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Be a Wilderness Warrior

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

We need you to help us keep our momentum going by becoming a Wilderness Warrior!

Wilderness Warriors receive weekly alerts about impactful actions they can take that help #SavetheBWCA. We will inspire you with ways to make a difference and show your love for the Boundary Waters -- from making sure your voice is heard by key leaders to speaking out on social media in support.

Anti-BWCA groups are trying to speed up the sulfide-ore copper mines proposed in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Join our forces by becoming a Wilderness Warrior and stand up for this amazing Wilderness.

Sign up here, and make sure you've submitted your comment to the U.S. Forest Service during this environmental review of the watershed.





Trip Tales: Importance of Wilderness

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Posted by
John Focke

Below are excerpts a Boundary Waters trip story that John Focke shared on his blog, Tales from the Focke

If my body had a low battery light, it would have been blinking. We had just finished the unofficial first half of the WNBA season, which was condensed due to an extended Olympic break right in the middle of the season. My wedding was 12 days away, but I had a few free days to recharge before everyone descended upon the Twin Cities. 

After talking things over with my fiancee, Ali, we decided we were in a good spot regarding the wedding details and I could bounce to the Gunflint Trail.

Our family has had a cabin on Hungry Jack Lake, just off the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota, for many decades. Originally purchased by my great-grandpa, I have made it up there every year of my life but one (shoulder surgery knocked me out in 2000).

There are two cabins, a big cabin and a little cabin, and we are just a short paddle across Bearskin Lake to the Boundary Waters--the crown jewel of Minnesota.

There is running water and electricity, but no cell phone access, TV or internet--the perfect place to unplug and charge up. 

After unloading the car, I took the kayak down to the lake and immediately hopped in. The clouds were low and gray and no wind moved as I glided across the glassy surface of the lake. The silence wraps itself around you up there. I paddled to the far end of the lake into a bay and just drifted, leaning back I closed my eyes and felt totally at peace. I was just a small speck floating in a big lake. My mind drifting, but not thinking of anything--finally letting go.

The sun was shining the next morning as I hopped in the kayak, even though it was early I could already hear the kids down the lake splashing and paddling around. I paddled down to the first portage, one I have done a million times. Shouldering the kayak, I crossed the trail into Bearskin Lake. From there I had to cross the lake to the Daniels Portage, there was a little more chop on Bearskin Lake--as there always seems to be.

Looking to my left you could see the rocky top of Caribou Trail, to my right several canoes headed out from Camp Menogyn and others crossing the lake towards the Duncan Lake portage.

As I slid into Daniels Lake, I paddled along the bluffs on the left side. I remembered coming here as a kid and fishing off those big rocks where the water was so clear you could see down to the even bigger rocks below and the shadows of fishing swimming around. I remembered lunching on those rocks and the way the sun warmed your skin as we reclined on the rocks. Each of us finding our own little "easy-chair" to relax in.

I paddled further into the lake, debating on making the link up from here to Rose Lake but not feeling the effort of that seriously long portage.

The sun was high and not a cloud in the sky, just a deep blue with a light wind. I paused at the far end of the lake, drifting and watching the shoreline reflect on the surface of the lake. Our wedding was a little over a week away, the hay was in the barn as my brother liked to say. I was excited to welcome everyone in town and more excited to pledge my love and my life to Ali. She loved coming to this place too, and the thought of one day bringing our family to follow some of the same trails that I trod as a kid was a great vision. 

Heading back to the portage I ran into a guy and his brother, about my age with their two kids climbing into their canoe. The guy mentioned it was his kids' first trip to the Boundary Waters. He said he had been coming up for years, but finally the kids were old enough to handle the canoeing and camping so they were headed out for a few days. It was so great to see another generation of kids heading into the Wilderness, learning to love it as their parents did. That’s what this area needs--defenders of all ages, people who understand the importance of preserving it for the next generation and the one after that and so on.

