Wenonah is an iconic and beloved canoe company that has been manufacturing canoes on the banks of the Mississippi River, in Winona, Minnesota, for more than 50 years. Founder Mike Cichanowski has been a steward of the Boundary Waters since taking his first Wilderness trips as a Boy Scout.
Wenonah was among the founding allies in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Did you know that Wenonah donated the original canoe on display in our Ely headquarters & Action Center in 2013? The canoe was signed by thousands of supporters who came through our doors and joined our cause.
When explorers Dave and Amy Freeman decided to paddle from Ely to Washington D.C. in the fall of 2014, Wenonah donated another canoe for the journey (because the Freemans needed to paddle a larger canoe with more surface area for signatures and so guests like filmmaker Nate Ptacek and the occasional journalist could hop in the middle seat to join them on the water). That canoe, a sleek cream-colored Wenonah Minnesota 3, earned the name Sig, for Ely’s famous wilderness advocate and writer Sigurd Olson and because of the signatures of thousands of people the Freemans met along their journey. The Paddle to DC helped establish the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters as a conservation issue of National importance.
Wenonah has since donated several more canoes to be used as visible symbols of support for protecting the Boundary Waters, including the canoe (nick-named “Betty Jo”) towed by 4 Outward Bound instructors who bicycled across Minnesota on the Bike Tour to Save the Boundary Waters in 2015 and the beautiful custom-made red canoe for Dave and Amy’s 2018 book tour by bicycle (“Pedal to DC”), taking the message by land from Ely, across the eastern U.S.
And what about the canoe used for the Freemans’ Year in the Wilderness in 2015-2016? The perfect canoe for that journey was already in their possession from a previous cross-continental expedition. The ultralight Wenonah Itasca that Dave and Amy paddled, portaged, and dragged across frozen Boundary Waters lakes for an entire year already had thousands of miles under its hull long before its launch from River Point Resort on the South Kawishiwi River on the Fall Equinox of 2015.
These “Adventure Advocacy” trips with Wenonah canoes have been some of the most inspiring and visible ways we’ve been able to elevate the call to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.
Wenonah Canoe owner Mike Cichanowski has travelled to Washington D.C. several times along with other Save the Boundary Waters advocates and business owners, meeting face-to-face with decision makers. These trips helped make possible the Obama administration’s decision to terminate Twin Metals’ mining leases next to the Boundary Waters.
The Trump Administration reversed course and reinstated and renewed the mining leases, decisions that Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (the lead organization of Save the Boundary Waters) and 9 Minnesota businesses, including Wenonah, are challenging in federal court.
In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Boundary Waters Act, in 2018 Wenonah made 10 special edition Bud Heinselman canoes. Bud Heinselman was a great wilderness hero of the 1970’s whose research on the history and importance of fire in the Boundary Waters ecosystem is still the bedrock of fire ecology across North America.
Thank you, Wenonah Canoe!
Save the Boundary Waters’ Government Relations Director Alex Falconer and his family in their twin Wenonah canoes
Banning this destructive mining from the headwaters of the Boundary Waters would deliver multiple benefits of the kind critical to addressing the climate and extinction crisis, including preserving carbon sequestration; avoiding the massive energy demand of large sulfide-ore copper mines and thus eliminating major new greenhouse gas sources; and preserving a 4.3-million-acre ecosystem that provides a refuge for species threatened by climate change.
The 4.3 million-acre Quetico-Superior region is primarily boreal forest. Boreal forests store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem — almost twice as much per acre as tropical forests. Keeping carbon locked in these forests and out of the atmosphere is a vital part of the fight to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. According to a federal government report prepared for members and committees of Congress, each acre of terrestrial boreal forest stores on average about 180 tons of carbon in its vegetation and soils. Destruction of boreal forest for industrial mining is a double whammy — the release of much of that carbon into the atmosphere and the loss of the capacity of the land to take up carbon in the future. The loss is even greater if wetlands are destroyed. Soil carbon levels in wetlands are nearly double the level in the terrestrial boreal forest.
