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Twin Metals Project Goes from Bad to Worse

Monday, July 22, 2019
Posted by
Matt Norton

Twin Metals Minnesota's proposed processing facility and tailings basin site. 

If one of the world’s largest foreign mining companies shakes your hand and says it wants to do you a huge favor, you’d better count your fingers. 

On July 18, 2019 Antofagasta’s Twin Metals, which proposes to build a sulfide-ore copper mine next to the Boundary Waters – put out a press release.  Let’s be clear about what Twin Metals’ announcement really is:  a huge admission and a massive set-back for the proposed mine project.

Twin Metals just admitted it wants to store 2.6 billion tons of its toxic sulfide-ore copper mine waste 16 miles closer to the Boundary Waters --- in the Boundary Waters watershed, in a landscape of lakes and rivers that flows into the Wilderness.

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Here are 4 key things to know about Twin Metals’ announcement: 

1. It’s not really news. 

Dry-stacking was the original method of tailings storage that was proposed in the October 6, 2014 preliminary feasibility study[1], for the Twin Metals project. 

Why would it make a show of announcing this method of tailings storage?  It had another aim in mind.

2. In its press release, Twin Metals intentionally buries the lede.  

The lede is not about how it would handle its tailings, it's about where Twin Metals wants to store them. Twin Metals just admitted (see its press release, paragraph #2) that it wants to move the proposed location of its mining waste 16 miles north to a location within a few miles of the Boundary Waters, to an area of lakes and rivers that drain into the Wilderness. 

Twin Metals tried everything to keep from having to move its tailings basin into the Boundary Waters watershed.  Since at least 2014, Twin Metals’ key messaging strategy has been its intention to keep its mining waste out of the Boundary Waters watershed and far away from Minnesota's crown jewel and America's most-visited Wilderness area. 

Now Twin Metals admitted to breaking that promise. Twin Metals' original plan to pump its tailings into the Lake Superior watershed will not work or be allowed.  This is bad news for Twin Metals and it knows it, but now it has to admit it will be dumping mountains of mine waste in the Boundary Waters watershed.

With no other options, the company’s PR team used smoke and mirrors to distract, just as a magician would, from what it is actually planning to do:  permanently dump billions of tons of sulfide-ore copper mining waste in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. 

3. No technology in existence now or on the horizon – including dry-stacking – can prevent a sulfide-ore copper mine in this location from polluting surrounding groundwater and surface water, including the Boundary Waters. 

A 2014 study[2] conducted by geophysicist Dr. David Chambers warns “[i]t is not feasible, given today’s or tomorrow’s technology, to reduce the risk of impacting waters downstream from a copper/nickel mine in a sulfide ore body to zero.” The study showed that no tailings storage facility seepage collection system is perfect; “all liners leak.” This is a big deal considering the downstream waters receiving the would-be pollution are protected under the highest “zero degradation” standard under the federal Clean Water Act.[3]

Peer-reviewed and published research in the Journal of Hydrology[4] shows that pollution from a sulfide-ore copper mine in this location will flow into the Boundary Waters. The models demonstrated that under the course of normal operations, proposed mines near the Boundary Waters could cause significant damage to rivers and the Boundary Waters due to leaks to surface waters or substantial groundwater contamination. Still more peer-reviewed science by Earthworks[5] examined the sulfide-ore copper mining industry track record and documents the fact that all modern sulfide-ore copper mines experienced spills, pipeline ruptures, and other releases of mining pollutants. 

The science corroborates the conclusion of former Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, in the 2016 US Forest Service decision letter[6] to the Bureau of Land Management denying the renewal of Twin Metals’ mineral leases:

I find unacceptable the inherent potential risk that development of a regionally-untested copper-nickel sulfide ore mine within the same watershed as the [Boundary Waters] might cause serious and irreplaceable harm to this unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness area.

 4. Dry-stacking Twin Metals’ tailings will not eliminate the risk of perpetual mining pollution flowing to the Boundary Waters.

Dry-stacking mining waste is not a panacea.  In dry-stacking, a company reduces water content of the tailings to around 15%, and dumps them onto a liner.  Then the mining company compacts the tailings in the hopes of inhibiting rainwater and snowmelt from soaking in and re-hydrating the tailings.  Dry tailings degrade air quality with fugitive dust, which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has said may contain heavy metals, sulfur, and fine particulates.  There are also other risks, as well.

