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Wilderness and Public Lands -- Unlimited access to Nature

Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness’ Economic Community Development Task Force recently published a report on their critical economic development findings regarding the Wilderness-edge town of Ely, Minnesota.

Getting a Sense of the Boundary Waters

Surrounding Ely, the 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness includes over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, on over a thousand lakes, teaming with game species. Two thousand remote campsites provide a retreat into a pristine state without motors or roads. Ely also abuts 2.5 million acres of Superior National Forest, public land notable for its boating and hiking opportunities.

As many of you know, the region is known for the boreal forest and varied ecosystems, home to a diverse array of animals. But did you know that Northern Minnesota is the last stronghold of the Gray Wolf in the lower 48 states? Lynx, bobcats, pine martens, and beavers are other mammals found throughout the woods. While black bears roam the forest and graze on the robust blueberry crops in July. Hunters pursue whitetail deer and grouse in the autumn, and bird enthusiasts are captivated by the haunting call of a loon, streaming across a lake. These experiences are unforgettable. 

While the region is famous for summer activities, the lakes and woods are just as much alive in winter. After it snows, outdoor enthusiasts are actively ice fishing, dogsledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and winter camping.

The Boundary Waters is a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary - one of only 14 in the world. There the stars shimmer brighter, the Milky Way is more vivid, and the chances of seeing the Northern lights is more likely without the negative impacts of light pollution impacting the sky.

A Diversified Economy in Northeast Minnesota

Nationally, over the past two decades, outdoor recreation and recreation amenities, especially Wilderness amenities, have been the basis for economic growth in rural areas. Eligible local economies have moved away from traditional extractive industries and manufacturing, into services and recreation as the primary engines of economic development. A diversified economy built on the region’s natural assets – clean air, clean water, scenic beauty, and recreational opportunities – is deeply embedded in the fabric of life near the Boundary Waters.  

In 1970, 10% of jobs and 15% of income earned in the Arrowhead region of Northeastern Minnesota were in the mining industry. While by 2018, mining accounted for only 2.9% of jobs and 6.4% of total payroll in the region. A Twin Metals mine would not significantly increase the share of employment and income in the mining sector. In fact, a recent study suggests gains would be short-lived and quickly overtaken by the project’s negative impact on recreation industries and in-migration. The Boundary Waters region would be better off continuing its diversified, amenity-based model of development.

Regional Demographics

The Ely area is experiencing increased in-migration by a growing mix of creative class workers, outdoor enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, professionals, retirees, trade and service sector workers, and anyone working remotely; almost 15% of residents are new to the area in the last year. A 2014 study of attitudes in the four townships surrounding Ely asked residents what qualities attracted them to the area. The vast majority spoke of the proximity to nature, outdoor recreational opportunities, solitude, and peace and quiet as the primary factors.

Families comprise over 55% of households in the Ely area.  Of these, approximately 17% have children under 18. The Ely school district provides K-12 education to over 550 students in the City of Ely and surrounding townships.

More than one-third of the adult population in the Ely Area has a bachelor’s degree or above -- almost twice the rural America average. Over 50% of households have incomes greater than $50,000, and approximately two-thirds of those homes are owner-occupied. A recent study by the Center for Rural Policy and Development documents the lower cost of living in the Arrowhead region when compared to more urban areas; wages go farther in greater Minnesota. 

Quality of Life

Ely area residents have a 1.1 million acre backyard. Exposure to nature has a positive impact on human health and vitality. That is, more time in nature leads to positive social, psychological, and physical health outcomes. 

New residents can channel their interests through participation in the region's robust social and philanthropic networks. There are over 100 clubs and nonprofit organizations in the Ely area, and Ely’s exciting repertoire of festivals and celebrations means an even greater number of opportunities for community engagement. Notably, as quoted in an archived Ely Summer Times, “For a small town Ely is big on art.” Arts programming not only provides space for meaningful interaction but also cultivates value within individual participants. 

The history of Ely is vibrant, well documented, and honorably sustained. A book with many chapters and a remarkable cast of characters, representing a diversity of thought that contradicts commonly adopted notions and rural stereotypes. The time is ripe for a rural revival, and northeastern Minnesota is the place to be.

Thank you to our volunteers!

Monday, April 26, 2021
Posted by
Roberto Heredia, Save the Boundary Waters

It is no secret that our volunteers at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters are the key to our success. Our local staff works with so many passionate Boundary Waters lovers so that our movement reaches the far corners of the country. The volunteers at the Campaign help spread awareness and share the love for the Boundary Waters that many have. They are activists in their own rights, and work all over the nation in an effort to educate as many people as possible on the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. 