Mechanical destruction of vegetation and soil is not the only harm that would result from permitting copper mining; the carbon storage assets of the Boundary Waters region (surface vegetation, soils, wetlands, and peatlands) are incredibly vulnerable to acid mine drainage – the water pollution that inevitably results from sulfide-ore mining.
A leading ally of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, which seeks to develop the Twin Metals copper mine, is Minnesota Power, a local utility that feeds a group of energy-devouring industrial customers. According to MinnPost, 74 percent of Minnesota Power’s electricity is sold to six taconite mines and four paper and pulp mills. Just one taconite mine alone needs roughly the same amount of energy as the City of Minneapolis. Minnesota Power is aggressively seeking to grow its industrial customer base with a Twin Metals copper mine next to the Boundary Waters. Although Minnesota Power has started to shift away from carbon, it has two coal-fired generators (Boswell plant), is seeking to build a $700 million gas plant, and may re-commission a coal-fired plant on the North Shore of Lake Superior.An estimate of greenhouse gas emissions, based on a 2014 Prefeasibility Report for the proposed Twin Metals mine, is 23,444,730 metric tons of CO2 over a 20-year life of the mine. This is equal to greenhouse gas emissions from adding nearly 5 million passenger vehicles to the roads for one year.
The Wilderness Society identified 74 places in the United States that are crucial to our ability to sustain biodiversity in the face of a changing climate. These areas have three essential characteristics: (1) an especially high degree of wildness; (2) connectivity to existing protected areas; and (3) diversity of unprotected species and ecosystem types. The analysis found that the Quetico-Superior region is one of the top places in the nation with this “Wildland Conservation Value.”
A recent study by The Nature Conservancy with similar findings underscores the necessity of keeping these areas intact and undeveloped. Consistent with this, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and The Trust for Public Land have acquired large swaths of land across northern Minnesota to keep them protected. Allowing the creation of an industrial mining zone in the watershed of the Boundary Waters would undermine the work that these and other organizations are doing to prepare us for the future.
The Boundary Waters — the heart of the Quetico-Superior region — is a vitally important regional and national asset. It is the most visited wilderness area in the United States. It is the largest wilderness area east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the Everglades. Sacrificing this unique and vital region to sulfide-ore copper mining would destroy not only an irreplaceable recreational and economic treasure, but what is also one of our best natural assets in the fight against climate change.
Becky Rom of Ely, Minnesota, is the national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.
Will Steger is a polar explorer, educator, author, entrepreneur, and eyewitness to the effects of climate change. He founded Climate Generation which works to empower individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited Wilderness. A sulfide-ore copper mine at the edge of the Wilderness threatens the purity and ecosystem integrity of the Boundary Waters. This type of mining is a form of hardrock mining; the EPA lists hardrock mining as the industry that generates the largest source of toxins in the nation. This type of mining does not belong next to the Boundary Waters. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), the parent organization of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, is leading the effort to ensure permanent protection for the water, air, plants and animals of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for future generations.
The Boundary Waters is located on lands that were and are the homeland of the Anishinaabe peoples (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa).
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is strategic in its efforts to protect America’s most visited Wilderness by implementing a multi-pronged protection approach.
POLITICAL ADVOCACY: We educate elected officials and bring awareness to the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness. We also lobby and meet with lawmakers on both the state and national levels to encourage them to protect the Boundary Waters.
SCIENCE & LITIGATION: We spend time and money to conduct and assemble scientific research and studies, and engage in litigation when necessary.
ENGAGEMENT & AWARENESS: We reach a wide audience to raise awareness about the Wilderness and the threat of sulfide-ore mining to supporters around the world. We participate in public input processes and also have a robust outreach program that creates, educates and informs Wilderness ambassadors across the country.