Later, I paddled into the lake and let my thoughts drift over to my vows: how do you tell the woman of your dreams how much she means to you? How do you put into words how much you love and care about her? Is it possible to take all those feelings and compress them into a few sentences? The thing about Ali that I knew right from the start, was how right it felt. How comfortable I was, how I could be myself without judgement, how all I wanted to do was make her laugh and spend time with her.

As I floated thinking about all those things, I thought about this land too: how do you put into words how special this area is? How can someone who has never put a paddle in the water and floated through a crystal-clear lake understand why we shouldn’t allow a mining operation on the edge of the Wilderness?

It can be hard to put into words what this place means to people. It’s a silent place that can’t speak for itself, you need to show people what it means. This is why I thought the Freeman’s Year in the Wilderness was so important. To shine a light on this area, bring it to the public mind, help people understand we don’t have many spaces like this left and how important it is to keep it wild.

I relaxed on the dock that evening, listening to the sounds of the loons as the sky faded to black and the stars began to come out. The sound of the kids playing in the lake slowly quieted as it began to get dark and the silence was total.  It was a quick trip, but it was amazing what it did to recharge my battery and fill my soul. I closed my eyes and imagined for a moment sitting here in the future with my wife and family, soaking in the beauty of this place and hoping that it would stay as it is for that to happen. 

John Focke lives in Minneapolis, MN. John is the radio play-by-play voice of the Minnesota Lynx and the executive producer and studio host for the Minnesota Timberwolves. John has been going to the Boundary Waters for his entire life with his family--thanks to his grandpa's cabin on Hungry Jack Lake off the Gunflint Trail. It has always been a very special place to John and everyone in his family. He wants to protect the Boundary Waters so that future generations of his family get to experience it in the same way that he was able to. 





Science Desk: Big News! But What Does It Mean for the BWCA?

Friday, January 20, 2017
Posted by
Matt Norton

Several amazing announcements at the end of last year and the beginning of this year mean big news for the Boundary Waters – specifically, Twin Metals’ request to renew its mineral leases was denied, and a watershed-wide environmental review was initiated. We're proud of our efforts and the great strides we’ve taken to protect the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and we know we couldn't have done it without you or our Campaign partners. You need to know, however, that even though one mining company lost its leases, the fight to protect the Boundary Waters is not over.

More work is ahead for us and for you. There will be critical moments when we will need you to comment on behalf of the Boundary Waters. It is very important that you take action at each opportunity. Right now is one of those times -- comment here!

First, let's back up and break down what happened in December 2016 and the beginning of this year.

What Just Happened?

What Does It Mean?
In a nutshell, it means that the Campaign has met our short-term goal and is on track to, but has not yet, achieved our medium-term and long-term goals for protecting the Boundary Waters. Let’s review the Campaign’s short, medium, and long-term goals for protection for the Boundary Waters and its watershed from sulfide-ore copper mining.

  • Short Term: Our short-term goal required that Chilean copper mining giant, Antofagasta, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Twin Metals, be denied the renewal they requested of their expired mineral leases, which are the only federal minerals leases in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. The announcements in December mean that we have accomplished this short-term goal, though the mining companies are challenging the federal agencies’ denial of the lease renewal request. The case is in federal court, and will play out over the next year or two.
  • Medium Term: The Campaign’s medium-term goal is a 20-year administrative “withdrawal,” during which no new leases or exploration of federal minerals would occur within the Boundary Waters watershed. The process to create a 20-year withdrawal starts with a two-year pause on new federal mineral activity in the area proposed to be withdrawn, so that federal agencies can do an environmental review of the effects the proposed withdrawal would have on the environment, people, and economy. The announcements from earlier this month have triggered a two-year pause and environmental review, and started the process that should lead to our medium-term goal of a 20-year withdrawal of federal minerals in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.
  • Long Term: After the environmental review is done, it will be up to the new Secretary of the Interior Department to decide whether to announce a 20-year withdrawal for the Boundary Waters watershed. If that happens, then we’ll use those years to build support for the Campaign’s ultimate goal: passage by Congress of an act granting permanent withdrawal of federal minerals within the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

To get the best environmental review possible, your comments on this environmental review are needed now! Your engagement in the environmental review process, and your continued support for the Campaign, are critical. The environmental review process has started with a 90-day public comment period. As someone who loves the Boundary Waters, your comment should be sent in as soon as possible, and definitely before April 19. You should also consider attending and speaking up at an agency-hosted public meeting.

