What is adventure advocacy?
Adventure advocacy is the process of raising awareness for a cause through an adventurous act. National Geographic explorers Dave and Amy Freeman are some of the most well known adventure advocates for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters; however, there have been a variety of incredible people who have used adventure advocacy to raise awareness around the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Why do adventure advocacy?
Adventure advocacy is a unique way to use your passions to raise awareness for a good cause. It also is a great way to stand out and gain exposure for the cause. Here are some examples of news stories that covered past adventure advocacy projects for the Boundary Waters.
The Dirtbag Diaries: Endangered Spaces- Boundary Waters, Minnesota
Gear Junkie: Bike Tour to ‘Save the Boundary Waters’
Outside Magazine: Couple to Spend a Year in the Wilderness
National Geographic: A Year in the Wilderness: Week 4, Post 1
Duluth News Tribune: Nonstop run of BWCAW trails aims to raise awareness
Paddle to DC
In 2014, Dave and Amy Freeman paddled and sailed on a 101-day, 2,000-mile journey from Ely, Minnesota, to Washington, D.C., to call attention to a proposed sulfide-ore copper mining operation threatening the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Freemans departed Ely by canoe on August 24, 2014, and arrived in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2014. They made stops in communities along the way, participating in events such as the September 5-7 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in Duluth. In Washington, D.C., they participated in a press conference and co-hosted the Youth Outdoor Collaborative, a wilderness and outdoors youth engagement event for nearly 150 area elementary and middle school students.
Bike Tour to Save the Boundary Waters
On April 2, 2015 three dedicated young women: Erin, Iggy and Lisa -- wilderness guides from Voyageur Outward Bound School near Ely --began a journey of adventure advocacy across Minnesota stopping at colleges and communities along the way, to raise awareness about the threat to the Boundary Waters' clean water, clean air and forest landscape from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on its wilderness edge. On May 10, 2015, the riders completed their journey of 850 miles over 39 days and celebrated in Ely, MN, which is at the edge of the Boundary Waters.
A Superior Hiking Trail Thru-Hike
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.
Read Kathleen’s blogs here:
A Year in the Wilderness
On September 23, 2015, Dave and Amy Freeman embarked on a yearlong adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters’ efforts to protect the Boundary Waters from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the Wilderness edge. On September 23, 2016, they returned after 366 days. Since they departed on their Year in the Wilderness, Dave and Amy camped at approximately 120 different sites, explored 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveled more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team. In 2014, Dave and Amy traveled by canoe and sailboat from Ely to Washington, DC, on the Paddle to DC as a first step in their efforts to protect the Wilderness.
Runnin’ for the BWCA Boston Marathon fundraiser
In 2018, Kate and Adam Eskuri signed up to run the 2018 Boston Marathon. Instead of just running the race, they created a GoFund me fundraiser to make the race represent something even bigger. They had a goal to raise awareness for the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters, as well as to raise $100 per mile that they were running.
Waterway Jay: Paddle for progress
In 2018, Jay Gustafson, known as Waterway Jay, spearheaded a project called Paddle for Progress with the vision to galvanize Minnesotans to take pride and state ownership of the freshwater ecosystems that make our state unique.
Pedal to DC
On April 22, 2018 Amy and Dave Freeman set out from Ely, MN to bike to Washington, D.C. on a bike-book tour for their new book A Year in the Wilderness. Not only did they bike from Ely to D.C. they also pulled a canoe behind them the whole way and collected signatures as they went. Once returning from living in the Boundary Waters for one year, they determined that a traditional book tour wasn’t for them and decided to partake in a bit more adventure advocacy to promote their book while continuing to raise awareness for the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. They arrived in Washington, D.C. on June 18th, 2018 and met with elected officials to share the importance of permanently protecting the Boundary Waters.
Swim for the Boundary Waters
Swim for the Boundary Waters is a 3-year open water swimming and paddling expedition along the BWCA/Canada border to celebrate and protect the BWCA. In 2019, a team of 2 swimmers and 2 support crew took part in a 12 day 80-to-90-mile canoe-and-swim expedition of the Boundary Waters.
Running for the Boundary Waters
In 2019, our Government Affairs Director, Alex Falconer, decided to combine two of his greatest passions (running and the Boundary Waters) together to try something no one has done before. Although the Boundary Waters is often known for its pristine canoeing, Alex had a vision to run through this Wilderness Area consisting of over 1,200 lakes. Read about Alex’s big run on May 22, 2021 here!
As you can see by these awesome adventure advocacy examples, anyone can use their own skills and talents to raise awareness and protect the places they love. You already love adventure- why not adventure to protect special places like the Boundary Waters!