Our volunteers use efficient and strategic democratic tactics aligned with overarching Campaign goals that will educate and activate people within their areas. This helps us build the people power that we need to protect the Boundary Waters! 

No matter the circumstances, our dedicated team is always committed to our mission and even throughout the hardships of this past year have been a great support in our fight against the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. We at the Campaign cannot be any more grateful for the hard work our volunteers have put forth this past year and we thank them for everything they have done. From organizing on the beaches of Lake Michigan, helping with our text campaigns, to making phone calls and thanking donors and even hosting their own online events our volunteers have been fighting hard for our efforts. For this, we thank them!

Rep. McCollum's Bill - HR 2794

Friday, April 23, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

What Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill - H.R.2794 - would do to protect the Boundary Waters

On April 22, MN Rep. Betty McCollum introduced a bill entitled “The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act” in the U.S. House of Representatives (all bills are given a “House Resolution” number for easier tracking, and this one is H.R. 2794). We are thankful for the continued leadership demonstrated by Rep. McCollum. You can find her summary of the bill here.

 Rep. McCollum is the chief author, and is joined by over 30 other sponsors including Reps. Dean Phillips and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). 

The intent of the bill is really quite simple - it is intended to prevent sulfide-ore copper mining on federal lands in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed which drains into the BWCAW (see map below) and Voyageurs National Park. The bureaucratic term that is used is “mineral withdrawal”; this essentially means the federal government removes these public lands from potential leasing for mining activities. Withdrawals can be implemented by Congressional action (as this would do) or by administrative action by the Forest Service after a public review process. In the case of Rep. McCollum’s bill, the withdrawal applies only to sulfide-ore mineral leases and would not restrict mining for iron ore, taconite, sand, gravel or granite.

The bill’s proposed withdrawal area of the Rainy River Headwaters watershed is 234,328 acres - and is the same area as was proposed for administrative withdrawal by former US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in 2016. Per legal requirements for administratively withdrawing these lands, the US Forest Service initiated a 2-year study in 2017,  a study to withdraw federal minerals in the watershed of the Boundary Waters from mining for twenty years. It was abruptly halted by the Trump administration 4 months prior to completion, with the claim that “no new information” was being discovered. The previous administration refused to release the draft reports, which we strongly believe clearly find that mining is incompatible. The Biden administration has issued a stay on litigation regarding Twin Metals and is currently reviewing the project. 

Rep. McCollum, and other House leaders had asked to have the draft withdrawal study released to Congress, and the administration refused to comply. As the administration continued to stonewall, while simultaneously moving the project forward, it became apparent that the only way to protect the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park was a permanent and complete mineral withdrawal. Hence, Rep. McCollum was compelled to draft and introduce H.R. 5598 in 2020. When a new Congress convened in 2021, Rep. McCollum reintroduced the bill under the new file number of HR 2794.

Nearly seventy percent of Minnesotans do not want sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and in 2017 over 180,000 people urged the federal government to withdraw the watershed of the Boundary Waters from the federal mining program--the same area Rep. McCollum’s legislation addresses. The science is clear on the threat sulfide-ore copper mining poses to the Wilderness.

This bill is a very important measure to achieve permanent protection of the BWCAW from the threat of sulfide-ore pollution. Every voice is now needed to make sure this becomes the law of the land. Here are 5 ways you can help protect the Boundary Waters:

    1. Contact your US Representative and ask them to sign onto Rep. McCollum’s bill - H.R 2798.
    2. Contact your US Senators (even if you don’t live in MN!) and ask them to support a companion bill in the Senate.
    3. Make sure you’ve signed our petition, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
    4. Donate! It takes a lot of resources to fight this toxic mine.
    5. Stay engaged - follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and keep up to date on what’s happening.

Earth Day - Shop to Support the Boundary Waters

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

What better way to celebrate the earth than by protecting the Boundary Waters. In honor of Earth Day, we are partnering with several fabulous earth-friendly companies who are generously donating a portion of their proceeds to permanently protecting this endangered boreal Wilderness.

Shop Boundary Waters inspired candles

Based in Minnesota, Lake House Candle Co. creates hand-poured, one-of-a-kind candles. They made a unique Boundary Waters-inspired candle, taking inspiration from the whispering pines and cedar-filled woods that make up the BWCA. Lake House Candle Co. is donating 20% of sales of this scent from their online shop to Save the Boundary Waters until the end of May, in honor of “Earth Month.”