First, there will be toxic seepage from the tailings. Twin Metals would have to build a perpetual seepage collection and treatment system, which means pipes, pumps, valves, and holding tanks, all of which eventually break, leak, rust-through, freeze and burst, or fail in other ways.

Second, all liners, even the best ones, eventually leak,[7],[8] and Twin Metals can only treat the pollution it catches.  Tailings leachate that escapes the liner will go untreated and make its way through groundwater to surface waters.

Third, a dry tailings facility can fail if it is re-saturated.  The Boundary Waters watershed receives 30 inches and more of rain and snowmelt each year, and severe rain events are increasingly frequent.  This wet environment poses a high risk that Twin Metals’ tailings pile will re-hydrate.  Minnesota regulators warn of serious pollution consequences if that happens.[9]  This risk is heightened in Twin Metals’ case because the mining company proposes to use topsoil, rather than a plastic or other waterproof liner, to cover its tailings.  Topsoil will allow rain and snowmelt to infiltrate the tailings pile.  Twin Metals’ own website (e.g., saying that its “tailings can safely be exposed to air and water”) suggests that it understands the risk of its tailings re-hydrating.

Fourth, Twin Metals says that it won’t build a tailings dam to hold back its tailings, saying it’s not necessary.  If and when the tailings pile re-hydrates, however, there will be no dam to stop the tailings pile from failing catastrophically – in an area of lakes, streams and rivers that flow into the Boundary Waters.

Finally, the air above the Boundary Waters is a protected Class I airshed.  The lakes and rivers of the Boundary Waters are designated the highest level “Outstanding Resource Value Waters.” Pollution from a Twin Metals mine, not only but especially from its tailings, would degrade the Boundary Waters’ air and water quality contrary to law.

Contact your elected officials!
Donate today to help us protect the Boundary Waters!

[1] Twin Metals Minnesota Project NI 43-101 Technical Report on Pre-Feasibility Study, see sec. 24.2.8 on p. 24-13,
“Further consideration of paste and/or dry-stack tailings management is recommended to improve dam safety permitting feasibility for this facility as it will be located near local population centers.” 

[2] Chambers, David M. “The Potential for Acid Mine Drainage and Other Water Quality Problems at Modern Copper Mines Using State-of-the-Art Prevention, Treatment, and Mitigation Methods.” Center for Science in Public Participation, November 2014

[3] 40 CFR §131.12. The federal Clean Water Act provides anti-degradation standards meant to keep clean water clean. Minnesota, as a delegated State, must have an antidegradation program that protects these outstanding national resource waters, so-designated because they have unique characteristics to be preserved (e.g., waters of exceptional recreational, environmental, or ecological significance), and no degradation is allowed.

[4] Myers, Tom. “Acid Mine Drainage Risks – A Modeling Approach to Siting Mine Facilities in Northern Minnesota USA.” Journal of Hydrology 553 (February 2016): 277-290. (Myers 2016b)

[5] Earthworks. “U.S. Copper Porphyry Mines:  The Track Record of Water Quality Impacts Resulting from Pipeline Spills, Tailings Failures and Water Collection and Treatment Failures.” July 2012.

[6] Dec. 14, 2016 Letter, USDA-Forest Service to Bureau of Land Management, p. 1

[7] Chambers, David M. “The Potential for Acid Mine Drainage and Other Water Quality Problems at Modern Copper Mines Using State-of-the-Art Prevention, Treatment, and Mitigation Methods.” Center for Science in Public Participation, November 2014
[8] In the Federal Register (May 26, 1981, pp. 28314 through 28328), the EPA argued forcefully that all landfills will eventually leak.  “[T]he existing technology for disposing of hazardous wastes on or in the land cannot confidently isolate these wastes from the environment forever."
[9] The Minnesota DNR has stated that “[d]ry stacked tailings that become wet again … are subject to oxidation and leaching. As precipitation then intermittently washes through tailings, those heavy metals and other [pollutants] may be washed into surrounding soils and nearby water bodies.”

Running across the Boundary Waters

Friday, June 28, 2019
Posted by
Alex Falconer

I’m running across the Boundary Waters! Yes, for real. 

We pretty much exclusively think of the Boundary Waters as “canoe country” - and for good reason. With 1.1 million acres, home to more than 1,100 lakes connected by rivers, streams, marshes and portages, one of the only ways to experience most of the Wilderness is via canoe (at least in the warm months) with portages between lakes or around rapids. However there are a number of amazing hiking trails both in the form of thru-hikes, day hikes and longer loops.

