Today is Give to the Max Day, an unparalleled day of giving across the state of Minnesota. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has received an outpouring of generosity from supporters. One of the most passionate wilderness warriors in this Campaign is National Campaign Chair Becky Rom, a third-generation Ely resident. An avid outdoorswoman, Becky has unique insight into the politics of the Boundary Waters. Becky’s father, Bill Rom, studied under conservationist and wilderness advocate, Sigurd Olson, and worked as an outfitter in Ely for nearly 30 years. She began guiding trips in the Boundary Waters at the age of 14. Learn more about Becky's passion for protecting the Boundary Waters in her own words below or in her recent interview with Great Old Broads for Wilderness, in which Becky reflected on her history in Ely and connection to the Northwoods. Please give today to support our efforts to protect the wilderness.
I have loved the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness since I was a child. Growing up in Ely, Minnesota, I took my first canoe trip at the age of two (pictured right). As I grew older, I worked alongside my father, Bill Rom, in his outfitting business Canoe Country Outfitters (pictured left, below), often guiding visitors on Boundary Waters trips to experience the wonder and natural beauty of canoe country. No matter where I have lived and traveled, I have always returned here. You can canoe in spectacular wild country and catch great fish, or have an extraordinary winter adventure by dogsled. You can tell stories around the fire while the loons and wolves call and the stars pave the sky. There is no other place like it in the world.
That’s why, when I learned that a South American mining company had plans to develop sulfide-ore copper mines right in the heart of the Superior National Forest—in an area stretching for many miles, involving thousands of acres of woods and wetlands along the edge of and upstream from the Boundary Waters—I knew that we must take action.
If we allow this risky type of mining to happen along the streams and wetlands that flow into the Boundary Waters, this canoe country will never recover. The water would be polluted, large areas of woods and wetlands would be destroyed, wildlife and fish would suffer, and this would no longer be a place for families to enjoy.
Together, our voices are powerful. Whether you’ve volunteered at the Minnesota State Fair or elsewhere, traveled to Washington, D.C. with us, or simply signed a petition asking for the Boundary Waters to be protected, thank you.
With NMW’s leadership and the tireless work of fantastic volunteers and staff, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has grown with pro-bono legal support from excellent law firms and advice from some of the best and most experienced public lands defenders in the country. We are making progress every day. None of this would be possible without the financial support of people like you. We promise to spend your money wisely.
Give to the Max Day is an important day for giving in Minnesota. We have been lucky to have such an amazing group of supporters behind the Campaign from the beginning and we’re grateful to everyone who has joined our efforts since. Today, many of our longtime supporters are sharing their stories in an effort to urge people, near and far, to give. Here are their stories.
Steve and Jane Koschak are the owners of River Point Resort and Outfitting Company. Located just four miles from the Boundary Waters on the shores of the Kawishiwi River, River Point has served visitors since 1944.
River Point Resort and Outfitting Company is our pride and joy. Visitors travel from all over the United States and the world to enjoy peace and serenity here. They come to get away from the noise, sights and stress of urban life.
This peaceful sanctuary will be destroyed forever if international companies succeed in building large industrial mines right across the river from us. These companies plan to build an underwater tunnel to connect the Twin Metals mine to the concentrator site here. We have a short window of opportunity to prevent these mines from being built. We have already experienced the loud and constant noise from test drilling during certain times of the year. If these mines are built, we could no longer offer the peaceful experience that our guests come here to enjoy. It would destroy our life’s work and investment - the legacy we want to pass on to our son.
But it won’t only devastate us personally. The more than 250,000 visitors who come to the Boundary Waters every year would lose the opportunity to visit and experience solitude and joy with their children and grandchildren.
Please give generously before midnight – your gift today will be doubled by people who share our love of the Boundary Waters.
Thank you so much,
Steve and Jane Koschak, River Point Resort & Outfitting Company
Nearly two months ago, Dave and Amy Freeman embarked on their 365-day journey in the Boundary Waters. Today, they’re writing from their campsite on Knife Lake.