So yes, we’ve seen some great forward steps taken in the last several weeks, but we’re not there yet. Luckily, we have a plan for how to get from here to our long-term goal: permanent protection for the Boundary Waters and its watershed ...  And luckily, we have you. Our citizen members, volunteers, and partner organizations are essential. We have only gotten to this stage, and we will only achieve the greater victory of permanent protection, with your continued involvement and support. So please sign and share the petition to keep this momentum moving forward. Thank you!

Matt Norton is the Campaign's policy director. He previously worked as campaign director with Minnesota Environmental Partnership, and as forestry and wildlife advocate and staff attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.




Infographic: Take Action During Comment Period

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

When the U.S. Forest Service announced an environmental review of the Boundary Waters Wilderness watershed last Friday, the agency also kicked off a 90-day comment period, during which time citizens like you can speak up for the Boundary Waters. This comment period is about letting the Forest Service know what you think they should study during the environmental review, like the sensitivity of the BWCA's clean water to pollution, the value of this place and its economic impact on tourism and outdoor recreation. You can make a comment here! This environmental review is a great step toward protecting the watershed of the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park and Canada's Quetico Provincial Park. During this time, there will be a two-year pause on mining activities in the watershed. We know most of you have already taken some action to support protecting the Boundary Waters, but the comment period is a NEW and IMPORTANT action. So please take a minute to comment. The messages collected during this time period will impact the environmental review and show the groundswell of support for protecting this Wilderness. Thank you for your support! Feel free to share this infographic to help build support and urge others to take action during the 90-day comment period! UPDATE: comment period will conclude August 11.








Resupply Report: Northern Lakes Canoe Base Girl Scouts

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Posted by
Rebecca Gaida

We are the Girl Scouts from Northern Lakes Canoe Base. We enjoyed a five day trip to resupply Dave and Amy Freeman's Year in the Wilderness on Knife Lake. When we arrived at the Freeman's campsite, we were greeted by puppy kisses from Tank. The Freeman's then explained the purpose of their Year in the Wilderness and the threats of mining to the Boundary Waters. Some highlights of the trip were a day paddle to Thunder Point, measuring water clarity and oxygen levels, swimming and swamping the canoe for fun. After a day full of activities, Dave and Amy joined us at our campsite for pizza over the fire and cheesecake. We waved them off later that evening.

The weather was perfect, the company was great and the memories will last forever. What a treat to share a meal, some laughs and Girl Scout cookies (of course) with Dave, Amy and Tank!

Rebecca Gaida is from Victoria, Minnesota, and is currently attend the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Rebecca is studying public administration with a minor in nonprofit leadership. Rebecca has spent the past six summers paddling the Boundary Waters, and the past two summers guiding for Northern Lakes Girl Scout Canoe Base.






Save the Boundary Waters for Them

Friday, January 6, 2017
Posted by
Bobby and Maura Marko

Below are excerpts from a blog post about Bobby and Maura Marko's September Boundary Waters trip, which they shared on their We Found Adventure blog. Read the full blog.

When I entered the Wilderness for the first time as a confused and lost 19-year-old girl, I had no idea the path life would take me on. Now, 11 years later, I am a wife, a mother to a son and I am expecting a daughter. The Wilderness used to be my sanctuary. After meeting my husband, Bobby, the Wilderness became a setting of bonding and discovery. As we were starting our lives together, we entered the Wilderness and did extraordinary things. We learned about each other, we learned the importance of communication, we learned to care for one another and we learned to trust one another. We had conversations within the sanctuary of Mother Nature that would never have been able to take place in a bar, restaurant or even the comforts of our own home. When out exploring the Wilderness, a closeness and a bond is formed that nothing else can possibly duplicate.