Willa’s Oat Milk

This week, in honor of Earth Day - Willa’s Oat Milk is donating 20% back to the Campaign. This Minnesota-based company is the first of its kind to use the entire whole oat and all organic ingredients. Try this deliciously smooth oat milk while protecting the Boundary Waters today! 

Merrell Shoes

Throughout Earth Month, for every pair of Merrell shoes sold at Twin Cities stores Nokomis Shoe Shop and Joe’s Sporting Goods, $10 will be donated to Save the Boundary Waters.

The Grounded Collection by Rowan Myre

Earthy, minimalist watercolor abstract paintings. Threaded throughout each original painting are themes of woodlands, stones, and northern waters. As a whole, the collection is inspired by the timeless moments standing on rocky shorelines of pristine wilderness lakes. 25% of proceeds from this collection of originals will be donated directly to Save the BWCA.

Superior Shop T-Shirts

Superior Shop teamed up with Minneapolis-based illustrator & nature enthusiast, Dominica Manno to create this design inspired by the natural wonder of the Boundary Waters. Designed and printed in Minnesota! 50% of each t-shirt profit is donated to Save the Boundary Waters.

#WeKeepItWild with the Conservation Alliance

This month, a group of 14 outdoor brands are coming together to support the work of our incredible partner, The Conservation Alliance. From April 21–27, these brands will be donating 5% of their online U.S. sales to help protect wild places. The Conservation Alliance is a generous supporter of Save the Boundary Waters!

Protect the Boundary Waters while you drink clean water

We've got new Nalgene water bottles in our online merch shop! Support the Boundary Waters this summer by grabbing a new Campaign water bottle for all your outdoor adventures.

Save the date for SpringForwardMN!
This year’s GiveMN Spring giving holiday is from May 1 to May 11. You can look forward to an artists & makers silent auction, a match opportunity, and more! We hope you’ll join us. Early giving has begun - give today.

The Boundary Waters is Endangered

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters has been named to the 2021 Most Endangered Rivers by the national group American Rivers because of the grave threat posed by copper mining. American Rivers, along with groups in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, are calling on the Biden administration to permanently protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining by issuing a federal mineral withdrawal, and urging Congress to pass legislation to forever protect this national treasure.

American Rivers has listed the Boundary Waters and the Kawishiwi River which flows into and through the heart of the Wilderness, on their Most Endangered Report twice before - first in 2013 and in 2018, because of the urgency of this threat and the importance of public policy decisions being made by government agencies and officials about the fate of this iconic and beloved Wilderness.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness encompasses 1,200 miles of rivers and streams and more than 1,000 lakes. As the most visited Wilderness area in America, it is a major driver of the local economy. Copper mining and associated acid mine drainage, loss of habitat, forest fragmentation, invasive species, and air, noise and light pollution would devastate this fragile ecosystem and the Wilderness’ unique values.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers facing urgent decisions,” said Jessie Thomas-Blate with American Rivers. “Sulfide-ore copper mining pollution poses an unacceptable risk to the clean rivers, streams and lakes of the Boundary Waters, and this is the year we must finally stop these mining proposals once and for all.”

 "The Boundary Waters is America's most popular Wilderness, a vibrant and fragile ecosystem, and a cornerstone of a local economy that sustains thousands of livelihoods," said Tom Landwehr, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. "It needs to be permanently protected from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining."

 The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.


The Courage and Inspiration of Sigurd Olson: A Personal Memory

Thursday, April 8, 2021
Posted by
Becky Rom

Written in 1999 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sigurd F. Olson

Sigurd Olson had a passion for wild places and wild creatures and a deep and abiding tenderness toward the natural world. He felt exhilaration in connecting with the past and in exploring the unknown waterways and paths of the "old wilderness" much as those who traveled before him. He was driven to express his feelings of reverence for wilderness through his writings and his speeches. Sig understood that his passion and talents led to a responsibility to defend these wild lands from human exploitation and abuse. In fulfilling this responsibility, Sigurd set a standard for conservation advocacy that begins in the canoe country of the Quetico-Superior and stretches from coast to coast and north to Alaska.