We have been traveling in the Boundary Waters for 50 days now on A Year in the Wilderness. Because we embarked on this journey to raise awareness about the threat to the Boundary Waters posed by sulfide-ore copper mining, we have a few pieces of technology that allow us to write to you as we sit around the wood stove in our tent nestled between towering red pines.
Every day out here in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is special. More and more, we feel grounded and connected to the world around us. We remember that our time here on earth is short and precious, but the decisions we make right now will have a ripple effect long into the future.
Our journey is about bearing witness to the Wilderness. We are here to be a constant reminder to you about what is at stake. America’s most visited Wilderness area is under a serious threat that could permanently pollute the lakes and streams that we travel on each day. Even though there are times when we miss our family and friends, we know that our efforts are important.
But we can’t protect the Boundary Waters alone. We need you. A whole community of supporters is necessary for this work to be successful. This effort needs many people to raise their voices and concerns with decision makers across the country. Thank you for contributing to the cause and helping us bear witness to the vast expanses of unspoiled lakes, rivers and forests that make up the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Please give today to help preserve this amazing wilderness.
From the Boundary Waters,
Dave and Amy Freeman
Paul and Sue Schurke are the owners of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Wintergreen Northern Wear. The couple has been sharing the Boundary Waters with people of all walks of life for more than 30 years. Steve shares their story:
I've been lucky to explore some of the most incredible and remote places on the planet. I've completed six North Pole expeditions, and trekked across Alaska and Siberia. And I have found that you can experience the same silence and immersion in nature right here in Minnesota. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is extraordinary and special.
My wife, Sue, and I have been sharing the Boundary Waters for over 30 years with people from all walks of life. We guide about 100 dogsledding trips per season, accommodating over 500 people, who come from all over the world. It's a joy to take someone out into the Wilderness on a winter dogsledding expedition. It is especially moving when they have only imagined the beauty of the Boundary Waters before coming here for the first time.
One of the things that our guests are almost always struck by on their vacation is the extraordinary night sky. The stars seem impossibly bright, and the Milky Way glows. On special nights, the sky erupts in a stunning, ethereal display of the Northern Lights.
The Boundary Waters is a true national treasure. But I worry that the Wilderness that we know and love won't be here for the next generation to enjoy. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness' Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has made incredible progress toward protecting this place. However, there is much still to be done, and it can only be accomplished with your support.
That's why I can't just sit back while the Boundary Waters is at risk from sulfide-ore copper mining. I hope you'll join me in making a gift today to fund the critical work of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.
Thank you so much,
Paul and Sue Schurke, Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Wintergreen Northern Wear
Thank you to all who have given today. If you haven't given, please consider supporting the Campaign today.
While many think of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Ely area as a summer destination for canoeing and camping, there is much more to this part of the Superior National Forest that takes place throughout the year. In a milder November than recent years, locals and visitors alike are enjoying the warmer trend while hunting, fishing and taking the canoe out for one last paddle before the ice arrives. Instead of walking across the frozen water, this Veteran’s Day we are walking around flowing streams and across the boggy marshes that feed into the Wilderness while soaking in the tranquil music of the water flowing over rocks.
As a child, this Wilderness played an enormous role in the outcome of my future. I remember peeling the bark off dead-fallen and rotting birch trees to help aid our efforts to start a fire after a rainy night not far from one of our favorite campsites on Lake Two. I remember walking the short portages from Lake One that felt miles long to my little feet while contributing to the effort by carrying a paddle or a few fishing poles to the other side. Our family trips were often in June and July, so the Kawishiwi River typically had a decent flow in the rapids that we would portage around between the two lakes. I learned at a young age how to pronounce Kawishiwi, because in Ely the name shows up almost everywhere you go—much like the river itself—as it weaves and flows through dozens upon dozens of the connected wilderness lakes.