On May 22, I will be running the Boundary Waters Traverse - approximately 110 miles through the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in a journey that will connect the Border Route (BRT) and Kekekabic (Kek) Trails in the first known attempt and running them both continuously. You can read trail reports from my previous BRT and Kekekabic Runs here: BRT attempt 1, BRT finish, and Kekekabic Trail.
The Running for the Boundary Waters project is designed to highlight the issue of potential sulfide-ore copper mining proposals in the watershed of, and directly adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the running community. Trail runners as a community lately have become environmental advocates, using their running as a public awareness tool for issues they care about.
Now is a great time to take action, we just had a bill introduced in Congress - H.R. 2794, the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act by Rep. Betty McCollum. Please sign my petition in the Take Action tab! And if you are able, consider a donation to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. We’re leading the national coalition to protect this place for all generations to come and your donation will keep us in this fight!
My project - Running for the Boundary Waters, was inspired in large part by Clare Gallagher, an elite trail runner, who has dedicated a lot of her running and national attention she gets from winning marquee races such as the 2019 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run to fighting climate change. I first met Clare after a panel she hosted in January of 2019 at the Outdoor Retailer show, described my idea and she immediately jumped on board with support, looping in Patagonia’s Trail Running division and helped get some national attention through a piece she wrote in REI’s Journal and Patagonia’s trail running social media.
I am thrilled beyond comprehension that she will be joining me for 2 segments of this run this year!! She’ll join me for roughly 40 miles of Wilderness trail starting where the Border Route Trail intersects with the portage between Clearwater and West Pike Lakes. We’ll head east through the BW, up and down and over the palisades and past the Rose Lake Stairway Portage and emerge on the other side! I am also excited that Peyton Thomas, a Ph.D student and trail runner from North Carolina is coming along running the first BW segment from McFarland Lake to Clearwater where she’ll swap out with Clare, and then again on the other side to help finish the Border Route. On the Kekekabic trail side, I’ll be joined for the entire trail by Kyle Pietari, an incredibly accomplished professional ultra trail runner who will keep me moving and sane as I wind my way through the main unit of the BWCA crossing rivers via fallen log and beaver dams! Matt Wardhaugh, a Minneapolis area trail runner and manager of The Running Store will be joining Kyle and I for the Kek. Also joining on the front end of the Border Route Trail will be Grand Marais Mayor, Jay Arrowsmith Decoux.
Logistics for this run are off the charts. A typical ultra marathon will have aid stations every 8-10 miles with food, crew support, etc. Since 80% of these trails are Wilderness and only bisected twice by roads (The Arrowhead Trail on the East and Gunflint Trail in the middle) I am being supported by friends willing to paddle out and in some cases camping overnight and waiting for us to ramble on by! “Paddle-in aid-stations” are probably the best, if not most unique, ultra run support logistic ever! I’ll be able to eat some real food (vs. energy bars or chews or candy) and get moral support along the way. They also help me mentally break the 110 miles into smaller bite sized chunks, focusing on what it’ll take to go the next 20 miles. They’ll provide me with food and freshened water (taken straight from the lakes!) to run with, new socks (the most exciting thing for me, actually) and given the unpredictability of the weather up north, take or give changes of clothes to stay warm, cool down, dry off, etc.
To dive into deeper details of the run, I am breaking the run into 7 “bite sized” segments at the end of which friends, coworkers and family will meet me at the paddle in aid stations or on gunflint trail:
Border Route Trailhead East to McFarland Lake ~ 12 miles
McFarland Lake to Clearwater Lake ~ 19 miles and where the WTIP Boundary Waters Podcast will meet me!
Clearwater Lake to Rose Lake about 16 miles- where I’ll be met by Campaign staff Ingrid Lyons and Megan Wind
Rose Lake to Loon Lake Road about 11 miles - this will be the first road crossing after about 40 miles of Wilderness trail
Loon Lake Rd to the BRT West Trail head on the Gunflint Trail ~ about 9 miles
Kekekabic Trailhead East (which is about a quarter mile south of the BRT Trailhead on the Gunflint) to Kekekabic Lake ~ about 20 miles and where Levi Lexvold from our Campaign and Tim Barton from Piragis Northwoods Co will meet us.
Kekekabic Lake to Kek/Snowbank Trailhead about another 20 miles to the finish!
Overall the two trails will cover roughly 110 miles through the heart of the Boundary Waters. They have a combined approximately 18,000 feet of overall elevation gain - which if you think for Minnesota that really means just constantly running up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down… And we’ll cross an innumerable set of streams via fallen logs, boulders or beaver dams.
During previous runs I’ve seen almost all the major BW wildlife - black bear, moose, river otters, deer (real and hallucinated), grouse, eagles, beavers, snapping turtles and about a billion mosquitos, deer flies and a few hundred thousand ticks. The views from the top of the Border Route Trail over into Canada are majestic to say the least. The lower lying Kek going through the marshes, streams and beaver dams brings a connection to the land and a sense of how the water is so intricately connected.