My primary hobby outside of paddling canoe country is running - especially trail running. I’ve been running most my life, starting with cross country in middle school and high school. In college, I started doing marathons but as time passed, so has my ability to suffer through the typical pavement pounding road races that pop up in almost every town across the country. Looking for an alternative easier on my knees in particular, I came across trail running and ran my first trail race in early spring of 2017. I was immediately hooked. Everything about running changed for me on this first run - from the relatively few people running (150 total on my first 17 mile trail run vs. the thousands registered for your typical half or full road race) to the scenery along the route. Trading out pavement and building skylines for rocky trails and sweeping vistas was a natural evolution for a guy who spends as much time in the Wilderness!

Since that first run a little over 2 years ago, I’ve been gradually increasing my mileage and am now running long or “ultra” distance trail runs. These are more commonly associated with the western US where they have far more access to protected landscapes on public lands with trails that go up and down mountains, valleys, deserts, coastal forests, etc. for miles and miles and miles. 

But of course, us Minnesotans know and love our northwoods and there’s definitely nothing as great as both the North Shore (home to the Superior Hiking Trail - which features one of the country’s longest running 100 miles race, the Superior 100, each fall) and of course the Boundary Waters.

Here’s where the intersection of my passion for both the Boundary Waters and trail running comes into play. There are two major thru-hiking trails: the Border Route Trail (66 miles) and the Kekekabic Trail (44 miles). The two of these trails run East to West from McFarland Lake to Snowbank Lake connecting at the Gunflint Trail in the middle. At some point last year, I started toying with the idea of seeing what I could do to run these routes as just something I’d want to do for fun, not really even thinking of something that would be a project to benefit the Campaign. Time passed a little too quickly last summer and fall and I didn’t get the runs in and the idea went dormant for a bit. 

Fast forward a bit to this past January when I was in Denver for the Outdoor Retailer show. As fate would have it, I had just finished a 50 mile race near Arches National Park and the trail bug was hitting me hard again. I was at a panel discussion led by Clare Gallagher, a professional ultra-trail running athlete who has been using her running as a way to bring attention to climate change and a light went on. Seeing how she was using her running to draw attention to climate change, hearing of others who ran through Bears Ears and Grand Escalante, and more, there’s been a growing group of trail runners bringing awareness to imperiled landscapes.

And the idea came alive.

I talked to Clare after the panel concluded and she was so stoked on the idea of running through the Boundary Waters as a way to bring attention of the mining threat to the trail running community. A little while later, we set up a call and the planning began. It’s since culminated in working with some amazing people at Patagonia and the Border Route Trail Association, both who have helped with logistics, gear, and promotion of this run. I have an opportunity to bring awareness to our fight to stop sulfide-ore copper mining from ruining my favorite place on earth. This project will bring awareness to a new audience who perhaps hasn’t even heard of this area. But from all of my trail running, not only in Minnesota, but in other parts of the country, trail runners care about our public lands - after all we need vast open expanses of undisturbed natural places to participate in our pastime.

On Saturday, June 29th, I’ll be starting this project: Running for the Boundary Waters. I’m first running the Border Route Trail, the 66 miles from the eastern edge of the Boundary Waters to the Gunflint Trail. Sometime this fall I’ll pick up where the BRT leaves off and run the Kekekabic Trail, through the Wilderness to Snowbank Lake at the end of the Fernberg Trail - leading out of Ely. 

Phase 3 will begin next summer, when I will combine both trails together along with the knowledge I gained from my first two phases and attempt to run them both in one contiguous run, roughly 110 miles through the Boundary Waters. 

You can follow along on my website. I’ll keep events updated, post my “race report” after each run, share pictures, videos and more. It’s important we keep looking out for new people to bring into this fight. 

The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited wilderness - evidence alone, this place should not be ruined forever by a sulfide-ore mine. Join me in this effort by talking to your friends, family, coworkers or others who maybe haven’t heard of this threat. Have them sign our petition to their lawmakers and help make their voice heard. The Boundary Waters belongs to all of us and it’s on us to protect it for all generations to come!

 - Alex

Check out Alex's route:

Campaign Update With Tom

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A lot has happened since our last update on April 22, and it is a real mixed bag.