As an infantry Marine Veteran of the war in Iraq, I have set foot in the murky and polluted waters of both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. While the palms lining their banks made for a welcoming view after drudging through the desert for several weeks, the waters themselves left me yearning for something clean to swim and drink from. Despite all the purification technology used by the U.S. Military to make these waters “safe” to drink, we managed to get sick routinely from the negligently managed, over polluted rivers of Iraq. The first thing I did after returning to Minnesota after the war was to walk straight to the kitchen sink, turn on the faucet, and drink the clean water that flowed out. I realized over the period of a decade spent across the world and the United States that there was only one place I had been where I trusted not only drinking water from the faucet, but also straight from the lake itself.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t gone through much suffering after my medical discharge from the Marine Corps. I spent the first few years of my reintegrated civilian life living alone in San Antonio, TX, where I studied business management. In 2009, six years after returning from Iraq, I moved back to Minnesota to pursue a hopeful lifetime in Ely amongst the wilderness lakes, rivers, trees and fish. The more time I spent away from the sounds of civilization, in the woods or on the water, the more I began to heal from my own grief. Being able to share this with others became a passion of mine that I pray never dies.
This month marks the close of my fifth season as an outfitting manager and guide. Back in September I had the opportunity to share my favorite childhood campsites with a nonprofit group I was guiding called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS came to us for help in planning a healing retreat for those who lost loved ones in the service. It was my honor to serve them on this trip and it was humbling to hear them openly discuss the greatest pains and the happiest memories they had endured, while stoking the fire with balsam branches. Unlike a majority of the trips TAPS takes its members on, the Boundary Waters regulations of 9 or fewer people to a group had them splitting up into smaller, more intimate parties.
There aren’t many places in the country where you can embark on this kind of journey; there is a measure of healing one can find here that a lifetime of therapy may not be able to achieve. With the threat of introducing sulfide-ore copper mining, a process labeled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the most toxic industry in the country, into the Boundary Waters watershed; there is a level of risk too great to overlook. No one can ensure that sulfuric acid waste will notleak into this colossal connection of lakes, rivers, streams and marshes. I couldn’t imagine a Boundary Waters canoe trip where one has to bring in their own water because a mining incident made the water unsafe for consumption. With any likelihood of polluting these pure waters, is it worth the risk?
As Veterans, we are not strangers of fighting to protect the land we love. Today, let us remember all of those who gave life and limb to defend our freedoms, let us honor them for their sacrifices. For those of us who are still able, let us stand up together and do what we know is right. It is clear that this Wilderness will not be able to protect itself from our own doing. For those who value the blessed serenity of this Wilderness, let us continue to stand up to defend her against all threats, foreign and domestic.
St. Paul native Ben Putnam is an outfitting manager and guide at Boundary Waters Outfitters in Ely, MN. He served with the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq as a machinery gunner in the Third Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Boundary Waters is a special place to me. I had dreamed of going there for years, and finally received the opportunity through my Boy Scout Troop when I was 18. The Troop was comprised of all of my friends, including Chris, who became my oldest son’s godfather, and nearly a brother to me. Chris and I always talked of going back to the Boundary Waters, but work, the military and school stepped in the way. Sadly, we never made it back together. His life was cut short, and at 24 he passed away before we could make it back up there.
Fast forward to 2011. I was deployed with the Minnesota National Guard 34th ID 194 CAV to Kuwait and Iraq. My platoon and section was responsible for convoy security operations during the drawdown of the Iraq war. We were very lucky, and did not have any severe incidents, but were still exposed to the strain of being deployed in a combat zone.
Upon returning home, I made the decision to go back to the Boundary Waters. I thought my oldest son was old enough, and I longed to go back. I rediscovered Entry Point 37, on Kawishiwi Lake, the original entry point I had set out from with Chris and the other Scouts in 1998. That experience sparked an annual trip out of this entry point, in memory of Chris, as well as multiple trips out of Ely with my son's Boy Scout Troop.