l grew up in Ely, Minnesota and Sig Olson was always a part of my life. His ties to my family began in 1935, when he befriended my father, Bill Rom, then a first year student at the Ely Junior College. My grandfather, Caspar Rom, had been killed in a mine cave-in when my father was several weeks old, so Bill Rom grew up without a father and dirt poor. His childhood playground had been the 3 million acre Superior National Forest, where he hiked, fished and hunted. As a dean of the junior college, Sig took a liking to my father, finding in him a kindred spirit, and directed him to summer jobs with the Forest Service that kept him in the woods. Sig suggested that my father finish his education at the University of Minnesota in wildlife management. But Sig did more than accommodate my father's desire to be in the woods and to find a profession that suited his desire: he instilled in my father a commitment to protect the canoe country, something he did for many others as well. During World War II, when my father was in the Navy, Sig wrote to him:

My conservationists are certainly well scattered in this old world of ours, but one thing you fellows never loose [sic], that is the love of the lake country of the north and the old wilderness. No matter where you happen to be, that longing stays with you and I can say this from personal experience, that no matter how long you are gone or how old you get, those memories will remain as vivid and fresh as the days they were made... I hope that when you fellows come back that you will tie into this conservation problem with all your young energy and enthusiasm and really give us the kind of a program that the country needs. It is men like yourself... who will eventually put the country back on its feet from a forestry and wildlife standpoint. You have real conservation at heart and are not bogged down with political considerations or commitments.

After the war, my father returned to Ely and the canoe country. Today, at the age of 81, he continues to do all he can to preserve the Quetico-Superior.

The guiding band of Sig Olson extended far beyond my father, My older brother, an experienced canoe guide, spent countless hours with Sig poring over maps of the far north and planning my brother's long canoe trips into the Arctic. I felt Sig's influence in a different way; in his moving and courageous speeches, Sig spoke with a quiet eloquence about the intangible values of the canoe country. To him, the wilderness canoe country of the Quetico-Superior was a sacred place.

In 1977, Sig testified during a Congressional field hearing in Ely dealing with the future of the canoe country. Despite his international prestige, his Ely neighbors hanged him in effigy outside the hearing and attempted to prevent him from speaking. When Sig was called to testify, wave after wave of thunderous yelling, booing, and jeers swept over the auditorium. Despite the deafening cacophony from the partisan Ely crowd, Sig calmly testified for full wildemess protection - no motors. no mining, no logging. no development.

My name is Sigurd F. Olson, my home, Ely, Minnesota. I support the Fraser Bill whose purpose is to eliminate all adverse uses from the BWCA and give it complete wilderness status.

He went on to talk of how he had crisscrossed the BWCA and Quetico countless times since his early guiding days, and spoke of the value of this special wilderness.

This is the most beautiful lake country on the continent. We can afford to cherish and protect it. Some places should be preserved from development or exploitation for they satisfy human need for solace, belonging, and perspective. In the end, we tum to nature in a frenzied chaotic world, there to find silence - oneness - wholeness - spiritual release.

For these values, and the courage to speak about them, Sig and his family were harshly criticized and even ostracized. His sacrifices were not in vain; Sig 's wilderness values were widely embraced and were the basis for extended protections of the Quetico-Superior canoe country, both in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act.

Sig loved the woods and the natural world. Through talent and perseverance, he mastered the art of translating what was in his heart into the written word. But his greatest gift to the world was to recognize that he had to protect wild lands. He succeeded magnificently. But where he ended, we must begin.

Thirty years ago, Sig inscribed a message in my copy of The Singing Wilderness. “As a guide in the Quetico-Superior, you have heard the singing in many places. Wherever you go, I know you will always be listening to the old refrain." The refrain will always be with me, along with the commitment to do what I can to protect the Quetico-Superior Canoe country.

History of the Boundary Waters and its Protections

Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest are Anishinaabe land. The Boundary Waters region and the Superior National Forest are within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory where Anishinaabe people (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa) have lived for generations. The interconnected waterways across the Boundary Waters region have been important travel routes for thousands of years, prior to the arrival of fur traders and others from Europe who began to travel and settle in the region, displacing indigenous people.

The fight to protect these lands has been long and contentious, and continues today with the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on lands in the headwaters of the Wilderness. 

The first U.S. government act of protection for this canoe country was in 1902 when the U.S. Land Office withdrew 500,000 acres in the future Boundary Waters from settlement. Between 1905 and 1908 General C.C. Andrews, Minnesota Forestry Commissioner, persuaded the U.S. Land Office to withdraw 659,700 more acres in the future Boundary Waters from settlement. 