Now it has become a classroom for our children. A place for us to take our children to help them learn life lessons, learn about ecosystems, learn about history, learn about the importance of preservation, learn Leave No Trace principles and learn to be thoughtful and caring human beings.

At the age of two, our son, Jack, has entered two wilderness areas--one of which is the Boundary Waters. During his third trip into the Boundary Waters, he was accompanied by his loving and doting grandparents.

Jack was able to be a part of a multigenerational trip into an area that has been protected since 1926. He was given a glimpse into what life was like for a voyageur traveling the area 200 years ago. These wilderness areas are truly precious and deserve our respect and protection. 

When I think of my children, I imagine all of the adventures we will have with them throughout their lives. I think of the memories made. The photographs taken. The tears shed. The laughter shared.

I imagine them setting forth on their own as a young woman and a young man seeking adventure by themselves, with friends or with families of their own. I picture them emulating trips we have done in the past. Being able to experience the same campsites. The same lakes. The same paths. When our wilderness is threatened, the opportunities for outdoor recreation of future generations are threatened.

President Lyndon B. Johnson said it beautifully when talking of the importance of protecting wilderness areas for future generations. He said, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

The Boundary Waters is a profoundly important stretch of wilderness that must be protected. This includes protection from within and without. As we--the visitors--enter the Wilderness, we must educate ourselves. We must practice and respect all Leave No Trace principles. Protecting this area from exterior threats, like disruptive and environmentally toxic mining operations, should have every one of us standing up, speaking out and working hard to protect this vital natural resource for generations to come. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Please, stand with us and speak out against the proposed mines. Sign the petition today, contact your local representative, educate others, or share your own personal stories. There are so many ways in which you can stand up and protect this scenic area for this generation and all those to come.

Bobby and Maura Marko live in Excelsior, Minnesota, with their two-year-old son, Jack, and newborn daughter, Rowan. Bobby works as a UX Designer for Amazon while Maura is a stay-at-home mom and writer for their blog, We Found Adventure. Both are avid outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about protecting the wild places of our planet as well as encouraging parents to get outdoors and experience wilderness with their children. Though newbies to the Boundary Waters and canoe-camping in general, the family was hooked after their first trip in and have many more trips planned! They feel that protecting a national treasure like the Boundary Waters should be a priority for every person who believes that future generations deserve to inherit accessible and outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

Four Seasons in the Boundary Waters

Thursday, December 22, 2016
Posted by
Susan Kelnberger
Although I live and work in the Twin Cities, my heart is in the woods and has been for as long as I can remember. My parents purchased what would be become our family cabin on the edge of the Boundary Waters on West Bearskin Lake. At that time, the cabin was four disconnected bunkhouses. A wood stove provided heat in the winter and many windows let in fresh, crisp air in the summer. Over the years, the cabin was been renovated, remodeled and eventually has become where my parents retired. This month, I turn 36. I have been visiting this peaceful oasis since I was a year and a half old. Needless to say, I have a lot of memories from the Boundary Waters. No matter the season the Boundary Waters, it is a special place for my family and me.
Winter brings a silence so deep you can almost hear the trees inhaling and exhaling. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are my two favorite winter activities. One winter when I was in college and home for winter break, my parents and I snowshoed to Rose Falls via the Border Route Trail. I loved traversing the United States-Canadian border. On one side the U.S., the other I could reach out and touch another country. The final stretch of our journey took us across Rose Lake, up the famous Stairway Portage and finally to Rose Falls. We were the only people on the lake. The only sound was the crunching of our snowshoes on the snow.
Spring brings the singing of birds and melting of snow. Lakes open up and streams and rivers flow again after months of being frozen in time. Spring also means the fishing opener. While in college I was able to be up north for the opener. My dad, brother and other friends would go to bed early the night of the opener and wake up at midnight to fish on Hungry Jack Lake for walleye. The next day would bring canoeing into Daniels Lake for trout. One fishing opener we battled, in rotation, snow, sleet, rain and wind. That weather must have been good luck for me, because that was the year I out-fished my brother. If I remember correctly, he did not catch a single fish. I caught at least three. We ate good that night. 
The days are longer, the nights shorter. One August, canoeing with friends back from Rose Falls (my favorite BWCA day trip), we got caught in a thunderstorm. The clouds above Duncan Lake looked like the black horses racing out of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings before the skies opened up in a downpour with thunder and lightning soon to follow. We hunkered down until the storm passed and we were able to make the final crossing across West Bearskin back to the cabin. By 9 p.m., we were enjoying malts at Trail Center Lodge on the Gunflint Trail.