Most significantly, On May 15, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, an office within the federal Department of the Interior) officially renewed the 2 federal mining leases on the edge of the Boundary Waters for the Twin Metals mine. These were the same mineral leases that were terminated in 2016 by the Obama Administration because of non-compliance with lease conditions and incompatibility with the recreational purposes Superior National Forest (SNF).  With these in hand, Twin Metals – the wholly owned subsidiary of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta – now has a clear path to submit a mine plan to state and federal agencies. They have indicated that will happen within the next 2 months.

So, there’s that.

But a lot of good has happened, too. First, and most importantly, Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced report language in 2 appropriations bills that requires the federal agencies to reveal the potential damage to Canada, and also to complete the comprehensive study of mining in the SNF. That study, originally expected to take 2 years to complete, was cut short 4 months before completion by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue who claimed there was no new information uncovered (in spite of dozens of studies we provided). Rep. McCollum and her allies, have repeatedly asked for the information that had been compiled, and been roundly ignored by the administration. As Chair of the Interior Appropriations Committee, Rep. McCollum now has the ability to get the attention of the administration.

We have seen strong support in the media. Notably, the StarTribune has blasted the Trump administration for its underhanded practices and its unwillingness to share information.  Minnesotans really value transparency in government, and that is clearly not happening. Similarly, we’ve seen strong support in the Timberjay, CityPages, the Center for American Progress, Outside Magazine and MinnPost. Our message is getting out and people are outraged.

A highlight for us was a Rally for the Boundary Waters at the Minnesota State Capitol on May 22 – a week after the leases were renewed.  On short notice, during the work day, more than 400 supporters showed up to demonstrate their passion for the Boundary Waters and their opposition to this mine. It was an amazing afternoon, and we subsequently delivered petitions with 200,000 names of Americans opposed to this project. It was a great day.

We are now continuing to meet with elected officials – both federal and state - to convince them that their leadership is critical.  We continue to organize our grassroots supporters (thank you supporters!), and lift up their voices. Their dedication is inspiring.

The next few months will be critical. A mine plan will be submitted and the clock will start ticking. We need your support to convince our elected officials to do the right thing.  Watch for our updates, and be ready to help anyway you can.

We’ll never stop fighting for the Boundary Waters.


MINNESOTANS —Take the next step and call your elected officials:

Senator Tina Smith: (202) 224-5641
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (202) 224-3244
Governor Tim Walz: (651) 201-3400 

SUP in the BWCA

Thursday, June 13, 2019
Posted by

The Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness is hands down my favorite place to paddle in the Midwest. I’m not out there in a traditional canoe or a kayak. I’m paddling an inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP). I know what you might be thinking, “How is that possible?!” or you are giving me that confused “WHAT?” look. Well I am here to tell ya, it is very possible and truly a blast! It might even be easier than you think too.

First, let me explain a bit of who I am. Name is Pete Rozeboom and I’m an adventure photographer born and raised in Minnesota. Over the years, I’ve traveled around the world on different adventures. Documenting everything one photo at a time. 90-day backpacking expedition in the Rocky Mountains, mountaineering in Alaska, exploring Europe and parts of Asia, and multiple road trips chasing powder and adventures around the United States of America. In 2016, I visited every Minnesota State Park in 32 weeks. During that project I got my first inflatable SUP, since I wanted to explore all of the beautiful lakes along with hiking and biking each park. So happy I did! Paddling changed everything for me. Opened my eyes and mind for a “new” way of traveling. I love person-power modes of transportation and SUPing is 100% person-power. Not to mention, the outstanding training potential one can do with a SUP when not on a trip, with it being a full-body workout. I could go on and on on the benefits of SUPing, but this article is more about SUPing in the BWCA. So let’s dive into it!

In order to SUP, ones needs a board. There are tons of companies out there these days offering hard and inflatable boards. I landed on Hala Gear out of Steamboat, Colorado back in 2015. Wanted something I didn’t have to worry about bouncing off rocks, sticks, and other objects in the water. Plus, something I can travel with. Hard boards are great, but they can chip, snap, and are much harder to travel with. All of Hala’s boards are inflatable and build with a whitewater background with a 3 year warranty. Yeah, people run class 5 rapids on an inflatable SUPs, I've personally have ran class 3 rapids. So they are built to take a beating and you can see that when you ride one. Also, being an inflatable has weight savings advantages, which is phenomenal for portaging. Most SUP companies I’ve seen come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Picking the right board for the right task is key. Rocking a short and super wide board is great stabilization wise, but is not going to track and glide like a longer and more narrow board will. All depends on what you are trying to do on the water.

