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Update from Steve Piragis

Monday, November 11, 2019
Posted by
Steve Piragis

My wife Nancy and I have been in Ely, Minnesota since 1979, when we founded a little wilderness shop on the small town’s main street. We took our first trip to the Boundary Waters around that same time, and soon made the easy decision to spend the rest of our lives in Ely.

Over the past forty years, we’ve outfitted thousands of trips into the Boundary Waters, and have had the privilege of watching visitors fall in love with this incredible place. And who wouldn’t? The Boundary Waters is a Wilderness unlike any other, and deserves every ounce of protection.

Today, we are asking you to help protect this little slice of heaven with a donation to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Every dollar you donate will be doubled thanks to a generous $70,000 match. The Campaign needs your help to raise over $200,000 by the end of the day on Thursday, November 14!

Thank you if you have already donated. Thanks to you, we are getting geared up for an incredible Give to the Max Day.

What my family and many other business owners are worried about is the immense threat posed by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. This type of mining is extremely toxic, and would devastate the Boundary Waters.

A threatened Wilderness means a threatened local economy. Ely hasn’t had a mine in over 50 years, and in that time has built a blossoming main street of outfitters, restaurants, wilderness shops, and more. If the Twin Metals mine comes to fruition, Ely could start to look more like the mining towns of the past – at the mercy of international mineral prices, shops closed, and streets empty. You play a critical role in protecting the Boundary Waters and surrounding areas from the economic and environmental devastation sure to come with sulfide-ore copper mining.

So I’ll leave you with a question - how much is the Boundary Waters worth to you? If you feel like so many others do, and think that this place deserves protection, please consider making a gift today.


Heinselman lake has just been named within Quetico Provincial Park by The Ontario Geographic Names board, honoring the work of Miron (“Bud”) Heinselman.  Not only was Bud the principal advocate for saving the virgin forests of the BWCAW via the 1978 amendments to the Wilderness Act,  his field research and writings on the role of fire in the boreal forests are the foundation of current wilderness fire management in both the US and Canada.

Bud spent much of his research life in the boreal forests, documenting the age of the trees and thus piecing together the evidence demonstrating that all of those forests originated from fires. He was the sole forester willing to stand up for wilderness protection of the BWCAW forests prior to the passage of the US Wilderness Act in 1964. In 1972 while still with the Forest Service, he testified under subpoena in a Federal lawsuit which resulted in an EIS on BWCAW logging. His testimony convinced the Court that the Forest Service program of allowing wilderness logging was unwise. When logging continued despite that EIS, Bud’s love for the virgin forests led him to retire early from the Forest Service to become a full time advocate.  From 1974 through late 1978,  Bud and his wife Fran worked as tireless wilderness lobbyists, living much of the time in Washington DC at their own expense,  and leading the effort which produced the passage of a true BWCAW wilderness law in 1978,  not just for forest management, but also drastically reducing motorized use. His passion for a canoe-only wilderness was just as intense as his love for forests and he was moved to tears when it became necessary to compromise to allow some motorboat use. 

He was the first researcher to document the critical role of fire in the boreal forest ecosystem.  His field surveys demonstrating the history of fires in Canada and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and his writings based on that research, are the still the foundation of fire history research and fire behavior research in Canada and the United States. His writings on fire ecology are among the most frequently cited by other authors in the field, both Canadian and American. Leading forest fire researchers and managers in both Canada and the US still acknowledge Heinselman’s work as “seminal” and recognize that “it all started with Bud.” Wilderness lovers owe him a great debt, not just for his work on BWCAW, but for revolutionizing the management of wilderness forests.

Note: Why Quetico?  Heinselman’s fire ecology work in Canada clearly justifies the honor. Also, naming a lake in the US is problematic; there are not many unnamed lakes on the U.S. side. Bud and Fran took annual trips to Quetico, which often included a similar small, unnamed lake with no portages. 

Chuck Dayton

How to write a letter-to-the-editor

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

A letter-to-the-editor (LTE) is a letter from a reader that is printed in the ‘opinions’ section of a newspaper or other publication. They’re used to show readers’ issues of concern. Since the opinions section is often the most read, letters to the editor are very important for our movement to reach new eyes. We encourage our supporters across the country to write in a way that conveys their love for and desire to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Information on how and to whom to submit an LTE is usually found right on the ‘letters’ page in the paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed. If you can’t find the information you need, simply call the paper and ask how to go about submitting a letter.