While I do not suffer from PTSD as a result of my service, I do have some stress and issues with people that I attribute to my time in the service. I found that the Boundary Waters provides an instant healing and calming effect over my body. When I arrive, the calming begins. Upon touching the water, nature takes over and I almost go into sensory overload taking everything in; feeling calm and "normal” again. I have talked to other veterans, from Vietnam to the current conflicts, and the Boundary Waters has a similar effect on them. Not too many places on Earth have the ability to remove one from a troubled state of mind into a state of peace and calming.
When I first started going back to the BWCA, I found it much like I remembered. I also found out that Twin Metals and other companies were proposing to build sulfide-ore copper mines near the Boundary Waters’ edge. I will admit, at first I was naive, and sympathetic to the cause of the mines. I took it upon myself to do further research and was shocked by what I found. I couldn’t believe how close in proximity exploratory drilling was taking place to the BWCA--literally on the edge of this sanctuary of nature and peace. I found that the byproduct of this type of mining, sulfuric acid, has significant dangers associated with it. The video of the Mount Polley Disaster was the tipping point for me. I was shocked and in awe of the damage that was caused when a tailings pit wall gave way. They have destroyed some of Canada’s most pristine wilderness forever. I was appalled to discover that the engineering firm that managed the Mount Polley tailings pond when it failed has done work for Twin Metals. I have found many cases of mines similar to this going bankrupt, leaving taxpayers to pay the price for cleanup, and dealing with permanently scarred land.
I decided to take a stand, and became involved with the Save the Boundary Waters Veterans Group. Here, I found like-minded veterans who suffer from PTSD and who have also been saved by the healing qualities of the BWCA. They too want it to be kept a pure wilderness. One of my missions after exiting the military service is helping veterans with PTSD, and preventing veteran suicide. I believe that a place like the BWCA can help deter the negative effects of PTSD. I know many veterans who have attended Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) on the edge of the BWCA, and adjacent to the proposed Twin Metals mine site. Twin Metals and other companies have drilled extensively and flown helicopters in the vicinity of VOBS, the noise from which can cause stress and trigger relapse to veterans with PTSD who have been injured by IED blasts.
A person shouldn’t have to be exposed to this when they are trying to heal. This is one of the many reasons sulfide-ore copper mining should be kept away from the BWCA. There is so much information out there about why this type of mining is dangerous for our environment, especially in this close proximity to water; but the healing factor is so strong for me. I would hate to see the wilderness ruined, especially since it has helped so many like myself.
I feel, as a whole, we need to protect this natural resource and wilderness that we are privileged to have. The Wilderness Act set aside this area for a reason. Over and over, the BWCA has been helping veterans and it would be a shame to destroy it. Especially since those who served, both at home and overseas, are fighting hard to protect it. I think we owe our veterans some thanks by protecting this area and allowing veterans to continue to be healed by the awesome beauty, tranquility and solitude it affords. I hope we can continue to preserve this treasure for generations to come so that my son's sons and daughters and their children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We owe it to ourselves.
Nick Millette is from Pine City, MN. He is a former staff sergeant for the Minnesota Army National Guard. B Troop 194 CAV
[Photos by Adam Steinhilber]
My trip to Ely was not planned. I hadn’t anticipated spending nearly a month living and working at Sustainable Ely on the famed East Sheridan Street. Had it not been for my brief stint volunteering at the Minnesota State Fair with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, I might have missed this small gem of a town. Having only traveled through it on my way to the North Shore of Lake Superior, my knowledge of Ely was limited. During my stay, several things left a lasting impression on me. The most prominent was the fervent passion for the land expressed by Ely’s citizens and visitors.
I knew that Ely was a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but I didn’t realize the sheer volume of tourists that flock from across the country to see it. I couldn’t believe the shops and storefronts that cater to this crowd either. From the Brandenburg Gallery, sporting stunning prints of the Northwoods, to Piragis Northwoods Company’s sprawling eclectic variety of everything outdoors. From the spa advertising pedicures for the weary paddler, to Steger Mukluk’s mystical front window display and Wintergreen Northern Wear’s classic sub-zero apparel.