The days start to grow shorter, the leaves change and the air becomes crisper. Nothing better than an overnight camping trip on Seagull Lake. A trip to Seagull Lake would not be complete without a hike up the palisades. Seagull Lake has many inlets, islands and peninsulas. On one of these islands is the palisades. A hike up brings an unforgettable overlook, especially with the vivid colors of leaves changing and the wide-open sky.
The Boundary Waters is not a commodity waiting to be used. It is a place full of stories and memories. It is not a throw away resource. It is a place deserving of protection.

Susan Kelnberger lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and work as a special education teacher in the east metro. Susan has been visiting the Boundary Waters since she was young when her parents purchased a cabin on West Bearskin Lake off the Gunflint Trail. Susan supports the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters because as America's most visited wilderness area the Boundary Waters offers visitors a place of stillness, a place to encounter and appreciate nature and a place to make memories.




Big News for the Boundary Waters

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, federal agencies announced that Twin Metals mineral leases were denied and that an environmental review of the Boundary Waters watershed would commence. The Bureau of Land Management stated in its release, "Citing broad concerns from thousands of public comments and input about potential impacts of mining on the wilderness area’s watershed, fish and wildlife, and the nearly $45 million recreation economy, the agencies today took actions that denied an application for renewal of two hard rock mineral leases in the area, as well as initiated steps to withdraw key portions of the watershed from new mineral permits and leases.”

We're proud of our work, which led to these two decisions. But it couldn't happen without the help of all of our dedicated supporters and our amazing group of partners and the partners of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. Read our statement below then read on to hear from our partners, who support these critical steps in our effort to gain permanent protection for the Boundary Waters. Keep in mind, there's more work to be done. Stay tuned for an announcement of a 90-day comment period to determine whether the watershed of the BWCA is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. And act now to urge Minnesota's senators to support permanent protection for this watershed.

“The Boundary Waters is a special place for Minnesotans who love hunting, fishing and recreation and who depend on thousands of jobs sustained by America’s most-popular wilderness. Science has clearly shown that copper mining would inflict devastating harm on this priceless wilderness. Today’s decision reflects strong support from a majority of Minnesotans who want to prioritize the wide-ranging value our communities gain from a healthy Boundary Waters, rather than open an industrial mining zone less than a mile from the wilderness edge. It’s a strong first step, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can protect the BWCA for future generations. Our coalition keeps growing as sportsmen, veterans, businesses and other interests sign on to support our efforts.”
Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

From Our Partners

“American Rivers named the Boundary Waters among America’s Most Endangered Rivers in 2013 because of the threat this mine posed to clean water and one of our nation’s natural treasures. Today’s announcement is a great victory for all of our partners and the tens of thousands of people across the country who took action to safeguard this special place. We applaud the Obama Administration for acting to protect the Boundary Waters and its pristine rivers, abundant fish and wildlife and world-class recreation opportunities for future generations.”
Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers

"[The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness] has been a favorite destination for millions of Americans who marvel at its unique waterways and forests and is a vital component of Minnesota’s economy. For these reasons, the Boundary Waters must be protected for all time, and this decision by the Forest Service is a critical first step towards that goal.”
Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society

“The Boundary Waters are one of the nation’s most iconic landscapes. To even consider defiling this pristine watershed is ludicrous. We thank the Obama administration for taking bold action in support of the Boundary Waters, and we look forward to working with the Trump administration to conserve this irreplaceable region in perpetuity.”
Land Tawney, President & CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

“The Obama administration has rightly recognized that toxic sulfide ore mining poses grave risks for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s most-visited national wilderness.  Today’s decision brings a welcome reprieve for the Boundary Waters’ 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and validates the voices of thousands who have asked that its waters be protected from this threat. The tremendous public opposition to these mines demonstrates the incredible connection that Minnesotans and people from all over the country feel with this place and the deep-rooted desire to see it protected, not just today but into the future. We applaud this significant step forward and will continue to fight for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters.”
Margaret Levin, State Director of Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter

“This is a tremendous victory for people, communities, and wildlife. We applaud Interior Secretary Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for standing up for Minnesota’s fish and wildlife, jobs, and outdoor way of life and rejecting this risky mine. Some places are just too special to risk—and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of those places. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the premier fishing destinations in the world. It offers over 1 million acres of wilderness, well over 1,000 lakes for fishing, canoeing, camping, hunting, and other activities, and northern pike, walleye, and possibly the best natural small mouth bass fishery in the country. The communities of northeastern Minnesota are dependent on clean water and the fishing and recreation that depend on it. Putting a stop to this risky mine will help ensure that this incredible wildlife haven can be enjoyed by people now and for generations to come.”
Jason Dinsmore, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office

"As someone who has enjoyed fishing this area with my son, I was pleased to hear that recognized the significance of the area. Companies like Rapala rely on clean water and healthy fisheries to support world class fishing opportunities.”
Gregg Wollner, Executive Vice President for Twin Cities-based fishing tackle maker Rapala & former Chairman of the Board for the American Sportfishing Association

“Our national parks are important to our economy and to who we are as a nation, and we must do all we can to protect them. Voyageurs National Park is one such place and that is why the decision to halt this mining operation is so critical. Pollution from this mine would have flowed downstream towards Voyageurs, threatening the park’s prized fishing and wildlife, water quality and the visitor experience. With contaminants like mercury already impairing park waters and requiring fish advisories, we cannot allow this type of mining to take place within the watershed. Today’s decision recognizes the need for us to take steps to permanently protect these important places, today and well into the future.”
Theresa Pierno, President & CEO for National Parks Conservation Association

“These actions happened because tens of thousands of people spoke up against locating a sulfide mine on the edge of America’s most popular wilderness area. We thank the U.S. Forest Service for listening to their concerns and making a decision that protects the Boundary Waters from Twin Metals’ dangerous proposal. Now it’s critical that everybody who cares for the Boundary Waters join us and show the federal government how many people support permanently protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide mining pollution.”
— Paul Danicic, Executive Director, Friends of the BWCAW

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Trip Tales: Summer Memories On the Winter Solstice

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Posted by
Alex Falconer

Happy Winter Solstice! On this, the shortest day of the year, it’s tempting to get out our Boundary Waters trip journal, wrap up at the fire and remember our summer trips of the past. To dream of warm summer days with cool nights, loons calling across the lake, fresh walleye dinners, star-filled night skies and the silence. Oh, the silence. Even when I step outside here at home in a relatively quiet suburban neighborhood, there’s always the hum of fa- away traffic, the neighbor’s dog barking (and ours barking at his), or our own cacophony of devices and electronic toys and music and TV and so on. Oh, the silence.