The most effective letters have three main components

1. Your personal story for why the Boundary Waters and/or Wilderness areas in general are important to save and preserve for future generations. We often find that people’s personal stories about why the Boundary Waters is so important to them is the most effective way to show others the need to protect this special place. Be yourself and let your passion shine through. To get started, ask yourself some questions like these:

When did you first learn about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)?

Why is the BWCAW or wilderness in general important to you?

What motivated you to join the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters?

How would the proposed mines directly affect your future experiences in the BWCAW?

2. Include Facts. Refer to our fact sheets that can be found on the Save the Boundary Waters website under the “Media” tab. These provide excellent source material that can be used for your letter. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Courtney Otto (courtney@savetheboundarywaters.com) or another staff member.

3. The ask. Main message. This is an extremely important part of the letter. This is when you call the readers to action and tell them how they can make a difference. Here’s our recommended ask:

“The proposed sulfide-ore copper nickel mining projects on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are the greatest threat our beloved canoe country has faced. If permitted these mines will irreparably harm the waters flowing into the heart of the Wilderness, putting the ecosystem, and everything that depends on it, at risk. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the oldest and most embattled Wilderness areas in America and it is up to us to protect its legacy for current and future generations. In order to accomplish this we need (insert name, org, etc) to take a stand and do what is right to protect our beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”

A few things to remember:

Refute, advocate, and make a call to action. Most letters to the editor follow a standard format. Open your letter by refuting the claim made in the original story the paper ran. Use the next few sentences to backup your claims and advocate for your position. Then wrap your letter up by explaining what you think needs to happen now, make your call to action. Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original and from the reader. Be sure that you take the time to write the letter in your own words. Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address, and daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Courtney Otto or other staff for help, and request our how-to guide. We recommend checking in with staff before submitting your letter.

Volunteer of the Month Blog: Lucy Soderstrom

Monday, November 4, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Lucy Soderstrom is a Minnesota native who took her love of the Boundary Waters with her all the way to Tacoma, Washington. She’s a Save the Boundary Waters Volunteer Ambassador who leads a group of volunteers in the Tacoma/Seattle area. She started her team in the summer of 2019.

At monthly meetings, Lucy and her team write letters to editors of local newspapers and try to spread the word about the organization’s mission. The team tables mainly at the University of Puget Sound, where Lucy is a student, but also at local coffee shops. Soon, they’ll be setting up a table in Patagonia in Seattle. Lucy also spends a lot of time connecting with local groups like the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people looking to make fighting climate change a priority across the United States. They’re currently working on collaborating on a crowd-sponsored event.

Lucy spends as much time as she can in her family’s cabin in Ely, Minnesota, at the edge of the BWCA. As a kid, she went to Camp Widjiwagan, a YMCA summer camp for canoeing and backpacking in the Boundary Waters, for 7 years as a camper, and 2 as a counselor. She says she “loved being able to invite kids to explore the boundary waters, learn about themselves through that space, and watch them grow in confidence in themselves and love of nature.”

One of her favorite memories from the Boundary Waters comes from Camp Widjiwagan. As a counselor, she led a trip with four 13- and 14-year-old girls “and it was like 29 hours of rain, straight rain, no pauses, and it was difficult to stay positive during that. And then the next morning, the sun came out and we were all so excited. We got out, we all just ran into the lake and went swimming because it was really nice.”

Lucy became interested in Boundary Waters activism in the 10th grade when she wrote a research paper about the PolyMet mine project. Soon afterward, she began volunteering for Save the Boundary Waters. After moving to Washington for college, she kept up to date on what was going on in the Campaign. After some reflection, she says, “there were a lot of people that I knew who care about the Boundary Waters, and I knew we could harness that energy. . . I realized that this is a perfect spot for a regional team,” she said. She loves hearing stories about people’s unexpected connections to the Boundary Waters.

