Every season offers a new experience in the Boundary Waters, but fall is always a favorite. With a changing palette of colors surrounding your visit, there's more than one reason to visit the Wilderness this fall. Not only will campsites be yours for the choosing, but seldom-seen wildlife literally come out of the woodwork, prepping for the cold months ahead.
Here are a few reasons you should fall for the Boundary Waters this fall:
1. Fall Colors: While the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is fighting to stop copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness, we fully support taking in the beauty of the copper-colored leaves and foliage that add to the beauty of this one-of-a-kind Lakeland Wilderness.
2. Moose are in rut: Through late September, early October, Minnesota's arguably favorite mammal is slightly easier to spot as the moose are in rut, which means the bulls (males) are fighting each other for the chance to mate with a cow (female).
3. Bear sightings increase: As these majestic creatures prepare for winter hibernation, bears become a more frequent sight in the Boundary Waters as they scavenge for food.
4. Claim any campsite: With crisper nights and greyer days, many of the summer tourists have come and gone which means not only is it easier to get a permit in September to your favorite lake, you most likely will get your choice of scenic campsites.
Rising Sun yawned and crawled across tops of tall pines standing at attention. Sky had just cast off its predawn blanket revealing a deep bronze tinged blue, and looked at itself mirrored in Vermilion’s still waters. Canoe was eager for us to slide in, paddles laying along side her Ash gunnels. Shoving off, she moved her way toward a sliver of land and a tree holding a high plush branch pointing off to the northwest. Out of nowhere three eagles appeared, gliding toward that branch. One veered off while the others slowed together, like two ballet dancers landing softly as one on a gently swaying cushion of dew glistening green. They turned their majestic white heads and embraced rising Sun, as we glided below in awe.
Doug Wallace, August, 2019
A lot has happened since our last update. Here is a breakdown of recent developments and some insight into what's coming up.
As you can see, it has been a busy few months, and things will continue that way. Your support is greatly appreciated and critical to our success. Look for a lot more activity as we approach the winter, and, as always, let us know if you have any questions!
Bernie Wire Photography
We had another wonderful time at the Minnesota State Fair this year! It truly was a “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” with the Fair setting a record attendance for visitors this year, near-perfect weather most of the time, and as always, delicious fried foods.
We had fun in our booth in the Dairy Building for the 5th year in a row, and more than 10,000 people signed our petition telling their elected officials to work for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. What a success! Thanks to all of you who came by the booth and signed the petition, and if you did not get a chance to sign - you still can!
Bernie Wire Photography
We also had an exciting new opportunity to sell Save the Boundary Waters merch, and to partner with True North Maps Co who worked with us on creating a new large map in our booth and designed awesome commemorative map bandanas. Take a look at their maps here.
Thank you for signing petitions and buying our new merch, and of course, thank you to all who volunteered at the Fair! Our volunteers are critical to our mission of permanent protection of the Boundary Waters. Learn more about volunteer opportunities and get involved here.
Thank you for speaking loudly for this quiet place,
The Team at Save the Boundary Waters.
Thanks to all of you who came out and supported the Wild Waters music fest on Friday, August 16! In addition to our Wild Waters sponsors above, we'd like to thank Northern Coffeeworks for helping us thank the performers. Thanks to all the supporters, collaborators, volunteers and attendees, it was a wonderful event -- and we raised funds and awareness to Save the Boundary Waters!
View more photos from the event here.
Heading to Wild Waters Music Festival on Friday, August 16?
To reduce our impact, we've teamed up with r.Cup! Their mission is to reduce the environmental impact of live events by disrupting one of the most visible and widespread waste issues in the industry: the single-use disposable plastic cup.
r.Cup is looking for like-minded volunteers to join them at Wild Waters Music Festival. Help reduce single-use plastic waste + enjoy event access too! Volunteers educate fans on how r.Cup works, assist with r.Cup returns and are friendly representatives that answer fan questions.
HOW IT WORKS
1. Grab your first drink & make a $3 deposit for use of the r.Cup
2. Bring the cup back throughout the day for more drinks
3. At the end of the day, return it to the r.Cup stands to get your $3 back
OR take the cup home as a souvenir!
r.Cup on Social:
3:30 PM Doors Open
4:30 PM War Bonnet
5:05 PM The Lioness
5:40 PM deM atlaS
6:15 PM jeremy messersmith
7:05 PM Low
8:00 PM Cloud Cult
8:40 PM DJ Keezy
8:55 PM Doomtree
9:55 PM Atmosphere
All times subject to change pending weather and/or delays.
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.
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, 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 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.
Peer-reviewed and published research in the Journal of Hydrology 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 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 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,, 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. 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.
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!
Check out Alex's route:
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.
Senator Tina Smith: (202) 224-5641
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (202) 224-3244
Governor Tim Walz: (651) 201-3400