This past summer’s family trip was perhaps one of the best. It was the first time my spouse and I were able to get our three kids (and our two dogs) into the Wilderness for more than just a day trip. Our youngest, Eddie, finally graduated from diapers - we weren’t doing the “bag of death” packing out dirty diapers! We started on Snowbank Lake after the Ely Fourth of July Parade, made it to a spot on Disappointment Lake, packed up in the morning and six portages later found our five-star campsite for the week on Ima Lake. An exciting development: our two oldest, Donnie (6) and Elsie (8), each carried their own packs and doubled back on most portages to help carry some smaller items the first trip didn’t get. Helpful and they felt part of the team!

But what made this trip most memorable was watching the experience through our kiddos eyes. Kids don’t need toys in the Wilderness; they certainly don’t need screens. Rocks and pinecones can be thrown into the lake for hours. Fishing from the campsite to catch small pan fish and bass is thrilling. Marching off into the woods (with a safety whistle!) to explore and find secret spots, or drag small dead branches back for the fire, or find a stream in which to play “pooh sticks” (if you know, you know) can fill hours - sometimes even long enough for mommy and daddy to take care of camp and have spare time to sit and - oh my goodness: read a book!

Enjoying memories from this past trip flood back on this cold winter night like its own comforting warm blanket.

Most poignantly, perhaps, on this trip was a moment with Elsie during one of the portages out. We stopped mid portage on a tough 80-rod path up a steep hill and then down again. At the top were more fresh blueberries than we could eat - and how we tried! As we stuffed our faces, she paused and looked as if she was saying something that would insult me but resolutely said, “You know, Daddy, this is the longest you haven’t checked your phone.” A mixture of sadness and pride hit me: for what our current technologic-driven lives are doing to our relationships especially as parents; but also that she noticed the importance of and appreciated our specific focus on her and her brothers this trip.

As always, when we exit the Wilderness, the “Adult World” comes back: demands of our jobs, bills, schedules, traffic, noise, news, distraction. But we had that week. We worked and played as a team. We struggled pulling the canoe through a mucky approach to a portage. We got comfortable pushing the limits of swimming in increasingly deeper water. We started fires, we avoided the mosquito swarm after sundown, we caught (small) fish, we explored the woods and marked “secret blueberry patches” on our map and took in a stunning sunset that looked like the American flag.

Parents and kids need this place to unplug. We need it as a respite from the noise - both for silence but also the from the noise of our day-to-day routines. We need to be forced into a situation where you have to look for something to do -- not have your day delivered to you in a calendar full of regimented blocks of time. And when you emerge from the woods with a renewed appreciation for life in general, we know this place is worth fighting for.

The experiences my kids have had in the Boundary Waters have inspired them to want to protect it like I do. Last week at daycare, Eddie asked of Santa, “Please save the Boundary Waters.” The announcement of the lease denial and application for withdrawal certainly fits that ask. Thank you to everyone who helped make that happen … with perhaps a little intervention from the North Pole!

State Director Alex Falconer has been with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters for two years. Alex has been in the outdoors, northwoods, northshore, Boundary Waters and beyond since before he could walk. He has the extreme pleasure of now introducing his children to the Boundary Waters and watching them dip their paddles, drink from a lake, and listen to the loons and wolves. Alex has worked on electoral, grassroots and issue advocacy campaigns for the past decade and looks forward to dedicating all his time and attention outside of his family to preserving the Boundary Waters for generations to come.





From the Freemans: An Amazing Milestone & Bear Witness Film Debut

Monday, December 19, 2016
Posted by
Dave Freeman

After years of hard work and tens of thousands of petition signatures, phone calls, donations, volunteer hours, and meaningful actions by concerned citizens from across the country, we were rewarded on December 15 by the federal government’s announcement that two key expired mineral leases on the edge of the Wilderness, currently held by Twin Metals Minnesota, will not be renewed. These leases are more than 50 years old and have never undergone any environmental review. Amy and I are overjoyed by this announcement and found ourselves jumping up and down and hugging when the news reached us in Ely on Thursday.