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Superior National Forest in 1909 from previously withdrawn public domain lands while the Minnesota Legislature created a 1.2 million acre Superior Game Refuge, similar in area to the Superior National Forest and including most of the present Boundary Waters. Development of roads in the Superior National Forest led to concern about the development of the area, causing U.S. Agriculture Secretary W.M. Jardine to establish a 640,000 acres roadless wilderness area in a policy to “retain as much as possible of the land which has recreational opportunities of this nature as a wilderness.” Landmark federal and state legislation followed to further protect the area, including the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act of 1930, the Little Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act of 1933, and the Thye-Blatnik Act of 1948.

In response to airplane landings and overflights that threatened the canoe country, in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order which prohibited aircraft from flying over the area below 4,000 feet above sea level. These types of actions continued through the following decades leading up to the Wilderness Act of 1964. 

On September 3, 1964, the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and is considered one of the most pivotal conservation efforts for America’s public lands. The Boundary Waters was included in the Wilderness Act as one of the original nine million acres of federal public lands in the NWPS. But the Wilderness Act allowed some incompatible activity to continue in  the Boundary Waters such as use of motor boats, mining, and some logging. 

These incompatible uses were addressed in the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, which was signed into law on October 21,1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The Boundary Waters Wilderness Act added 50,000 acres to the Boundary Waters to bring the Wilderness Area to 1,098,057 acres of protected land and waters in the Superior National Forest. 

Today, the fight to protect the Wilderness continues. While the Wilderness Area and the federal buffer area are protected from mining, the headwaters of the Wilderness is not. The Boundary Waters is threatened by proposals for toxic sulfide-ore copper mines in its headwaters, where all surface waters flow into the Wilderness. Pollution from this risky type of mining would degrade downstream waters and forests of the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park, and Canada’s Quetico Park, and would irreversibly damage our beloved canoe country. 

Boundary Waters Timeline

1873 - Public domain lands in Minnesota withdrawn from General Mining Law of 1872

1909 - Superior National Forest established

1909 - Boundary Waters Treaty signed by Canada and the United States, requiring that neither country pollute boundary waters or waters that flow across the boundary

1946 - Congress authorizes mineral leasing on acquired national forest lands in Minnesota where leasing will not interfere with primary purposes for which the land was acquired

1950 - Contemplating granite, gravel, and iron ore mining that would not interfere with recreational uses, Congress authorizes mineral leasing on public domain national forest lands in Minnesota upon Forest Service consent  

1964 - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) designated by the Wilderness Act

1966 - BLM issues to predecessor of Twin Metals Minnesota two federal preference right mineral leases (MNES 1352 and MNES 1353) covering nearly 5,000 acres of the Superior National Forest adjacent to the BWCAW for a primary term of 20 years 

1978 - Boundary Waters Wilderness Act bans mining within the Wilderness, establishes a 220,000-acre Mining Protection Zone along entry corridors, and further protects the BWCAW

1989 - Mineral Leases 1352 and 1353 renewed for 10 years

2004 - Mineral Leases 1352 and 1353 renewed for 10 years

Oct. 2012 - Twin Metals applies for a third 10-year renewal of 1352 and 1353

May 2012 - BLM issues 28 prospecting permits covering over 38,000 acres of the Superior National Forest in the BWCAW watershed 

Mar. 8, 2016 - Solicitor of the Department of the Interior Hilary Tompkins issues a legal opinion finding that BLM has discretion to grant or deny Twin Metals’ lease renewal application

Dec. 14, 2016 - Following a 30-day public comment period and two public meetings, Forest Service issues decision withholding its consent to renew 1352 and 1353 

Dec. 15, 2016 - BLM denies renewal of 1352 and 1353, and the leases expire

Jan. 19, 2017 - Forest Service files an application to withdraw from mineral leasing approximately 234,000 acres of Superior National Forest lands in the BWCAW watershed, initiating a 2-year segregation, and issues a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 

Mar.-July 2017 - Forest Service holds three public meetings on the proposed withdrawal, with approximately 2,700 people attending and 101 out of 157 speakers supporting withdrawal

Aug. 17, 2017 - Forest Service receives more than 125,000 public comments on the proposed withdrawal, with approximately 98% of the over 81,000 unique comments and 94% of the over 44,000 form comments favoring withdrawal 

Dec. 22, 2017 - Acting Principal Deputy Solicitor of the Department of the Interior Daniel Jorjani issues a legal opinion withdrawing and replacing the Tompkins opinion and finding that BLM lacked discretion to deny Twin Metals’ lease renewal application

Jan. 26, 2018 - Forest Service downgrades withdrawal study from an environmental impact statement to an environmental assessment and initiates a second public comment period