Alright you have your board, but what about the other gear? Bringing the right gear can make or break a trip. Having too much stuff makes portaging harder, slows you down paddling, and is just a pain to deal with. Keep it light, fast, and dry is key! Over the years, I have been figuring out the right gear combination for my paddle trips, which I got to say I am pretty happy with my current setup. I have broken down my personal gear selection on my SUPing with Rozyboom website, based on the length of paddle.

My gear fits into a 65L Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack. Think of it as a dry bag backpack, which has a hip bent and sternum strap to help with the load. These bags are amazing!! Typically around 40-60 pounds loaded up. They also make different sizes too, I just found the 65L to be perfect for me. Sometimes an additional 35L Hydraulic Dry Bag or Big River Bag is needed too. That second bag, tends to be for dry food and/or sleep system for quick setup. Plus, acts as a day bag once we get camp setup. All the cold food gets put into my RTIC Soft Pack 30 cooler. I just lay these bags on top of the board and hit the water. If conditions are rough, I will strap it down with NRS straps or a carabiner to a D-Loop on the board. Most of the time, just laying them down is perfectly fine. Remember to spread the weight across the board from side to side and front to back, erroring with more weight on the backend of the board.

Travelling with a SUP is much easier than people think. The sweet part of inflatable SUPs is how they roll up into a rolling duffle bag and extra space in the bag. It is airport friendly and fully packed tends to be below 50 pound threshold. I typically only put SUP gear in the bag like fins, PFD, leash, pump, paddle shoes, travel paddle, and stuff like that. If not flying, you can strap them to the roof rack, bare roof, or a hitch mount platform (what I do) with NRS straps. The bags helps keep the boards protected during the journey and free up space inside your vehicle. Get to your destination and start pumping them up by hand or high pressure pump.

Portaging with a SUP. “How do you portage?” has to be the most asked question I get. Don’t overthink it! You can carry it by the handle like you would walking to the launch or across a beach, what we do on super short portages. My preference, is to make a sling out of an NRS strap. Run it along a side on top of the board through the D-Ring spots. Bring it back to the clip to make a full loop, which should look like a sling. Toss it up on your shoulder and start hiking, adjust length as needed. Like I said, “Don’t overthink it!”

SUP-Fishing is one of my favorite activities to do in the BWCA. Always learning a new lake! Given, we have been focusing on just a few lakes to really learn them well. Locating the fish is the biggest and trickiest task, which you can use a depth finder on a SUP. Slightly modified a sensor mounting bracket and you are ready to see what is happening under the water. Find that school of Walleye deep down. Otherwise, cast, jig, bobber, troll, or do whatever to find em. You can fish standing, kneeling, kicking back on a crazy creek chair, or anyway that feels comfortable for you. I love to stand, since I can typically cast and still see my bait in the water. Crazy to see a Northern Pike or Bass hammer your bait right next to your SUP, near the surface. It looks like they are going to jump right onto the board! Tackle wise, soft plastics are great, but I try to use real bait as much as possible. Nightcrawlers and leeches tend to only last a few days, unless you can keep them cool, shade is your friend. I use a 6 foot breakaway pole, which is why I also bring a net. Helps to grab the fish while keeping the pole high and fully taught. Scoop them up with the net, pull the hook, grab the stringer, and add to the dinner menu.  Stringer we typically tie to a side D-Ring and attach it off the very back when paddling back to camp, helps with drag off the back. Get back to camp, clean them up (remembering Leave No Trace Principles for disposing fish properly), and start cooking. Nothing beats earning your meal for the day!

With so many people asking what SUPing is all about I decided to start my own business, SUPing with Rozyboom. Local Minnesota business with one main focus, to get you out on the water enjoying nature. Whether you are a first timer, not super comfortable, trying to advance, or looking for a super fun way to explore around. I offer something for everyone! Just need to bring your personal gear, water, and snacks/food. Board, Paddle, PFD, Leash, Dry Bags, and more is all provided. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to get out on a SUP. I offer a variety of paddle options from Easy Going, Level Up, Single River Day, Private, and Destination Paddles. All paddles are tailored in their own ways. Plus, for Easy Going and Level Up paddles I am super flexible on the start time and day of the week too. I’m always willing to move around and do everything I can to get you on a board, including changing the lake/river we are going to paddle, to make it convenient for everyone. During all paddles, I am taking photos and videos of you to share and enjoy. After all paddles, I have promo codes to get you a deal on your very own Hala board! With your own board, you can join my Easy Going and Level Up paddles for free and/or get a discount on Destination and Single River Day paddles too.