BROAD COALITION: Beginning in 2013, we prioritized building a credible, science-based campaign supported by a broad coalition of businesses, veterans, hunting and angling groups, youth, Indigenous people, students, conservation groups, Boundary Waters paddlers, and many more allies across the nation. Today, we’ve reached over 400 businesses and organizations.(Learn about the Boundary Waters Business Coalition. )
We do all of this and more in order to ensure the permanent protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and you make it possible. Rush a year-end gift today.
During the Obama administration, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters worked to:
Elevate Boundary Waters protection from a local Minnesota priority to a national issue
Attack the issue from a proactive, protective posture instead of defensively
In 2016, Twin Metals Minnesota, the mining company owned by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, had their expired mineral leases cancelled; a mineral leasing ban was proposed that would prevent new mineral leases and prospecting (exploration) permits.
After the 2016 elections, we found ourselves facing a hostile administration that did everything in its power to advance a Twin Metals mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Our Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters fought hard against the Trump administration to:
Slow down the federal leasing and review process, and incorporate science into decision making
Build additional political power and support
Elevate the issue for presidential candidates
Release polling by Republican and Democratic pollsters
Push back on political interference and untruths, and push forward science and public input
Engage Members of Congress to oppose the mine
Trump did everything he could to make it happen but there's still no mine.
Below is just some of the critical work we are doing at both the state and federal level, through advocacy, legal challenges, and legislation introduced by Boundary Waters champions.
In June 2020, NMW sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), alleging that Minnesota’s laws are inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters because they allow a sulfide-ore copper mine to be built upstream of the Wilderness.
This ground-breaking lawsuit was brought under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA).
NMW and its partner The Wilderness Society are lead plaintiffs in three federal lawsuits challenging unlawful actions to advance sulfide-ore copper mining on public lands in the Superior National Forest, just upstream of the Boundary Waters.
In October, Minnesota House Members announced that they would be introducing a state Boundary Waters Protection Bill in 2021. This bill is complementary to H.R. 5598, a bill pending in Congress.
In January 2020, Representative Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 5598, The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act.
Through our federal advocacy and outreach program, we are generating Congressional support for this bill and working towards a Senate companion bill.
Environ. Impact Statements
And Other Reviews
This is the fifth federal public comment process on the Boundary Waters that our team has supported with technical comments based on high quality scientific and economic analysis.
Our outreach team is prepared to support and encourage citizens to engage in the public comment periods. More than 250,000 public comments have been submitted during past Boundary Waters comment periods.
The results of the 2020 elections made it absolutely clear that Minnesotans support protection for the Boundary Waters; they rejected politicians who would allow sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of this Wilderness.
President-elect Biden won the state in a contest that highlighted the Boundary Waters and northeastern Minnesota, where, according to the New York Times, “residents had broadly rebuked the Trump administration’s move toward approving a mine near the Boundary Waters.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise - our polling from July 2020 showed that 68% of Minnesotans support permanent protection of the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Mining in this place is opposed by a 39-point margin.
With an incoming federal administration that values science, the law, and public input, we can take this fight to a new level.
The coalition behind this monumental effort is led and funded by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. Without your support, the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining would not be where it is today. We bring together the collective voices of those who love the Boundary Waters.
We have an opportunity to protect the Boundary Waters for good. Help us continue our momentum into 2021 by donating today.
We at Dogs for the BWCA want to help save this incredible Wilderness! Hear from some of our dog members about their favorite Boundary Waters stories below.
I got to live in the Boundary Waters for a long time when I joined Amy and Dave Freeman starting in the winter of their Year in the Wilderness. Amy and I skijored together until ice out when they decided to let me stay with them for paddle season! I’m a land lover, so every time we got to a new campsite, I’d be so excited I’d just run and run and run and run and run and run and run and then take a nap. Good times.