Ely isn’t an ordinary small town; the dynamic is truly eclectic. Many have been visiting for generations, others stumbled across it on a whim and never left. Never before had I met such passionate people committed to tradition and history. Ely is a community with deep roots in both wilderness preservation and mining. It is often talked about in polarized dichotomies and animated discussions about the issues that have faced the area, but despite the contrasting opinions, it was clear that people are drawn here for the land and its wealth.
Either in the utilitarian sense of the word, through its timber and mineral resources, or through its inherent intrinsic value; its waters, vast landscapes, ancient sprawling white pines, lichen covered rocks, and diversity of flora and fauna, people can connect to the land. It is the landscape that binds Ely together. There is something inherently powerful and intriguing about this massive network of lakes laced with boreal forest.
Following my summer at Sustainable Ely, I was inspired to continue to help the Campaign gain permanent protectionof the Boundary Waters watershed. I began working as a full time employee for the Campaign in the beginning of October. It has been clear from the beginning that this is truly a motivated and proactive group of passionate individuals working for a worthy cause. I am proud to be a part of the effort to protect this unique place and the communities that thrive because of the wilderness.
Piper Donlin is the Campaign's administrative coordinator and has a degree in environmental science and policy. She took her first trip to the Boundary Waters to Brule Lake at age 7.
On August 9, 2015, Kathleen Ferraro began a thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Kathleen decided to hike in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and use her hike as a chance to educate people about the risk posed to the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. This blog is the third in a series about her adventure. Read the first and second posts.
In just over two weeks, my SHT hike concluded. It seems I experienced every type of weather and terrain that Minnesota could throw at me: a total of 253 miles in 17 days.
With soaring temperatures during the first half of the trip and cold, rainy nights during the second, I saw the beginnings of the changing of the seasons. Trekking on the lake shore, through birch forests, past waterfalls, swamps and more, it was constantly stimulating to see Minnesotan environments as I inhabited them. And as fun as hiking was, some of the nicest moments were when I was swinging in my hammock on the banks of the rivers skirting the trail, just enjoying the view.
For the last week of the trip, a former counselor from my Northwestern University backpacking group (Project Wildcat) joined me. We weathered the northernmost sections of trail together (including the monstrous Canadian mosquitoes) and explored the Cascade River and Judge R. Magney state parks. These sections of trail proved especially dense and untraversed, with some beautiful rocky outlooks throughout.
After leaving the SHT, I stopped at several lodges along the trail to distribute Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters literature and petitions.
Overall, the trip was an exciting way to remind myself how much I love the SHT, the North Shore, and more generally, how special Minnesota’s wilderness areas are. This brought me back to the Boundary Waters, thinking about what a rarity it is nowadays to visit such exquisite, unpopulated natural zones. They provide such memorable experiences: most importantly, the unique opportunity to level yourself with everything around you. It was great to advocate for areas like the Boundary Waters while enjoying the experiences they make possible. Boundary Waters and beyond, it’s important to preserve these rare wilds and the deeply enriching experiences they provide.
“Why does the Boundary Waters need to be saved?” I was asked that question in late August when I joined nearly 100 others in volunteering at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters booth at the Minnesota State Fair. I was happy to answer questions like that by sharing how the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining threatens the wildlife, habitat, interconnected waters and surrounding communities of the Boundary Waters.
Located to the right of a sausage stand and across from the turkey booth in the Dairy Building, our exhibit at the Great Minnesota Get Together featured expansive color maps of this spectacular wilderness area, three iPads for those who were interested in signing our pledge, a prize wheel where you could win fabulous prizes (aka “free stuff at the Fair”), a large video monitor showing our new animation video and a photo kiosk with a wilderness backdrop where people could send themselves a memento of their support.