We’re doing this for these clean waters that need protecting. There’s almost nowhere else on earth like this place. Almost nowhere can you drink straight from the lake. We also need to protect this place as part of the greater 4 million acre BWCA-Voyageurs-Quetico ecosystem that is the heart of the continent. We have at our back door an ecosystem that supports Menomin (wild rice) which is at vital risk from the sulfates that would be released from the proposed mine. This ecosystem is also home sensitive and listed species like Moose, Canada Lynx and the Grey Wolf. And this boreal forest is a giant carbon sink, one of the most powerful sources of carbon capture as we look at how to not only stop additional carbon, but to keep intact the ecosystems in place that naturally pull it out of the air.
All that depends on clean water. Not a lot can survive perpetual sulfide-ore generated acid mine drainage. And that is exactly what will happen if this mine were allowed to be built. Every sulfide-ore mine in the world pollutes nearby ground and surface waters. It’s just a fact of this sort of mining. We cannot let this take place in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.
Thank you for reading this far and please sign the petition and donate if you can!
You can help Alex reach his goal of running 110 miles NONSTOP through the Boundary Waters by asking your friends and family to donate $1 for each mile he runs. Learn more here.
Whenever we visit the Wilderness, whether it be for a few hours, few days, or weeks, these natural spaces leave an impression on us and our health. The more time we spend in nature, whether it be in the Boundary Waters or even in the park near your house, the more positive benefits we gain in our mind and our bodies.
Provoked by the pressures of modern life, managing my own mental health has always been a challenge. But I’ve found that I experience the most transformational healing in Wilderness. It slows down the rhythm of my life, and allows me to pay attention to the present. I find healing in chopping wood, portaging, paddling calm lakes, sitting on a rock enjoying my coffee, or hearing the call of the loon.
As the mental and physical tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic weigh heavily on our communities, the Boundary Waters has seen a record number of visitors. This is in great part due to the fact that people have been seeking out outdoor sanctuaries like the Boundary Waters Wilderness, where they can heal, rest and rejuvenate themselves in a safe and socially distanced way.
So what about spending time in the Wilderness and other outdoor spaces actually benefits both our mental and physical wellbeing? Sunshine, fresh air, and trees can have healing benefits, including reduced stress levels, stronger immune systems, and a greater resilience against both physical and physiological ailments, like anxiety and depression. Here are some factors that contribute to these positive benefits:
The sun gives us vitamin D which is essential for bone growth, regulates your immune system and can help battle depression.
Spending more time outdoors is also linked to higher levels of concentration, creativity, and improved mental clarity. The attention-improving effect of nature is so strong it has been studied as a method of treating kids with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and asthma.
Although seeking comfort in the outdoors has become increasingly common during the pandemic, people have been convalescing in nature all over the world for as long as we can remember. In Japan, a researcher found that short, leisurely trips to the forest called “forest bathing,” or “Shinrinyoku” in Japanese, can have positive effects on our immune systems. When we breathe in forest air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects and disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by an increase of white blood cell called natural killer cells. This means that being in the Wilderness is also good for our immune health. Learn more about this study.
In addition to our physical health, the Boundary Waters can also be good for our mental health. During times of peak stress and anxiety in my life, my time in the Wilderness has always been grounding. It allows me to shift my perspective from myself, and realize that I am a small piece of a beautiful, interconnected ecosystem.
Many of our nation’s veterans have also found themselves seeking out Wilderness experiences for it’s healing benefits. Iraq War Veteran Erik Packard expressed, “What I found back in the BWCA was a sense of peace that I thought I had lost forever. I could feel the poison that had infected my soul from the horrors of war being drawn out of me.” Sometimes veterans visit the Boundary Waters shortly after service as a way to refamiliarize themselves with civilian life, and other times to support and nurture their mental health, especially in terms of dealing with PTSD.
Sulfide-ore copper mining at the edge of the Wilderness could devastate the Boundary Waters, and jeopardize these healing opportunities. This risky type of mining poses a health risk to the communities surrounding the Boundary Waters because of the high likelihood of surface and groundwater pollution along with acid mine drainage. The environmental impacts of this type of hard rock mining would likely impede the public’s ability to visit the Boundary Waters and also would endanger public health.
The pollutants associated with this type of mining are linked to a heightened risk of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and neurodevelopmental disease. As a result, the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesota Public Health Association, and over 150 medical providers have raised concerns about sulfide-ore copper mining because of the tremendous public health risks associated with it.
A sulfide-ore copper mine next to the Boundary Waters would be detrimental to public health. It would devastate the forests and waters that bring peace and solace to those who visit.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line - 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1, or text to 838255
Megan Wind is the Communications Specialist for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. She loves being in the Boundary Waters, and has been paddling in Minnesota's Northwoods since was very young!