I love tennis balls. But my mom said we couldn’t bring balls to the Wilderness in case they got lost. Leave No Trace (except peeing on trees to let the other dogs know I was at this campsite!!!) So instead I got by with finding sticks. Small sticks. Big sticks. Sticks that were supposed to be for the fire. Sticks buried in the lake. Sticks that wacked my mom in the back of the leg on portages, (almost causing her to drop the canoe. Hehehe) The great part about the Boundary Waters is that there were SO MANY STICKS. My favorite was having my mom throw it into the lake and then bringing it back to her. Ah boy, good times. Can't wait to go back.
My favorite thing about going to the Boundary Waters is how many different kinds of animal poop there are out there. I’m a big fan of finding it and then rolling in it. According to my mom, I shouldn’t be able to find human poop because humans are supposed to hide it… something about “leave no trace” ... but sometimes they don’t and that’s a real treat for me.
My first time in the Boundary Waters was when I was just four months old for a winter trip (my favorite season!) I enjoy running across the frozen lakes and smelling all of the animal tracks and diving into deep snow bluffs. I especially enjoy running ahead of my snowshoeing humans who are too heavy to walk on top of icy snow as I can! But, I never run too far from my humans because I don’t want to get lost in the Wilderness.
Buck and Gunnar Landwehr
One time we were in the Boundary Waters with our dad. He saw a bull moose across the lake and grunted at it. Later in the evening, it swam over to our campsite. We don’t know why dad was freaking out so much, but he climbed into a tree. Then he got mad at us for not being “watch dogs.” Sorry, we thought we were on vacation!
I. Love. Ice fishing.
We chatted with author and Save the Boundary Waters volunteer John Owens who recently published the picture book One Summer Up North (University of Minnesota Press) following a family's canoe trip in the Boundary Waters.
Q: Tell me about your personal connection to the Boundary Waters
A: Six years ago I took my first trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for a half-day paddle with my wife, and some old friends from college. The next year I went along on a guided trip for a week. That was my first overnight experience in the BWCAW. Since that year, I have been back at least once, if not two or three times a year. Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
Q: How’d you get the idea for this picture book? What was your inspiration?
A: A summer trip inspired me to illustrate what would become my picture book, “One Summer Up North.” My friend Steve and I put in at entry point #16 - Moose River North, and paddled our way up through Agnes, then over into Iron Lake. We took in Rebecca Falls and Curtain Falls ( Curtain Falls inspired a spread in the book), then paddled back across Lac La Croix visiting Warrior Hill, and the pictographs along the way. Paddling west we ended up turning south into Gebeonequet, Green, Rocky, and then Oyster Lake for our last night. This was my first trip moving daily and exploring a variety of spectacular sights in a week-long trip. I told Steve at the time, “I’m going to illustrate a book!”
Q: What was the process like to create and publish the book?
A: The illustrations took a little over three years to develop and create. They started out as small thumbnail sketches, then turned into full-size sketches that were eventually transferred to Bristol board and then finalized as drawings. I then added the color digitally. It took another year for the University of Minnesota Press process to develop into publishing the final book. If you want to check out the book, go to: https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/one-summer-up-north
Q: What are you hoping people take from the book?
A: I’d like people who have never visited the Boundary Waters to come away with an idea of what it’s like, hopefully inspiring them to visit. I think people who have visited the Boundary Waters will recognize something about their own experience in this story and the scenes portrayed. The one thing I hope stands out is the evocative nature of the images.
Q: You volunteered with Save the Boundary Waters – say more about that, and what inspired you to get involved.
A: After my first weeklong trip, I visited Save the Boundary Waters office in Ely and found out about the fight against sulfide-ore copper mining. I did more research and that’s when I started making contributions and volunteering. I have volunteered at the State Fair booth a few times, and when the book was published I donated a percentage of my advance for this cause. I hope the book in turn becomes one more way that inspires readers to get involved with Save the Boundary Waters.
Q: Do you have any advice to others wondering what they can do to help fight for something they think is important?