As the morning wore on, orange stickers dotted the maps as people selected their favorite places in the Boundary Waters. And then the iPad screens had to be cleaned after being touched with fingers that had already seen their share of greasy fried food! One of the main benefits of being at the Fair is the sheer volume of people you can reach – we had seven staff members and volunteers at our booth and were consistently busy throughout my shift.
And, as we were in the Dairy Building, it seemed like everyone who walked by or stopped at our booth had ice cream. (I decided my favorite was the strawberry rhubarb sundae. I also decided that Great Old Broads for Wilderness was my favorite of all the partners listed in the booth.)
The overwhelming majority of people I had the chance to chat with were either unaware of the issue and interested in learning more or already knowledgeable about the topic and eager to sign our pledge. Several people thanked me for being there and one gentleman, with a look of bewilderment on his face, said “I don’t see how this is even a question.” It seemed one woman had specifically sought out our booth. With a very serious expression on her face, she saw our petition and asked, “Where do I sign?” In addition to Minnesotans, we had visitors from Ohio and Illinois who weren’t familiar with the Boundary Waters, but had enjoyed their time at national parks and appreciated the efforts to conserve those areas.
As with most exhibitions, a few people politely declined to take our information (and one man memorably said, “I don’t want to know nothing about nothing”) but I was impressed because when I left to spend the rest of the day at the fair with my family (it’s a tradition), we had already collected nearly 300 signatures – pretty amazing for the first morning! I have portaged some of the lakes and used a few of the campgrounds in the Boundary Waters so I know firsthand what a privilege it is to have this pristine wilderness right here in Minnesota.
After all the deep fryers have been turned off and another state fair is in the books, the work of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters continues. Onward!
During the 12 jam-packed days of the Minnesota State Fair, 90-some volunteers helped in the booth, more than 9,000 people signed our petition and more than 1,300 people and families used our photo kiosk to send pictures to decision makers.
It's almost time for the Minnesota State Fair. Time to celebrate the end of summer, back to school and all things Minnesotan, like award-winning cows and fancy chickens, Minnesota-made honey and beer, giant stuffed midway prizes, food on a stick, and our natural treasures, like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
I’ve been looking forward to the Fair since I first entered the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters for a spot for last fall. Once we found out space was available, we chose the Dairy Building to make sure we caught crowds as diverse as Minnesota’s population and won’t just be preaching to the choir, but reaching many new people who haven’t yet joined our efforts. We can also keep an eye on the butter sculptures and grab a milkshake when the line isn’t too long!
For the last few months, our State Fair planning team, many of whom are volunteers generously dedicated so much of their time to make this happen. With their help, we've designed and produced a beautiful and educational booth that shows off the splendor of the Wilderness through Brandenburg photos and makes clear the threat posed by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. The booth backdrop is a huge map where visitors can point out their favorite lakes and see potential mine sites on the Wilderness edge and the path of pollution leading into the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park.
Like so many of our projects, we couldn’t do it without scores of committed volunteers. At our series of volunteer trainings, we've briefed seasoned and brand-new volunteers on our Campaign history and strategy, basic tips for messaging and outreach, and tested out all the elements of our booth. Those fun booth elements include a new iPad pledge app, a prize spinning wheel and a social-media enabled photo-kiosk. All these interactive elements will help draw people to our booth and allow them to take meaningful action that will catch the eye of our decision makers, many of whom will have their own presence at the Fair.
So come see us at the Great Minnesota Get-Together! The Dairy Building is on the south edge of the Fairgrounds, at the corner of Judson and Underwood across from the Haunted House and Agriculture Building. The booth will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. August 27 through September 7.
On August 9, 2015, Kathleen Ferraro will begin a thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Kathleen decided to hike in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and use her hike as a chance to educate people about the risk posed to the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. This blog is the second in a series about her adventure. Read her first post here.