On Tuesday, May 6th, we held a webinar about the Beginners Guide to Fishing in the Boundary Waters, with guests Tom Landwehr, Lauren Eggert, and Sam Bogan. In case you missed it, you can watch the full hour long webinar or read a summary below.
There are many reasons why the BWCA is an incredibly unique place to fish. There are over 1,200 lakes to fish on, most of which are lightly fished. There are numerous game species to fish, most of which have pretty good numbers and sizes. One of the best reasons is simply the possibility of a delicious meal awaiting you at the end of your day! All Minnesota game fish are great to eat, especially for a “shore lunch”!
There are a variety of fish to be caught in the Boundary Waters. Some of the most notable ones are:
|Smallmouth Bass are great fighters that are fairly common and can often be found in shallow waters.|
|Walleye is the Minnesota state fish - and for good reason! They are excellent for eating and put up a good fight which means more fun for you.|
|Northern Pike are the largest of the Boundary Waters gamefish; they are toothy and aggressive, but are common to find.|
|Lake Trout are known as a “bucket list fish” in the Boundary Waters because they are relatively harder to find, making them somewhat of a trophy. They also make for great eating and an added feeling of accomplishment!|
Here is a packing list to get you started:
Spinning rod/6 lb test (for most uses, but depending on the size of fish you’re after!)
Lures, slip bobber, tackle box, leader for northerns (use a good fishing knot)
License, trout stamp, rules book (see https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ )
PFD, stringer, fillet knife, ruler & net
Live bait and a bait bag
Leeches are good for walleyes, relatively easy to transport, and durable.
Crayfish (you can catch your own in the BW, and they are great for smallmouth bass!)
Preserved minnows (live minnows are too difficult to transport and maintain)
Depth map, GPS map, or depth finder
Rope for an anchor (use a rock or get an anchor bag)
When: Boundary Waters fishing is the best in the Spring or the Fall. Mid-summer is a “slower” time for fishing. As for the time of day, morning and evening are highly recommended; however, if it means you can be out on the water in America’s most visited Wilderness, anytime is a good time for fishing!
Where: We recommend you plan your route and then figure out what you want to catch. With experience, you eventually figure out what you want to catch and then pick your route. DNR Lake finder is a great resource for checking out the data for the lakes you are considering.
Cleaning: if you are taking the fish home with you, be sure to keep a patch of skin on the fish per state law. If it is still alive, be sure to kill it before you try to clean it (whack it on top of the head with a rock or cut it’s head off first). A sharp knife is essential to successfully filleting fish.
Cooking: When it comes to eating your catch, you can indulge in virtually all BW fish and each one is different. There are a variety of ways to cook fish in the wilderness; look online for details. Some recommendations for ingredients to bring include: peanut oil, shore lunch breading, lemon, tartar, cocktail sauce, salt and pepper.
Here are the other resources mentioned in the presentation:
Books on fishing BWCA (piragis.com; Furtman: https://www.boundarywaterscatalog.com/michael-furtman/the-new-boundary-waters-and-quetico-fishing-guide-409)
We have great news! Ramsey County District Court Judge Laura Nelson today issued an order rejecting Twin Metals’ motion to dismiss our MERA case. Judge Nelson’s order also remands our challenge of Minnesota’s nonferrous metallic mineral mining rules (copper mining rules) to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for public comment period and other processes in line with the stipulation agreement which we negotiated and signed with DNR in November 2020. In short, here’s what that means:
The DNR agrees that it will undertake a review of Minnesota’s copper mining rules to determine whether, as we argue, those 1993 rules are out of date and inadequate to protect the BWCAW from pollution, impairment, and destruction that would be caused by sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed.
Within 21 days, the Minnesota DNR will issue a procedural order outlining the process and timing of a public comment period on the adequacy/inadequacy of the state’s rules.
During the public comment process, anyone can weigh in and suggest why the current regulations are inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters, and how they should be improved.
The Campaign will explain why the existing mining exclusion area around the Boundary Waters must be expanded to cover all of the watershed of the BWCAW.
After considering the public comments, the DNR will issue a substantive order in which it explains whether or not it believes the current copper mining rules should be changed as the Campaign argues.
If the DNR agrees that the rules should be revised, then Twin Metals likely would petition for a contested case hearing, and if the DNR determines that the rules are fine as currently written, then the Campaign would seek a contested case hearing. A contested case hearing involves another public input process and evidentiary proceedings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
If the ALJ recommends that an amendment to the state’s copper mining rules is needed, then according to the stipulated agreement between the DNR and the Campaign, the DNR will accept that recommendation and initiate a rulemaking to fix the inadequacies in the rules.
Any new rulemaking would likely require about 2 years from start to finish.