If you would like to learn more about gear, SUPs, board demos, SUPing with Rozyboom paddles, and/or trip planning please contact me! I love helping people figure out gear and getting them on the water.

Lastly, no matter how you are experience the Boundary Waters please Leave No Trace. It is our duty to preserve, keep clean, and protect this amazing areas. Stop using single use anything. Think before buying or discarding something. As humans, we only have this one planet we all share, along with a plethora of other life. Areas like the BWCA, National Parks, and the variety of protected areas are key to the survival of multiple species, including our own. Speak up and stand up to those who are disrespectful to our environment. Without it, all species will suffer, including humans. Remember, every little bit helps!

Paddle on,
Pete Rozeboom

Owner - Rozyboom Adventures LLC - SUPing with Rozyboom

Instagram: @suping_with_rozyboom


Rep. McCollum introduces legislation to study mining near BWCA

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Rep. McCollum introduces legislation compelling US Forest Service to complete and release study on toxic mining near the Boundary Waters

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had previously cancelled the study and is refusing to hand over underlying data

Today, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced legislation (Interior Appropriations Committee Report p.7) compelling the U.S. Forest to complete a study on toxic mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. The study had been underway for twenty months before being cancelled by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in 2018, who in defiance of Congress is refusing to hand over the preliminary reports. Perdue had previously promised Rep. McCollum he would finish the study, then broke his word last September.

The legislation would halt mineral leasing in the watershed of the Boundary Waters until the completion and delivery of the study to Congress.

“This legislation is necessary because the Trump administration is hellbent on steamrolling through this risky mining project near a pristine Wilderness without acknowledging the inherent problems,” said Tom Landwehr, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

The legislation comes a week after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) renewed two leases for Chilean mining giant Antofagasta’s Twin Metals project. The leases were terminated in 2016 by the Obama Administration because of the irreconcilable risk they posed to the Wilderness, and unlawfully reinstated by the Trump Administration. The leases have never undergone full environmental review to determine whether the watershed of the Boundary Waters is the right location for this kind of mining.

Here are 3 ACTIONS you can take right now:

1. Share our post or tweet and thank Rep. McCollum on your social media!

2. Call your Minnesota Elected Officials and tell them to protect the Boundary Waters.

Senator Tina Smith: (202) 224-5641
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (202) 224-3244
Governor Tim Walz: (651) 201-3400

3. Donate today and help us continue this fight!

Poem | The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Posted by
Lanny Witter

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Author - Lanny Witter

After planning and anticipation, the time comes

There’s the sign that says you are now in the BWCAW

The daily cares quickly start washing away

Find that campsite you hope is empty

Scope it out, hang the food bag and erect tents

The first night it’s Brats and potatoes

Conversation and relaxation around a crackling camp fire

Retire early to be ready for the next day

Dawn arrives, time to rise, so quiet and peaceful

The tent zipper is so loud

Step out into the cool morning air

It is so quiet I can hear a pin drop

The hiss of the camp stove is the only sound

Enjoy a hot cup of coffee on a shore line rock

The granite rock has glacier scars

Not a sound - no breeze

The lake has a mist hovering over it

As the sun rises the mist melts away

The lake is smooth as glass and reflects clouds and trees

The quiet is interrupted by the plop of a jumping fish

The cry of a loon echoes across the lake

What a welcome wilderness sound that is

A breeze turns the lake into ripples

Then the sound of water lapping against the rocks

Time for pancakes that always taste better under the pine trees

Soon it is time to put the canoe in the water

All is quiet except for the sound of the paddle dipping into the water

There’s the sound of the canoe gliding across the lake

The scenic views are awesome and captivating

What is around the next bend you wonder

Portage past water rushing through a bed of rocks

When will we get to the end of the portage - the packs are heavy?

Suddenly you see a welcome patch of blue through the trees

What will the lake look like you wonder?

You arrive and unburden yourself of packs and canoe

Time for a shore lunch of trail mix and jerky

Each lake, portage and campsite are a new experience

Solitude, beautiful scenery, nature, sky blue waters, serenity

Observe picture perfect sunrise and sunsets from a lakeside rock

This is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Photo: Steve Piragis

Community Stories - Risking the Development of Our Youth

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Posted by
Ashley Bredemus

Pick any Saturday night in July and you’ll find a campfire in full swing at the end of the Gunflint Trail, a stone’s throw from entry point 55 into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Saturday night is my favorite night of the week for that very reason. Our 40 campers will have just come back from their canoe trips in the BWCAW, ready to share stories of their travels and sing songs like the Voyageurs before them.