After moving to Washington, being an ambassador for Save the Boundary Waters has connected Lucy to her former home. “I just love feeling like I can do something, and that I’m involved, and I’m seeing tangible accomplishments being made, because out here in Washington, it feels far away, and I miss the Boundary Waters,” she said. “It feels good to still be having an impact on the places I care about most.”

Learn more about our Volunteer Ambassador program here!

Boundary Waters Gala 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

On October 9, 2019 the Campaign held the second annual Boundary Waters Gala. Thank you to everyone who joined us to celebrate America's most visited Wilderness. We raised over $250,000 to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Over 450 guests joined us, including former Governor Mark Dayton, Vice President Walter Mondale, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, partner organizations such as The Wilderness Society, Voyageur Outward Bound School, and National Wildlife Federation, Crow River Trail Guards, and partner businesses such as Northstar, Wenonah, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Wintergreen, Women's Wilderness Discovery, Piragis Northwoods, Ely Outfitting Co., and more!

Our guest speakers included Paul Schurke, Will Steger, Ann Bancroft, Becky Rom, and Tom Landwehr, and former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was presented the 2019 Wilderness Warrior Award! 
VIP Reception
Nicollet Island Pavillon
Dave and Amy Freeman reading from A Year in the Wilderness
Gov. Mark Dayton receiving Wilderness Warrior Award
Video message from Sally Jewel
Animals from the Minnesota Zoo 
Boundary Waters Map
Paul Schurke and Ann Bancroft

7 Reasons to Fall for the Boundary Waters

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Every season offers a new experience in the Boundary Waters, but fall is always a favorite. With a changing palette of colors surrounding your visit, there's more than one reason to visit the Wilderness this fall. Not only will campsites be yours for the choosing, but seldom-seen wildlife literally come out of the woodwork, prepping for the cold months ahead. 

Here are a few reasons you should fall for the Boundary Waters this fall: 

1. Fall Colors: While the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is fighting to stop copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness, we fully support taking in the beauty of the copper-colored leaves and foliage that add to the beauty of this one-of-a-kind Lakeland Wilderness. 

2. Moose are in rut: Through late September, early October, Minnesota's arguably favorite mammal is slightly easier to spot as the moose are in rut, which means the bulls (males) are fighting each other for the chance to mate with a cow (female). 

3. Bear sightings increase: As these majestic creatures prepare for winter hibernation, bears become a more frequent sight in the Boundary Waters as they scavenge for food. 

4. Claim any campsite: With crisper nights and greyer days, many of the summer tourists have come and gone which means not only is it easier to get a permit in September to your favorite lake, you most likely will get your choice of scenic campsites. 

5. Self-issued permits: If you wait until October to plan your next Boundary Waters trip, there's no need to stop at the Ranger Station to get your permit. You can go directly to your entry point and fill out a self-issued, overnight permit.


6. Bonus scenery: An additional perk to any fall Boundary Waters trip is the extra scenic drive along the North Shore! With Superior National Forest Fall Colors Tour trails close to parts of the Boundary Waters, you'll get an added glimpse of this majestic Minnesota season with just the flick of your blinker.


7. We'll take you there: One of the many bonuses to supporting the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is us bringing the Boundary Waters to you when you can't make the trip up. Take a few seconds to watch this digital Fall Colors Tour below.


FOLLOW THE CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE BOUNDARY WATERS ON SOCIAL TO BRING THE BOUNDARY WATERS HOME WHEREVER YOU ARE.




Wilderness Perspectives: Two Eagles

Monday, September 23, 2019
Posted by
Doug Wallace


Lac LaCroix — Tiger Bay at Sunset


Two Eagles 

Rising Sun yawned and crawled across tops of tall pines standing at attention. Sky had just cast off its predawn blanket revealing a deep bronze tinged blue, and looked at itself mirrored in Vermilion’s still waters. Canoe was eager for us to slide in, paddles laying along side her Ash gunnels. Shoving off, she moved her way toward a sliver of land and a tree holding a high plush branch pointing off to the northwest. Out of nowhere three eagles appeared, gliding toward that branch. One veered off while the others slowed together, like two ballet dancers landing softly as one on a gently swaying cushion of dew glistening green. They turned their majestic white heads and embraced rising Sun, as we glided below in awe. 