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is being represented by the Ciresi Conlin LLC law firm, who’s help was essential. Without your support of the Campaign, we would not be able to battle this proposed mine as vigorously as we do. Thank you for your support! We will keep you apprised of the upcoming process, including the opportunity for public comment.
Five things to know about the May 10th announcement:
Five things to know about the May 10th announcement:
Conservation groups Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and The Wilderness Society (TWS) sued three federal agencies in 2020, challenging the Trump administration’s extension of 13 prospecting permits held by Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) on federal lands just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Boundary Waters).
On May 10, 2021, NMW, CBD, and TWS settled the lawsuit in an agreement that will require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service to revisit their decisions to extend the 13 prospecting permits. The agencies agreed to prepare an environmental review document called an EA (environmental assessment) and consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the potential impact on threatened and endangered species. The BLM has the authority to reverse the extension decision for the 13 permits. Likewise, the U.S. Forest Service has the authority to reverse its consent to the permit extensions. Thus, the EA and ESA consultation are extremely important steps in ensuring science based decision making with respect to the permits.
The 13 prospecting permits cover 22 square miles and are located along miles of shoreline of Birch Lake, miles of lands on the border of the Boundary Waters, and rivers and streams flowing into Birch Lake and the Boundary Waters.
The Center for Biological Diversity represented Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, The Wilderness Society and itself in the lawsuit.
The settlement agreement also assures that there will be no surface-disturbing activities by the Chilean-owned Twin Metals, pending the outcome of the upcoming environmental review and Endangered Species Act consultation and the decisions by the agencies on the permits.
Three conservation groups and the federal agencies they sued -- the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) -- signed a settlement agreement on May 10, 2021, that requires the BLM and the USFS to revisit their decisions to renew 13 “prospecting permits.” Prospecting permits are granted by the BLM to mining companies to explore federal lands for possible minerals (e.g., copper, nickel) in underground deposits. The USFS must consent to the issuance of permits in t the Superior National Forest. The permits could have allowed Antofagasta’s Twin Metals Minnesota to significantly expand its proposed sulfide-ore copper mine at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota.
The groups that filed the lawsuit in 2020 included the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW, the leading organization for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters). The lawsuit challenged BLM’s four-year extension of the prospecting permits in 2020. To settle the lawsuit, the BLM has agreed to provide for public comment, conduct an analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), consult with the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service about the plan’s potential harm to endangered species, and then issue its decision.The USFS will also be issuing a new consent decision. The BLM also agreed to prohibit any ground-disturbing activities while it reconsiders its decision.
“After the horrendous years of the Trump administration, the government is thankfully returning to rational, science-based decision making,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A thorough scientific analysis of these permits and Twin Metals’ related proposals will show that a massive copper-sulfide mine just upstream from the spectacular Boundary Waters wilderness is simply too great a risk to those intact aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. We’re confident this agreement will help lead to preserving this beloved place for future generations.”
These prospecting permits, along with the company’s mineral leases, are part of Twin Metals’ attempt to create a toxic mining district on the Superior National Forest, just upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Between the company’s leases and permits, a roughly 30-square-mile area is at stake, including rivers, lakes, wetlands and forest that provide critically important habitat for wildlife like moose, wolves and Canada lynx.
“We are fundamentally opposed to the development of a toxic mining district in the watershed of the Boundary Waters,” said Tom Landwehr, executive director of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. “As determined by the US Forest Service in 2016 this type of mining is not compatible with retaining the pure and wild ecosystem of the area. This agreement is a step in the right direction in returning to good governance and fact-based government decision-making.”
Other legal challenges to the reinstatement and renewal of Twin Metals’ mineral leases have been put on hold while the Biden administration determines how to ensure protection for the Boundary Waters. U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) recently called on the administration to withdraw this area from mining while it conducts a comprehensive, science-based analysis of whether copper-sulfide ore can be safely mined in this watershed. In April U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced a bill (HR 2794) to permanently protect the watershed from copper mining.
“Today’s agreement is an important step in restoring proper, lawful process and informed decision-making concerning proposed copper mining on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters,” said Alison Flint, senior legal director at The Wilderness Society. “The Biden administration has a lot of work ahead to repair the damage of the last four years and must do what is necessary to protect this irreplaceable resource. We’re confident that the science will show this landscape is too precious and vulnerable for this type of mining.”
Under the agreement, the BLM will conduct a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of the potential harms from extending prospecting permits in this area, within the context of the related mineral leases and Twin Metals’ mine proposal. After the required environmental analysis and endangered species consultation, the Forest Service will have the authority to not consent to the permit extensions and the BLM, as regulator of the mineral estate, will have the authority to cancel them, should it choose to do so.