At Camp Birchwood for Boys, we’ve been doing some rendition of trip-end campfires since my grandparents founded the wilderness camp in 1968. Nowadays, we call this tradition the Eagle’s Nest Campfire Circle.

We end every campfire with “kudos” - any camper with a statement of thanks, gratitude, or respect is welcome to stand up and share. You’d be surprised how long “kudos” can go amongst a group of young boys (ages 7-17)…some nights, over an hour! Our girls camp often runs even longer.

“I want to thank John for always carrying more weight on the portages than he needed to…even over Stairway Portage!”

“I’d like to give kudos to Henry and Nate for catching our dinner that last night and showing me how to cook it. That’s something I wouldn’t have learned at home. I’ll never forget the fight that Trout gave you guys!”

“Kudos to Taylor for singing songs with me in the canoe even though it was raining.”

“I’m giving my kudos to Carter because he was always the first person to start setting up camp. He never asked what to do, he just started doing something he knew would be helpful.”

“I really want to say kudos to my cabin mates for making this my best summer yet. I love you guys!”

By the time kudos is over, the sun has set, and our campers give one final battle cry over the quiet BWCAW before hiking back to their cabins, listening to the final loons calling out over the Seagull River.

When winter comes and it’s just my dad and me living on the property, I often think of those special campfire nights when Eagle’s Nest is alive with stories of nature, adventure, and camaraderie. I’m warmed by the memories of young campers expressing gratitude for his or her wilderness experience.

Often, our campers write to us as adults giving kudos to Camp and the Boundary Waters for shaping them into the people they are today, with respect, love, and need for the wilderness.

Then I think of the threat of mining in the BWCAW watershed, such a polarizing thought.

Over the past 50 years we have sent thousands of young men (and women) into the Boundary Waters. Thousands have reflected on their trips at Eagle’s Nest and thousands attribute their growth and development to the wilderness of Northern Minnesota.

This wild frontier, where our young campers can escape the pressures of modern society, finding equilibrium, clarity, and connection, is at risk.

It’s not just the development of our campers at risk either. There are many youth camps around the Boundary Waters with similar missions to ours - ultimately providing children with meaningful wilderness experiences that have a positive impact on their lives, in turn, making the world a better place.

However, according to the Twin Metals website, sulfide-ore copper mining will “contribute significant revenues to Minnesota’s K-12 public schools through the Minnesota Permanent School Fund.” Supporters would argue that the mining operation will do more for the development of our youth than the Boundary Waters could, rather than put it at risk.

Although, their contributions would only benefit Minnesota, I think we can all agree increased revenue to the school districts of the state would be positive. However, we have to ask ourselves, “At what cost?”

What example does that set for future generations if our once pristine wilderness vanishes?

They’ll be able to read about the simplicities of calling loons on quiet lakes deep in the Boundary Waters from authors like Sigurd Olson. They’ll hear boyhood stories from their grandfathers of running rapids or catching 25-year-old Lake Trout. They’ll hear of the joys attributed to camping in BWCAW, but they won’t know it for themselves.

Our future generations of youth will ask, “What happened to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area?”

What will we say?

My future grandchildren would likely ask their parents why Camp Birchwood is no longer sending out trips.

The answer: Copper-nickel mining won. Man placed profit over preservation. Short term financial gain eclipsed our connection to the land and, therefore, our human spirit.

However, that dim picture I’ve just painted does not have to be our reality! With your support, the BWCAW can serve generations of youth to come. Children, 100 years from now, can sit atop Eagle’s Nest around a campfire and share their own wilderness tales and give their own kudos.

So, in the spirit of tradition, kudos to everyone supporting the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. The effects of your help will last hundreds of years and serve countless children.

Happy Trails,

Ashley from An Outdoor Experience


Save the BWCA Ambassadors!

Saturday, April 27, 2019
Posted by
Courtney Otto
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is announcing a new initiative to help streamline the efforts of our volunteer program -
Save the Boundary Waters Ambassadors!

Learn more about how to get involved!

Our first Ambassadors and their volunteer teams:

Kate Conway in Scottsdale, Arizona with her Greater Scottsdale Save the Boundary Waters team of volunteers

John Sand in Austin, MN with his Austin Save the Boundary Waters team of volunteers.