A: I would encourage anyone that wants to help fight for something they think is important to simply start where they can. Whether that is time, or money, or in some other way. Any contribution whether big or small can help.
General Manager (and avid backcountry expeditioner himself!) Bear Paulsen and the whole Northstar team have also been dedicated, generous, and collaborative partners as well as a strong paddling industry voice for Save the Boundary Waters since the early days of the Campaign.
Northstar has sponsored and participated in many of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters events -- donating items, cash, and helping publicize the efforts - including the Pedal to DC Bike/Book Tour, and auctions and fundraisers such as our Boundary Waters Gala. We can also always count on a strong showing from their employee team themselves--always showing up in person and attending many Save the Boundary Waters events!
Northstar gives generously of their time and resources to aid the effort to protect the Boundary Waters--from designing and selling their own merch with a kickback to the Campaign, dedicating their own brand ads to the cause, and providing custom Basswood Lake pint glasses for every attendee of our gala, and donating a top-of-the-line canoe and gear package for our Boundary Waters 40th Anniversary raffle.
They also routinely donate a portion of proceeds from their boat sales at the Canoecopia expo to Save the Boundary Waters.
Northstar has been a member of the Boundary Waters Business Coalition and advocating for protection of the Boundary Waters to decision-makers for years. In addition, they are one of the 9 business co-plaintiffs alongside Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness in our federal lawsuits challenging the reinstatement and renewals of Twin Metals’ mining leases.
Support Northstar and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters this season: check out their Shop to Support items shirts and cups today!
THANK YOU Northstar Canoes!
Save the Boundary Waters staff Tom Landwehr and Sam Chadwick joined Northstar and friends for the 2019 Northstar Experience, and paddled the Zumbro River!
ELY, MN-- Earlier this week the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) volunteered to "cure the deficiencies" in its decision to extend thirteen prospecting permits for Antofagasta's Twin Metals, the Chilean mining conglomerate proposing to conduct risky sulfide-ore mining on the doorstep of America's most visited Wilderness, Minnesota's Boundary Waters. The prospecting permits were the first step toward a significant expansion of the current proposed mine which sits immediately next to lakes, rivers, and streams that flow directly into the Wilderness. The prospecting permits had been extended on May 1 without the BLM conducting legally required environmental review or consultation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service on impacts to endangered or threatened species. The legal challenge was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (lead organization in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters), and The Wilderness Society.
"The BLM failed to follow the law. It was required to consider environmental impacts and endangered species impacts of risky copper mining in the headwaters of the Wilderness before extending Twin Metals prospecting permits, some of which are on lands that border the Boundary Waters. Instead, the BLM did nothing except rush to grant mining approvals. This has been a hallmark of the Trump Administration's reckless push to fast track risky sulfide-ore mining next to the Boundary Waters," said Tom Landwehr, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. "This is not the first time the Trump Administration has cut corners in order to permit the mine of Ivanka Trump's landlord, but hopefully it's the last."
There are currently two other federal lawsuits challenging Trump Administration actions for Twin Metals, including one challenge to the legality of reinstating expired leases and one on the sufficiency of their subsequent renewal.
This is the second time in a week that state or federal agencies have gone back to review rules or actions related to sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters because of actions led by Northeastern Minnesotans Wilderness (NMW) and its Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Last week, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources agreed to review Minnesota's mining rules as they relate to areas near the Wilderness.
“We are leading the effort on multiple fronts,” said Landwehr, “to make sure sulfide-ore copper mining never happens in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. With great partners like The Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Campaign has the expertise and strategic pathways to end this threat to the iconic Wilderness. A special thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for representing NMW pro bono in this lawsuit.”
Boozhoo (Greetings) -
Our New Album "Ancestral Legacy" will be released on Friday November 27, 2020, Native American Heritage Day!
We're here to say our thoughts and feelings about the Boundary Waters. Being of Indigenous heritage, we're driven to protect the world's precious lands and waters from encroaching empires such as Twin Metals.