During the summer of 2013, Amy and I portaged a canoe from Gabbro Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to a Twin Metals test-drilling site just outside of the Wilderness. That afternoon spent out exploring that area brought the weight of the potential impacts Twin Metals and sulfide-ore copper mines proposed along the southern edge of the Wilderness pose to this national treasure—on which our jobs and our way of life depend. But what could we do? With few connections and even less money, at first we felt lost and sadden by what seemed the inevitable destruction to this Wilderness that is our lifeblood.

Luckily for us, a small group of local folks were developing a plan, which would grow into a movement, which continues to grow and expand today into the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. For more than three years people have been working tirelessly to urge the government to deny the renewal of these old leases.

When Amy and I spent 101 days paddling, portaging, and sailing "Sig," our signature canoe, from Ely to Washington D.C. in 2014 during the Paddle to DC, our main goal was to urge the federal government to not renew the expire Twin Metals leases. Then in 2015 Amy and I paddled into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness where we remained for an entire year, 366 days to be exact, to continue to call on citizen from across the country to come together and urge the government to deny the renewal of these same expired leases. More than 74,000 people joined us last summer by signing petitions during a month-long public comment period held by the U.S. Forest Service.

The denial of the Twin Metals leases is due largely to the hard work and voices of this growing movement, of which Amy and I are so proud to be a part. Over the last few days I have found myself smiling for no apparent reason, and then I remember that we have reached an amazing milestone in our fight to permanently protect this very special place.

Along with their decision to not renew the key Twin Metal’s leases the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it is beginning a comprehensive environmental review to determine whether National Forest lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters are the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and whether National Forest lands adjacent to the Wilderness should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. Numerous scientific studies show the dramatic risk such a mine would pose to the water-intensive, ecologically sensitive wilderness of the Boundary Waters. Nearly 8 in 10 Minnesotans support such a study and it is imperative that we all redouble our efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Over the next three months the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and our coalition members must gather hundreds of thousands of additional comments and petition signatures. We must draw strength from this victory for the Boundary Waters and the people and communities it supports—and move forward with renewed resolve towards the over-arching goal of permanently protecting the Boundary Waters Watershed from sulfide-ore copper mining pollution.

During A Year in the Wilderness we worked hard to capture the intangible values that wilderness affords, which Sigurd Olson often wrote about. Videographers Nate Ptacek and Matty Van Biene joined us several times throughout the year to help us capture the essence of this Wilderness, with the goal of sharing it with a million more people across the country and around the world through a short film produced by Duct Tape The Beer, which was funded through several environmental grants from Patagonia.

Today we are delighted to share Bear Witness with you. We hope you enjoy fruits of the collective hard work of many people.  Please share this film widely and use Bear Witness as a tool to raise awareness about the Boundary Waters and the threats proposed sulfide-ore copper mines bring to this national treasure. Please ask your communities to watch the film, share the film, and take action.

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Download the song "This Quiet Place"

Available on iTunes and CDBaby
Proceeds benefit Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

"This Quiet Place" is an original song written by Jerry Vandiver, Eric Frost, Dave Freeman and Amy Freeman. They wrote this song in the Boundary Waters during the Freeman's Year in the Wilderness to help spread the word about the need to protect the Wilderness. Performed by Jerry Vandiver and Amberly Rosen.

Dave and Amy Freeman, 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year, are dedicated to protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining proposed on its wilderness edge. In 2014, they paddled and sailed 101 days and 2,000 miles from Ely, MN, to Washington, DC, on the Paddle to DC. From September 23, 2015 to September 23, 2016, the Freemans spent A Year in the Wilderness, camping at approximately 120 different sites, exploring 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveling more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team. They documented their year and will continue to share their stories on social media (@FreemanExplore, #WildernessYear) and in blog posts. A documentary about their journey, Bear Witness, premiered fall 2016. A book about their year will be published by Milkweed Editions in fall 2017.