Both Kate and John are working with their volunteers on the following goals: 1. Getting a Letter to the Editor in local papers; 2. Setting up an event to educate the public about copper-nickel mining in the watershed of the Boundary waters; 3. Meeting with local elected officials asking them to protect the Boundary Waters.

So, are you somebody with an outgoing personality and strong leadership skills? Do you love the Boundary Waters? Are you passionate about educating and activating the people in your area to help save the BWCA? Then volunteer to be a Save the Boundary Waters Ambassador!

Ambassadors are a crucial part of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and they work closely with Campaign staff to develop and strengthen a team of volunteers. These teams then use efficient and strategic 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!

All Ambassadors will also be trained in the following skills:

  • How to take a stand for the Boundary Waters

  • How to interact and advocate for a healthy Boundary Waters with elected officials and land management agencies

  • Grassroots organizing techniques

  • Leadership, communication, and lobbying skills

Learn more about how to get involved!

Volunteer Spotlight: Audrey Jewett!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Why do you like volunteering for the Campaign?

It has always been so fun and easy to talk about the Boundary Waters! Like so many others I shape my summers around this place, so it only feels right to share the awesomeness of the BWCA with others, and how we can protect it! I first presented to my high school, Benilde St. Margaret's in 2014 after signing Dave and Amy's signature Canoe in Duluth, at the first days of their Paddle to D.C. trek. Since then the campaign has grown so much, and I feel lucky to have been apart of it all.

What is your favorite event you’ve ever volunteered at?
The MN state fair 2018 was a blast! Getting to talk to the sheer numbers of Boundary Waters supporters that came through our booth was an absolute joy.

What is your favorite lake?

Clearwater lake! Hiking up the Palisades is the best!

Favorite memory in the Boundary Waters?

My boyfriend and I camped on Caribou Lake a few years ago and took a trip to Johnson Falls. We had the most spectacular picnic under the waterfall, a moment I truly will never forget.

What would you never go to the Boundary Waters without?

My coffee press - can't go without my coffee!

Why do you want to protect the Boundary Waters?

The Boundary Waters has been exhaustively protected to maintain it's current status as a roadless wilderness and federally protected wilderness area. There is precious little undeveloped land left on our earth, and the BWCA looks nearly identical to how it did hundreds of years ago. However, threats to its purity are mounting. I feel a sense of urgency to elevate this issue before time runs out.

I feel deeply connected to this place as so many others do; I was lucky enough to spend a week in Ely each summer with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, paddling in for day trips just outside Ely, and just soaking up all the Ely community had to offer. These childhood carefree memories will stick with me forever. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I try to remember those strolls down to Miners Lake and Shagwa lake, waiting for my uncle to get off work at Piragis so we could all walk the dogs together and lay in the hammock. I am intricately connected to the strength of these communities and when I am speaking for the Boundary Waters, I also speak for the 17,000 local jobs supported by the tourism and outdoor recreation economy of Ely, Grand Marais, and the surrounding area.

I was introduced to the richness of these end-of-the-road communities, and it is clear these communities form around something greater than all of us. It wasn't until high school that I began taking more extensive camping trips into the BWCA, and was able to fully understand the vastness of this place, but my deep love and appreciation for those economies that thrive off the outdoor recreation economy grounds me in my work to, As Edward Abbey once said, "Keep it as it was".

You are working to build up a campus organization for the Boundary Waters at DePaul University. Why is it so important to you to get students involved in the Campaign?

DePaul is a Vincentian University, modeled after the life and work of Saint Vincent DePaul. His motto, and consequently the University's, was "What Must Be Done". My four years on this campus have taught me how to pursue social justice through action, and leaders of the campaign to Save the BWCA have as well. Using the tools I've been given through my coursework and fieldwork experience, I now feel called to share with others what must be done for the Boundary Waters. We cannot afford to risk this indescribable place. I am inspired by the Kids for the Boundary Waters group flying into DC, so I am currently planning agendas for three events on campus this week to support their efforts. This week we'll be signing the petition, writing letters to our elected officials, and forming our next Chicago meet up.

Sign up here to be a volunteer!

Volunteer Appreciation Week

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
One of the best ways to get involved with the Campaign is to volunteer. 
Sign up here!

Some of our volunteer opportunities include the tabling at events, lobbying at the Capitol, the Minnesota State Fair, brewery fundraisers, paddling events, phone banking, data entry, creating art, hosting an event in your community, giving presentations and so much more! 

Sign up here to be a volunteer!