Mining has already proven to leave a devastating impact in our region of Northern Minnesota. It's time that all of us who live here, staunch the environmental bleeding, and support Save the Boundary Waters. Let us put an end to the damage and give our Mother Earth a chance to heal.
Our band will represent the Ojibwe Nation to speak out against any who would so much as threaten to disrupt or disrespect our traditions which Native Peoples have held on this continent for centuries.
These are our rights to hunt, fish, and gather on land we're sill fighting to protect for future generations.
We are proud to create music that speaks of and for Native Americans and the land upon which we live. We celebrate the honor, courage, and greatness of our ancestry.
Today we ask that you take time to listen to the songs being played in your own backyards. Would you want the peace and tranquility found there to be vanquished? Neither do we, which is why we must all band together to protect the Boundary Waters.
The Boundary Waters is America’s most popular wilderness so naturally, there are so many different people standing up to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.
Here are just a few of those people explaining why they love the Boundary Waters and think you should support Save the Boundary Waters on Give to the Max Day.
I didn’t grow up camping. Whatever compromises my Berkeley-based parents had made in summer activities, it did not involve immersion in nature. A few years into my move to Minnesota, my parents were surprised when I invited them on a canoe camping trip in the BWCA with my spouse. I was eager to explore this place that so many Minnesotans claimed as the crown jewel of the state, worthy of repeat trips, and exhaustive itineraries. We piled in our car and made our way up the Gunflint Trail to Hungry Jack Outfitters. Despite our trepidation, they outfitted us beautifully and instructed us to take an approachable route just a few lakes away.
While our first portages were clunky, with lots of yelling and confusion, once we settled into the land things started to change. Without our normal distractions, we were able to focus our attention on each other and on the simple tasks of the day. It was so special to see my parents transform into this new setting: my dad tackling the rain fly while my mom built up a strong fire. I appreciated seeing them in this new light and seeing how nature brought out my dad’s desire to sing over the bonfire, and my mom’s calm appreciation of a still sunset.
This personal transformation is one of my favorite parts of the BWCA. Since that trip, every year we bring new people up and we get to watch them open up and experience this new place for the first time. One of my favorite memories was this past summer when we took our friends Jack and Anne on their first trip. Not even three hours into the trip Jack exclaims, “this is the best day of my life.” It is a treat to both see my friends transform into new people under the night stars and stunning landscape and to deepen my relationships with them with this shared experience. Nothing says relationship building like navigating a canoe in windy weather!
I urge you to support the protection of the BWCA from dangerous sulfide-ore copper mining, so that we can continue to invite in new friends, family, and colleagues to experience this precious place. This land belongs to everyone, and deserves to be experienced and appreciated by both first-timers and BWCA veterans for generations to come.
The Boundary Waters has been a source of motivation to become more politically mobilized than ever before in 2020. Places like the BWCA deserve to be protected and advocated for.
That’s why I am asking you to help the Campaign by donating today. Every dollar counts in the fight to protect this incredible Wilderness.
I have been a volunteer with Save the Boundary Waters campaign for 6 years. Working alongside so many dedicated folks at the campaign has been inspirational over the years! I have co-lead the Chicago chapter of the campaign for about two years now. I love meeting so many fellow paddlers in the Chicagoland area, and educating one another on how to protect our public lands!
My name is Megan and I'm one of the Chicago ambassadors for the Campaign. My family has had a cabin in the Boundary Waters since the 1960's that I've been going to my entire life. Since the start of this crazy year, it has been a source of constancy in this ever changing, uncertain world we're currently living in. I've been able to escape to the BWCA a few times this year and it feels like one of the only places within reach, where all the noise fades away. I've been inspired by listening to the people who are so dedicated to protecting these lands and waters and it makes me hopeful for the future of all public lands. It has been my absolute pleasure volunteering and helping out where I can.
