Today Rep. Betty McCollum's bipartisan bill to protect the Boundary Waters passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. This means the Boundary Waters protection bill can advance to a vote in the full House of Representatives, a big step towards becoming law.
The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 5598) permanently protects 234,328 acres of federal land and waters within the Superior National Forest from risky sulfide-ore copper mining.
The intent of the bill is really quite simple - it is intended to prevent sulfide-ore copper mining of federal lands in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed which drains into the BWCAW (see map above) and Voyageurs National Park. The bureaucratic term that is used is “withdrawal”; this essentially means the federal government removes these public lands from potential leasing for mining activities. Withdrawals can be implemented by Congressional action (as this would do) or by administrative action by the Forest Service after a public review process. The withdrawal would not restrict mining for iron ore, taconite, sand and gravel or granite.
The bill’s proposed withdrawal area of the Rainy River Headwaters watershed is 234,328 acres - and is the same area as was proposed for administrative withdrawal by former US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in 2016. In order to abide by the law for withdrawing these lands, the US Forest Service initiated a 2-year study in 2017. It was abruptly halted by the Trump administration 4 months prior to completion, with the claim that “no new information” was being discovered. The administration has refused to release the draft reports, which we strongly believe clearly find that mining is incompatible.
Rep. McCollum and other House leaders had asked to have the draft withdrawal study released to Congress, and the administration refused to comply. As the administration continued to stonewall, while simultaneously moving the mining project forward, it became apparent that the only way to protect the Boundary Waters and Voyaguers National Park is a permanent and complete mineral withdrawal. Hence, Rep. McCollum was compelled to draft and introduce H.R.5598.
Rep. McCollum is the chief author, and is joined by Reps. Francis Rooney (R-FL), Fred Upton (R-MI), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) as original co-sponsors.
Nearly seventy percent of Minnesotans do not want sulfide-ore copper near the Boundary Waters, and in 2017 over 180,000 people urged the federal government to withdraw the watershed of the Boundary Waters from the federal mining program--the same area Rep. McCollum’s legislation addresses. The science is clear on the threat sulfide-ore copper mining poses to the Wilderness.
Make sure your members of Congress support this bill and work to pass it into law to protect the Boundary Waters. Send a message right now to your members of Congress.
We’ve been working for months with our allies in Congress to get to this point today, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of thousands of supporters like you across the country who’ve contacted your elected officials about the Boundary Waters. THANK YOU.
Let’s make sure this bill becomes law and we protect the Boundary Waters for future generations. Contact your members of Congress today.