Feb. 28, 2018 - Forest Service receives an additional nearly 56,000 comments in favor of withdrawal; altogether approximately 98% of the over 180,000 comments received favored withdrawal 

May 2, 2018 - BLM rescinds its December 2016 denial of the renewal of 1352 and 1353 and reinstates the expired leases and Twin Metals’ renewal application

June 2018 - Three lawsuits filed in federal district court in DC challenging the reinstatement

Sept. 6, 2018 - Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announces in a press release that the Forest Service is cancelling its application for withdrawal, and the public process and development of an environmental assessment are terminated; the announcement followed statements by President Trump and Vice President Pence at rallies in Duluth, MN in June and August that they would “rescind the withdrawal” and are “rolling back the ban”

Wildlife Photography on the Gunflint

Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Posted by
Katie Mumm - Wildlife Photographer

Hi! I'm Katie Mumm.

I am a lifelong resident of Minnesota, currently living along the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais, MN. My passion for photography began as a little girl when I would take my camera outside in my yard and capture pictures of flowers and leaves and whatever else piqued my interest. 

That interest blossomed into something more when, every summer, my family would make an annual trek to Bearskin Lodge on the Trail. I would spend hours hiking in the woods and exploring the wonder of nature. Through those experiences, I developed a love of the North Shore area of Minnesota and a deep respect for the animals that live here coupled with the breathtaking scenery of the Boundary Waters. I am most happy when I am outdoors. 

My biggest thrill comes from photographing a wild animal doing what it would be doing if I wasn’t there. I strive to be unobtrusive both in appearance and approach. In almost all cases, the animal is aware of my presence, but the goal is to be so undisruptive and nonthreatening that they tolerate me and almost forget I'm there. The best shots come from using patience and being able to capture natural behavior. 

I am passionate about photographing wildlife on the Gunflint Trail. Part of that passion comes from my ability to share my experiences with people who may never get to encounter some of the animals in my photos, i.e. moose, fox, wolves, bobcats,etc. Another part of my passion is chasing the perfect photo. Searching for tracks, looking for droppings or evidence of an animal foraging for food or consuming vegetation are all part of what it takes in pursuing that ideal image. 


I feel it is my responsibility to not only showcase wildlife but to educate my followers about their behaviors and how where they live, what they eat, and the weather they live in may influence their longevity. Many of my followers appreciate the educational aspect I lend to photography. 

I believe that photography can be both a fine art and a powerful way to raise awareness of not only the beauty of animals but also of their intrinsic worth. I draw inspiration from the rare beauty of the Trail and the opportunity of living near the shores of Lake Superior. My art offers a uniquely female perspective in a predominantly male profession. Women are not only still largely under-represented in wildlife photography. One of the main concerns: women are raised not to be alone in isolated places and nature photography requires just that. I have been able to break those barriers, in fact, I am sometimes most at peace alone with my camera. A comment that I often receive is that my photographs tend to have a softer more feminine touch to them.

Senator Tina Smith Letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland

Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

On Friday, March 26, 2021, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) urged U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, to initiate the federal process to consider a 20-year ban on sulfide-ore copper mining on public lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This is a huge expression of support for protecting this iconic place against the threat of sulfide-ore mining on the doorstep of the BWCAW.

With her letter, Senator Smith affirms that the BWCAW is a priceless resource for America, and should not be endangered by the damage that inevitably happens with this type of mining. The federal process called for by Senator Smith will include a comprehensive analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of sulfide-ore mining, and will provide a strong scientific basis for an administrative mining ban of 20 years. It will also provide a rigorous scientific basis for permanent protection to be achieved by an act of Congress. 

The “mineral withdrawal” process would be initiated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture led by Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency in the U.S. Department of Interior led by Secretary Deb Haaland, is responsible for mineral leasing on federal lands. When the USFS initiates the withdrawal process, the lands and minerals in the application are “segregated” by the BLM from the federal mining program for two years, during which time no mining leases, prospecting permits or other approvals are allowed. During the segregation period, the USFS would undertake an environmental assessment of the proposed 20-year mining ban, including the potential harmful impacts of sulfide-ore mining if there was to be no ban. After completion of the environmental assessment, the USFS would make a recommendation on the proposed 20-year mineral withdrawal to the BLM. The BLM would then advise the Secretary of Interior on her decision to withdraw the federal lands and minerals from the mining program for up to twenty years.