As the start date to thru-hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) draws nearer, my hiking plans grow more concrete. The route is set: south to north, hiking 10 to 19 miles per day. My packing list is complete, my GORP recipe ready and my gear laid out. All there’s left to do is stuff my pack, put on my hiking boots and get on the trail.
In more detail, the route follows the Superior Hiking Trail Association’s guidebook suggestions, meaning I’ll experience all sections of the SHT. The trail largely sticks to the coast of Lake Superior going through various rivers, ridges, peaks, creeks and nearby trails. The end of the trail dumps hikers just seven miles from the Canadian border.
This hike is also an exciting opportunity to meet other adventure-lovers in northern Minnesota. The Superior Hiking Trail runs through myriad towns and state parks, complete with lodges and avid outdoor enthusiasts.
As I mentioned in my first post, my love of the wilderness up north extends to both the SHT and the Boundary Waters. Throughout the hike, I’ll be stopping at lodges in said towns and state parks to disperse Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters literature and collect petition signatures. I’ll be making these stops on the way to and from the SHT, as well as during resupplies every week, though I will be camping on trail.
Anyone I stumble across on trail will likewise be educated about the need to protect the wilderness and hopefully contribute their signature to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters petition. All in all, the goal is to encounter as many individuals and places as possible to spread the word while exploring. The Campaign calls this type of activity “adventure advocacy.”
Only a few more days before getting this show on the road, and I could not be more excited!
Two months ago, I loaded up my parents’ Subaru with all of my belongings, my kayak strapped firmly to the roof, and made the roughly four-and-a-half-hour trip north from St. Paul to Ely, Minnesota. It was not an unfamiliar drive, but rather one that brought back memories of countless journeys that I had made to Ely and the Boundary Waters with my family and friends throughout my young life. Despite the nostalgia, as we neared Ely, I could not deny that this adventure had a decidedly different feel to it, as well as a different purpose.
I made the decision to move to Ely in large part because of the surrounding wilderness, the endless miles of forest to be hiked and waters to be paddled. I also came here to answer a call from this very same wilderness which has given me so much, a call for defenders who will work to protect this uniquely special place now when it needs them most.
I am an intern here at Sustainable Ely, the home of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Along with our Northeast Regional Organizer Jake Flaherty and our fabulous team of passionate volunteers, I help keep the office staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
Our mission is to spread awareness about the threat to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining to the people who come to Ely to enjoy this precious wilderness. We work to educate and provide accurate information to visitors about this newest threat to the Boundary Waters, share what this wilderness means to the region and to the 250,000 people who visit this national treasure annually, and tell them how we can all contribute to the effort to protect it.
We also bring the Campaign to exciting events in and around the community, such as the Fourth of July Parade and Blueberry Arts Festival in Ely and the Boundary Waters Expo on the Gunflint Trail. Sustainable Ely also works with the many local businesses who recognize the value of the Boundary Waters and help us in our efforts to protect it by promoting our growing national movement.
If you find yourself in Ely, be sure to stop by. We have a large selection of of brochures and educational materials that will help you understand the issue and let you know why it is so important that we act now to protect this wilderness. Sustainable Ely also has a number of displays that explain where these sulfide-ore copper mines are proposed and the areas that they could impact. These resources are intended to help visitors take an informed stance with regards to proposed sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed, but also to provide our supporters with the tools that they need to educate their friends and family about this issue.
The staff at Sustainable Ely are knowledgeable and always excited to have a conversation about protecting the Boundary Waters, a place that we all love and that we want to make sure is here for future generations.
Please come visit us here on 206 E. Sheridan Street to find out more about the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, chat with me about paddling, talk to Jake about fishing hotspots, or find out about the best places to visit in town from the longtime residents of Ely who volunteer here daily. Before you leave, be sure to sign your name on one of our Wenonah canoes and our petition in support of the National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Forever Act to permanently protect the Boundary Waters from the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining.
Photo Credit: Becca Dilley