The 13 prospecting permits would have allowed Twin Metals to drill holes, build roads and do other mining exploratory work throughout more than 15,000 acres of Superior National Forest (more than 22 square miles of land). The permits would greatly expand upon the location where Twin Metals has proposed a copper mine and waste piles just upstream from the Boundary Waters’ protected public lands and waterways. Twin Metals’ mining proposal would cause severe environmental damage to the region’s forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands that lie between Birch Lake and the edge of the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters is America’s most-visited wilderness area.
The agreement settles the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the Center for Biological Diversity, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and The Wilderness Society. The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness is the founder and lead organization for Save The Boundary Waters, a campaign to permanently protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and keep proposed sulfide-ore copper mines out of its wilderness edge.
The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 111 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.
There are many artisans that support permanent protection of the Boundary Waters. From chefs to photographers, painters to writers, all creators take inspiration from this incredible place, and want to be a part of making sure it is protected for the next generations.
From May 4 to May 11 during Spring Forward MN, we are hosting a Virtual Artisanal Silent Auction. Below, read the personal statements of support for the Boundary Waters from all of the participating artisans.
Kakookies founder Sue Kakuk has spent many summers canoeing the pristine wilderness of BWCA. It is a magical place where you are forced to learn new skills, discover our strengths and find inspiration. Inspiration to create new things, get involved, and lead better lives!
Item in the auction:
Mike, North Mallow
Both my wife and I grew up at summer camps and as camp counselors around Minnesota. We understand the importance of being in nature and how integral it is to the social, mental and physical development of kids and adults! The BWCA is not just another beautiful area of Minnesota, but it is pristine and sacred. North Mallow is not just a marshmallow and s'mores company, but we also focus on bringing joy and being outside and there is no greater place that brings joy than the BWCA - that is why we need to protect it for future generations.
Item in the auction:
Erik Fremstad, Artist
If you don't give back and fight to protect the places you love, they will cease to exist. A pristine wilderness with countless species of wildlife, breathtaking views, and a night sky that will blow your mind? Yes, please! That is why I support Save the BWCA.
Item in the auction:
Joshua Klauck, Northern Coffeeworks
The Boundary Waters has a special place in my heart and memories as it was the first of the most wild places I visited at a very young age with my father. The BWCA maintained it's allure for me and I continued to journey back as a very young adult introducing new friends on a yearly basis for quite some time. The tradition has continued with me now having the privilege of bringing my young son up with me to experience a place that fostered a love of the wilderness, wildlife, and adventure that has lasted a lifetime. I believe that there is also a special connection in the ritual of turning our roasted beans into a delicious beverage that is dependent upon clean water. When I think of Northern Minnesota, the Northwoods, or the heart of this state my brain goes straight to the BWCA.
Item in the auction:
ANIKA HAGER, Multi-Media Artist
I am a Minnesota artist committed to supporting the planet through outdoors-inspired designs. My love for the BWCA began with childhood family trips, grew through trips with college friends, and will continue for the rest of my life. Through my art business, I partner with local nonprofits advocating for climate and environmental justice; it brings me joy to be able to give back to Save the Boundary Waters through my art!
Item in the auction:
As a Native owned company, we are committed to following through on our responsibilities as stewards of the land we belong to. Through our fundraisers, partnerships, and art we proudly support the protection of our water, and especially the Boundary Waters. Miigwech (thank you) to everyone who stands in front, beside, and behind us.
Items in the auction:
Rowan Myre, Multi-media artist
I grew up at the edge of the Boundary Waters, and early on found it to be a source of inspiration for my creative work. Each of my paintings is crafted with the hope of deepening the connection between humans and nature. With this new collection of abstracts, I'm honored to have the opportunity to directly support efforts to protect the BWCA.
Item in the auction:
War Bonnet (Band)
War Bonnet is a Native American band from the Ojibwe Reservations of northern Minnesota. Our roots are older than this country. Almost all of Minnesota was Indian territory prior to 1854 and now we are left with just the "Arrowhead" region to hunt, fish, and gather in. The Boundary Waters lays directly in the middle of our Ceded Land. The Mining and the constant traffic of large automobiles will disrupt the ecosystem and we will be left with less than what we are left with. It will chase out game, it will pollute our ricing and fishing lakes, it will destroy plants we utilize for food and medicines, and it will contaminate our drinking water for years to come. This fate will not only affect the BWCA, but the whole state of Minnesota and Canada.
Item in the auction:
Ellie McNairy, Illustrator
As a child, one of my favorite memories was retreating to our summer cabin in the northwoods of Minnesota. Dense boreal forests, glassy lakes and a night sky full of constellations are a few of the many reasons Northern Minnesota is one of my favorite places on the planet.
Several years ago, I created artwork inspired by the ecosystems harbored within the northwoods of Minnesota. My intent with each piece was to capture all the elements that made me fall in love with this part of the world when I was a kid. Campfires, fishing, and the unique sound of a loon’s call...