This process was first initiated in 2016, but abruptly stopped in 2018 by Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, who wrongly claimed there was no new science. While the mineral withdrawal process had been underway for 20 months - and dozens of high quality scientific studies had been submitted by the public and significant background research had been conducted - the Department of Agriculture refused to release any of the underlying studies or its analysis, likely because the science clearly showed that sulfide-ore copper mining posed an unacceptable risk of harm to the Boundary Waters region. A new mineral withdrawal process could utilize the extensive materials developed during the first - aborted - analysis.

A conclusion of harm had been the basis of a decision by the USFS in 2016 to withhold its consent to the renewal of two expired Twin Metals federal mineral leases. These leases cover public land and minerals upstream of the BWCAW. The USFS decision to withhold consent was brushed aside by the Trump administration when it reinstated and renewed the Twin Metals leases. The reinstatement and renewal of the Twin Metals leases were challenged by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, the lead organization in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and its partners in lawsuits pending in federal court. The lawsuits are on hold while the Biden administration reviews the government’s position and the history of the mineral leases.

Watch the Save the Boundary Waters Campaign Update today with National Campaign Chair Becky Rom and Campaign Government Relations Director Alex Falconer:

As Goes the Watershed, So Goes the Water

Monday, March 22, 2021
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters leads the fight to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, and Quetico Provincial Park from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in the now-unprotected headwaters of the Rainy River Drainage Basin.  Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), the founder & lead organization of the Campaign, believes that all people deserve clean and safe water, and joins others in pushing for stronger, more effective laws and rules, and vigorous enforcement of new and existing laws and rules to protect and restore clean water.


Twenty percent of all the freshwater in the entire 193-million-acre National Forest System is here, in the Superior National Forest. In an increasingly thirsty world, that is a priceless resource.  The waters of the Boundary Waters watershed are among the cleanest in America; the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency calls them “immaculate,”[1] but the highest compliment may come from the many experienced Boundary Waters paddlers who take water straight from the middle of the cool deep lakes … cup-to-lake-to-mouth means really clean.

A huge portion of the waters in the Boundary Waters flow into the Wilderness from Superior National Forest lands outside the Wilderness boundary. The water is not magically pure.  The watershed that is continually receiving precipitation and releasing the flowing water – that is what is so special and must be protected if the water is to remain clean and healthy.


A place defined by water cannot be protected unless the sources of the water flowing into and through it are also protected.  Voyageurs National Park, the Superior National Forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota’s crown jewel and the nation’s most visited Wilderness Area, are vulnerable to the most toxic industry in America.  Large international mining conglomerates are laying claim to large swaths of public land in the unprotected portions of the Rainy River Drainage Basin to mine for copper, nickel, and other metals in low grade sulfide-bearing ore. Sulfide-ore bodies generate acid mine drainage.

The solution is to eliminate permanently the threat to the Boundary Waters and the larger Quetico-Superior ecosystem[1] by banning once and for all sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Drainage Basin. 


Since 2013 the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has designed and worked to advance a clear multi-step plan for a permanent ban on sulfide-ore copper mining on public lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin.  Accomplishments resulting from the Campaign’s advocacy at the federal and state levels include, for example:

    • Cancellation by the United States of the only two federal mineral leases in the Superior National Forest, which was accomplished in 2016 by the withholding of consent by the U.S. Forest Service to renewal applications and by the subsequent lease termination by the Bureau of Land Management. When the Trump Administration reversed course, NMW and its partners sued. They filed:
      • A federal lawsuit in 2018 to reverse the illegal reinstatement by the Trump Administration of the two leases.
      • A second federal lawsuit in 2020 challenging the Trump Administration’s renewal of the reinstated leases
    • A 2-year administrative pause on issuance of new federal mineral leases or prospecting permits in the Rainy River Drainage Basin while the U.S. Forest Service conducted environmental review of a 20-year administrative ban on new federal mineral leasing and related activities in the Rainy River Drainage Basin.
      • The Campaign wrote and submitted detailed technical comment letters in support of the U.S. Forest Service proposed mining ban.
      • The Campaign organized the delivery of more than 180,000 citizen comments to the U.S. Forest Service, 98% of which supported the proposed ban.

When the Trump Administration abruptly cancelled the environmental review shortly before it was to be finalized, the Campaign took further action.