Doug Wallace, August, 2019




Bear Creek, in the BWCAW south of Pine Lake


Trout Lake (BWCAW)



Campaign Update - Fall 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

A lot has happened since our last update. Here is a breakdown of recent developments and some insight into what's coming up.

  • Litigation. In June 2018, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and nine Minnesota businesses filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, DC challenging the reinstatement of cancelled federal mineral leases of national forest lands next to the Boundary Waters (Twin Metals leases). Twin Metals intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the Department of the Interior. All parties submitted briefs asking for summary judgement in their favor, meaning the case will be decided on the terms of the leases that were cancelled and on the records in the Bureau of Land Management. We expect the Judge to hold oral arguments on the summary judgement motions later this year. Court proceedings move very slowly, but it is possible we could get a judge's ruling by end of year or early in 2020.
  • Congress. Rep. Betty McCollum, the primary leader on protecting the Boundary Waters who we work very closely with, included a provision in the House Interior Appropriations bill report (she is chair of the subcommittee) that directs the federal government to complete the federal mineral withdrawal study. This study analyzed the benefits of a ban on copper mining in the Rainy River Drainage Basin (the watershed of the Boundary Waters) and was abruptly halted for political reasons by order of the President after 20 months of a 24-month review. The provision in the Interior Appropriations report would require the Forest Service to complete the study and provide it to Congress. During the study, no mineral applications could be approved.
  • Outreach.  We continue to provide learning opportunities and disseminate information through a variety of means. We had our first outdoors Boundary Waters concert on August 16! Over 4,400 people came to the Duluth Bayfront to listen to 9 Minnesota artists, hear our message, and celebrate the Boundary Waters. It was a great event that generated a lot of media, captured many new names on our petitions, and helped us raise money for the cause. We worked to get exceptional stories in Outside Magazine and the New York Times in June, there was a very nice article in The New Yorker in July, and we worked with Audubon to get an article in its magazine in September. We hosted a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, where we provided information, sold merchandise, and secured another 10,000 signatures on our petition. We are growing our national Volunteer Ambassador program and it has received a lot of interest (learn more here). And, we are working to finalize 3 videos, this fall: a documentary on the Boundary Waters and the threat of sulfide-ore mining; a 360 video experience to show people the beauty of the Boundary Waters; and an animated video to show how the Wilderness will be devastated by the construction of the mine. There have been many other meetings, articles and events in support of our efforts, as well.

As you can see, it has been a busy few months, and things will continue that way. Your support is greatly appreciated and critical to our success. Look for a lot more activity as we approach the winter, and, as always, let us know if you have any questions!


Success for the Campaign at The Minnesota State Fair!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Bernie Wire Photography

We had another wonderful time at the Minnesota State Fair this year! It truly was a “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” with the Fair setting a record attendance for visitors this year, near-perfect weather most of the time, and as always, delicious fried foods. 

We had fun in our booth in the Dairy Building for the 5th year in a row, and more than 10,000 people signed our petition telling their elected officials to work for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. What a success! Thanks to all of you who came by the booth and signed the petition, and if you did not get a chance to sign - you still can!

Bernie Wire Photography

We also had an exciting new opportunity to sell Save the Boundary Waters merch, and to partner with True North Maps Co who worked with us on creating a new large map in our booth and designed awesome commemorative map bandanas. Take a look at their maps here. 

Thank you for signing petitions and buying our new merch, and of course, thank you to all who volunteered at the Fair! Our volunteers are critical to our mission of permanent protection of the Boundary Waters. Learn more about volunteer opportunities and get involved here. 

Thank you for speaking loudly for this quiet place,

The Team at Save the Boundary Waters. 

Thanks for Coming Out to Wild Waters!

Monday, August 19, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Thanks to all of you who came out and supported the Wild Waters music fest on Friday, August 16! In addition to our Wild Waters sponsors above, we'd like to thank Northern Coffeeworks for helping us thank the performers. Thanks to all the supporters, collaborators, volunteers and attendees, it was a wonderful event -- and we raised funds and awareness to Save the Boundary Waters!

View more photos from the event here.

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