Sharing my love of Minnesota's north country, the Campaign to Save the BWCA is the perfect organization to support through my artwork! I'm honored to contribute towards their goal to conserve Northern Minnesota's pristine wild spaces for generations to come.
Items in the auction:
At Wild Mill Kids we believe that childhood should be spent in the exploration of nature, adventures inside and out, and deep within imaginations. We care for the environment and have a passion for all children to have the opportunity to get out into nature. With this in mind, Wild Mill Kids supports the preservation of the Boundary Waters so that future generations of children can enjoy the pristine beauty of this magical wilderness.
Item in the Auction:
Jim Musil, Painter
Jim Musil creates beautiful landscape paintings, including the Boundary Waters. He is committed to supporting permanent protection of the Boundary Waters with give backs and by sharing the beauty of the landscape through his art!
Item in the auction:
The Boundary Waters is the most beautiful place on earth in my eyes, and through my lens. From childhood to now all my favorite moments took place canoeing across the pristine lakes, or watching breathtaking sunsets along the Border Route Trail. It's a no-brainer to continuously try my best to give back to a place that has given me so much in my 23 years of life.
Items in the auction:
So you’ve heard about the beauty and serenity of the Boundary Waters and now you want to check it out for yourself. But how are you supposed to decide where to go? Here are some helpful tips for first time Boundary Waters users!
One of the great things about the Boundary Waters is that it is a protected Wilderness Area, which means it has the highest level of protection of federal land. Given these protections there is limited road and motor boat access, as well as even restrictions on how low planes can fly when over the Wilderness. The 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness includes over 1,200 miles of canoe routes on over a thousand lakes and 2,000 remote campsites. Plus, Northern Minnesota is the last stronghold of the Gray Wolf in the lower 48 states, and lynx, bobcats, pine martens, and beavers are other mammals found throughout the woods. All of these factors make the Boundary Waters one of the most quiet and peaceful places you could hope to find.
To access the Wilderness, you need to reserve and purchase a permit with all the members of your group on it (remember that there is a limit of 9 people per group). You will want to check for permits well in advance of the day you plan to do your trip - as they tend to go quick! Visitors taking an overnight paddle, motor or hiking trip, or a motorized day trip into the BWCA from May 1 – September 30 are required to obtain a quota permit. Explore quota permits for this spring and summer at Recreation.gov here.
You select your permit by choosing an entry point you would like to start at. These entry points are for the lakes that you must start your trip at, but you are free to go anywhere within the boundaries of the Wilderness once you “enter”. One factor to consider when choosing an entry point is if you can park and push off, or if you will have to portage your canoe and gear to get to the entry point from your car.
Portaging is when you flip the canoe and balance it on your shoulders to carry it across land. Portages are the paths between lakes where carrying your canoe is necessary. On a map, portages are usually red lines with a number next to them. The number represents the number of “rods” that a portage is. Rods are a form of measurement that equates to 16.5 feet, approximately the length of one canoe. When choosing a route, notice the amount of rods between lakes depending how far you want to go. (1 mile = 320 rods)
Now that you know some basic vocabulary, you can start to consider what type of trip you would like to do. You can always start with a day trip to test out the waters! Another great option is setting up camp and doing day trips from your site but without bringing all your gear with. Then of course there is the more challenging option of picking a route and portaging to camp on various lakes on the route. Any of these choices are great ways to experience the Boundary Waters!
4 recommended routes for beginners
Lakes One-> Lake Two -> Lake Three
Daniels -> Duncan -> Rose
Alton -> Sawbill
Moose -> Ensign
Consider going through a local outfitter to ensure that you are fully equipped for a fun and safe time! Outfitters are great resources for anything from purchasing the right map or renting a canoe to fully outfitting and even guiding your whole trip. Paddle Planner is another helpful resource for planning your route. You can also support the Campaign by purchasing a map through True North Maps.
One of the absolute most important things to remember when visiting the Boundary Waters is to Leave No Trace! This means to leave the Wilderness better than you found it. Carry out all your trash - do not leave it for others to take care of. Use the designated latrines (pit toilets) - don’t go to the bathroom in or near the water, if you have to try to go 100 yards from water. Make sure your fires are 100% extinguished and cool to touch before leaving camp. For a complete list of Leave No Trace Principles, read more here.
Now that you have read a few tips and tricks for planning a trip to the Boundary Waters, we hope you are able to visit and see why this beautiful place is worth protecting!
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness’ Economic Community Development Task Force recently published a report on their critical economic development findings regarding the Wilderness-edge town of Ely, Minnesota.