In uncertain times and with our communities craving connection, I've seen more and more people turn to the outdoors for solace this year. The BWCA continues to prove that it is a place for quiet contemplation, connection with nature, and community building. And in order to continue doing so, the BWCA needs our stewardship and support!
Mat and I have been going to the Boundary Waters every year since we’ve been together. As a good friend of ours once said, "The Boundary Waters is a true test of whether a couple can survive marriage." Well, after several trips together, I decided it would be the perfect place to ask Mat to marry me. When the time came for the wedding, it felt only right to ask our guests to make donations to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. We just celebrated our marriage on a mid-October trip and couldn't be happier!
We have entered into an agreement with the DNR on a process for how to move forward with review and possible revision of state mining rules. This is a first step in the right direction. The mining rules guide how sulfide-ore copper mines are sited, and we believe there should be no such mines in the BWCA watershed. Donate now to help us continue the fight to protect the Boundary Waters.
On November 18, lawyers for Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) signed an agreement called a Stipulation for Remand with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The stipulation agreement is a result of NMW’s lawsuit challenging the state’s non-ferrous mining rules filed pursuant to the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) on June 24, 2020. NMW alleges that the current mining rules - adopted 27 years ago - fail to protect the Boundary Waters. The current rules allow for sulfide-ore mining in the upstream half of the Rainy River Headwaters, next to and outside of the Boundary Waters. Polluted waters from sulfide-ore copper mining in the upstream half of the Rainy River Headwaters would flow directly into the Boundary Waters and also put at risk the downstream protected areas of the Quetico Provincial Park and Voyageurs National Park (see map, below).
This is the first-ever lawsuit brought under Section 10 of MERA (MS116B.10). The first step in a Section 10 MERA lawsuit provides that the plaintiff (NMW) has the burden of proving the existence of material evidence that the challenged state rules are inadequate to protect the state’s natural resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction. In other words, NMW had the burden of proving with material evidence that allowing sulfide-ore copper mining in the upstream half of the Rainy Rivers Headwaters fails to protect the Boundary Waters from pollution, impairment,or destruction. The Minnesota DNR and NMW have agreed that NMW has met this requirement of material evidence. In the stipulation agreement, the Minnesota DNR and NMW have agreed to a process to address the adequacy of the rules.
The process as provided in the stipulation agreement is as follows:
The DNR will provide a public comment period concerning the adequacy of the siting provisions of Minnesota’s nonferrous mining rules to protect the Boundary Waters and the Rainy River Headwaters as natural resources. The public comment period will likely be held in early 2021.
After reviewing the public comments, scientific evidence submitted with the comments, and any additional information available to the DNR, the DNR will issue an order and findings of fact by September 30, 2021 concerning the adequacy of the siting rule.
Any party to NMW’s lawsuit - and Antofagasta’s Twin Metals has intervened in the lawsuit and thus is a party - may challenge the DNR decision and request a contested case hearing, which is a trial before an administrative law judge. Therefore, we anticipate that there will be a contested case hearing on the adequacy of the nonferrous mining regulations to protect the Boundary Waters and the Rainy River Headwaters. If the administrative law judge finds that the siting section of the Minnesota nonferrous mining rules is inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters, the DNR will commence the formal rulemaking procedure to amend state regulations.
After final rulemaking, the matter will return to district court in Ramsey County to address any challenges by any party to the lawsuit.
The entire process for NMW’s MERA lawsuit will take several years. Success would mean that sulfide-ore mining would be prohibited in the entire Rainy River Headwaters, including and specifically the upstream half that is currently unprotected.
Help us raise $300,000 by midnight on Nov. 19! We have an incredible $150,000 match, courtesy of the Manitou Fund ($50,000), as well as a group of loyal supporters. Double your impact by making a Give to the Max Day gift!
Map of the Rainy River Headwaters watershed. The proposed Twin Metals mine is located nine miles southeast of Ely, in the watershed which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park and Voyageurs National Park.