020 (unfortunately, that didn’t happen for obvious reasons). This year with a borrowed large flatbed trailer (thank you Paul), an Ely Outfitting Company van (thank you Jason), and the help of some great volunteers (thank you Peta, Carolyn, Bill, Reid, David, and Erwin), we were able to put together a great loon nest float for "Ima BaLOON."
The supporter turnout for this year’s parade was phenomenal (over 80 people came and marched with us!) - it was great to meet some new supporters and to have an opportunity to catch up with old friends that I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. A huge thank you to everyone that braved the heat to walk with us in the parade! We’ll see what we can put together for next year.