Getting a Sense of the Boundary Waters
Surrounding Ely, the 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness includes over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, on over a thousand lakes, teaming with game species. Two thousand remote campsites provide a retreat into a pristine state without motors or roads. Ely also abuts 2.5 million acres of Superior National Forest, public land notable for its boating and hiking opportunities.
As many of you know, the region is known for the boreal forest and varied ecosystems, home to a diverse array of animals. But did you know that Northern Minnesota is the last stronghold of the Gray Wolf in the lower 48 states? Lynx, bobcats, pine martens, and beavers are other mammals found throughout the woods. While black bears roam the forest and graze on the robust blueberry crops in July. Hunters pursue whitetail deer and grouse in the autumn, and bird enthusiasts are captivated by the haunting call of a loon, streaming across a lake. These experiences are unforgettable.
While the region is famous for summer activities, the lakes and woods are just as much alive in winter. After it snows, outdoor enthusiasts are actively ice fishing, dogsledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and winter camping.
The Boundary Waters is a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary - one of only 14 in the world. There the stars shimmer brighter, the Milky Way is more vivid, and the chances of seeing the Northern lights is more likely without the negative impacts of light pollution impacting the sky.
A Diversified Economy in Northeast Minnesota
Nationally, over the past two decades, outdoor recreation and recreation amenities, especially Wilderness amenities, have been the basis for economic growth in rural areas. Eligible local economies have moved away from traditional extractive industries and manufacturing, into services and recreation as the primary engines of economic development. A diversified economy built on the region’s natural assets – clean air, clean water, scenic beauty, and recreational opportunities – is deeply embedded in the fabric of life near the Boundary Waters.
In 1970, 10% of jobs and 15% of income earned in the Arrowhead region of Northeastern Minnesota were in the mining industry. While by 2018, mining accounted for only 2.9% of jobs and 6.4% of total payroll in the region. A Twin Metals mine would not significantly increase the share of employment and income in the mining sector. In fact, a recent study suggests gains would be short-lived and quickly overtaken by the project’s negative impact on recreation industries and in-migration. The Boundary Waters region would be better off continuing its diversified, amenity-based model of development.
The Ely area is experiencing increased in-migration by a growing mix of creative class workers, outdoor enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, professionals, retirees, trade and service sector workers, and anyone working remotely; almost 15% of residents are new to the area in the last year. A 2014 study of attitudes in the four townships surrounding Ely asked residents what qualities attracted them to the area. The vast majority spoke of the proximity to nature, outdoor recreational opportunities, solitude, and peace and quiet as the primary factors.
Families comprise over 55% of households in the Ely area. Of these, approximately 17% have children under 18. The Ely school district provides K-12 education to over 550 students in the City of Ely and surrounding townships.
More than one-third of the adult population in the Ely Area has a bachelor’s degree or above -- almost twice the rural America average. Over 50% of households have incomes greater than $50,000, and approximately two-thirds of those homes are owner-occupied. A recent study by the Center for Rural Policy and Development documents the lower cost of living in the Arrowhead region when compared to more urban areas; wages go farther in greater Minnesota.
Quality of Life
Ely area residents have a 1.1 million acre backyard. Exposure to nature has a positive impact on human health and vitality. That is, more time in nature leads to positive social, psychological, and physical health outcomes.
New residents can channel their interests through participation in the region's robust social and philanthropic networks. There are over 100 clubs and nonprofit organizations in the Ely area, and Ely’s exciting repertoire of festivals and celebrations means an even greater number of opportunities for community engagement. Notably, as quoted in an archived Ely Summer Times, “For a small town Ely is big on art.” Arts programming not only provides space for meaningful interaction but also cultivates value within individual participants.
The history of Ely is vibrant, well documented, and honorably sustained. A book with many chapters and a remarkable cast of characters, representing a diversity of thought that contradicts commonly adopted notions and rural stereotypes. The time is ripe for a rural revival, and northeastern Minnesota is the place to be.
It is no secret that our volunteers at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters are the key to our success. Our local staff works with so many passionate Boundary Waters lovers so that our movement reaches the far corners of the country. The volunteers at the Campaign help spread awareness and share the love for the Boundary Waters that many have. They are activists in their own rights, and work all over the nation in an effort to educate as many people as possible on the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters.
Our volunteers use efficient and strategic democratic tactics aligned with overarching Campaign goals that will educate and activate people within their areas. This helps us build the people power that we need to protect the Boundary Waters!
No matter the circumstances, our dedicated team is always committed to our mission and even throughout the hardships of this past year have been a great support in our fight against the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. We at the Campaign cannot be any more grateful for the hard work our volunteers have put forth this past year and we thank them for everything they have done. From organizing on the beaches of Lake Michigan, helping with our text campaigns, to making phone calls and thanking donors and even hosting their own online events our volunteers have been fighting hard for our efforts. For this, we thank them!