      • NMW spun off new organizations equipped to do independent electoral work, and to certify qualified political candidates in key races as Boundary Waters Champions.
      • The Campaign is calling upon the Biden Administration to re-initiate the U.S. Forest Service request for a 20-year ban on mineral leasing in the Rainy River Drainage Basin, start a new 2-year pause to allow the Forest Service to complete the required review, and order a full 20-year administrative withdrawal of 234,328 acres of public land and minerals from the federal mineral leasing program.
      • The Campaign will submit updated technical comments to the U.S. Forest Service and organize delivery of hundreds of thousands of new citizen comments in support of a 20-year ban on mineral leasing on federal lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin.
    • Supporting passage of a federal law to permanently protect federal lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin from mineral leasing and supporting a companion state lawbarring new state mineral leases and barring state permits for any sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Headwaters.
      • The Campaign has been working to raise awareness of the issue and support for legislation in Congress since 2013 and has been working similarly with the Minnesota Legislature.

    • Challenging Minnesota’s nonferrous mining rules with a lawsuit brought under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.
      • Relief requested in the lawsuit is an amendment to Minnesota’s nonferrous mining rules to prohibit sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Headwaters.
      • The Minnesota DNR has agreed to a stipulation that establishes a process for public input and a contested case hearing. Mining company Antofagasta/Twin Metals has objected to the stipulation. A decision by the judge is expected soon.

In addition, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness has pushed for vigorous enforcement of stronger and more effective water rules and standards.  NMW has:

    • Commented in opposition to the MPCA’s omission of certain wild rice waters from its proposed list of wild rice waters, and in opposition to MPCA’s proposed replacement of the existing 10 mg/L sulfate standard for wild rice waters with an overly complicated and unenforceable equation-based sulfate standard; (see NMW’s 2017 letter --
    • Joined a Minnesota Environmental Partnership comment letter in opposition to the MPCA’s proposed Class 3 and 4 water quality standards revisions, which would leave wildlife without protections from a host of mining-associated pollutants, such as specific conductance, hardness, and chloride; (see MEP’s 2021 letter --
    • Provided oral comments in a March 9, 2021 virtual hearing by the MPCA on the following points (which will be addressed in written comments before April 9th):
      • That the MPCA should not downgrade stream designations and hence protections until it first had collected and interpreted data on the streams in question, because decision-making in the absence of data invites error.
      • That development of an aquatic water quality standard (WQS) for specific conductance should be a higher priority for the agency, in light of the science available on the harm to aquatic life when specific conductance is too high.
      • That developing a Class 2 WQS for sulfate should be given a higher priority than it apparently is, as the MPCA has said it likely will not move to the next phase before 2023 (which is no guarantee that it would move to the next stage by any particular date).  That this failure is particularly disappointing in light of the extensive body of peer-reviewed, published science on sulfate’s bioactivity on N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and Hg (mercury) release into the water column, and the formation and bioaccumulation of methyl-mercury in fish and the people and wildlife who depend upon and enjoy fishing.
      • That it was troubling that the MPCA might be thinking of combining sulfate and chloride, because in some places that might allow excessive chloride and sulfate.
      • That the MPCA should be enforcing the sulfate standard for wild rice currently on the books. That standard was approved by EPA decades ago and has the force of federal law, which the MPCA is obligated to enforce.  The state legislature cannot override federal requirements except to impose more stringent ones, so the MPCA must not be dissuaded from its duty by state law purporting to block enforcement of the standard.
    • Urged the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to challenge rules promulgated by the Trump Administration’s EPA relating to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
      • In its comments on the proposed rule, the MPCA wrote that “Under the proposed rule, Minnesota would be expected to watch and wait as a regulated facility deposited heavy metals in its waterways, rather than preemptively address [the pollution]. It is likely that a second copper nickel mining facility will be proposed and begin environmental review (and potential permitting processes) in Minnesota; EPA’s proposed rule would leave us unable to address potential water quality concerns in or near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – waters within which are prohibited Outstanding Resource Value Waters (Minnesota Rule, or Minn. R. 7050.0335).”
      • The Minnesota Attorney General joined with other Attorney Generals to challenge the proposed EPA rules.

Before European occupation, nearly the entire landmass that is the continental United States produced water as clean as the cup-to-lake-to-mouth water that paddlers still find in the Boundary Waters.  While most other landscapes were heavily converted to non-natural uses, the Rainy River-Headwaters, which encompasses and delivers water to more than 80% of the Boundary Waters and is a sub-watershed of the Rainy River Drainage Basin, remains more than 99% undeveloped, naturally vegetated, and used for timber production, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other recreational opportunities.  For clean water’s sake, in the Boundary Waters and downstream, let’s keep it that way.  

[1] MPCA. 2017. Rainy River-Headwaters Watershed Monitoring and Assessemnt Report, p. 1

[1] The Quetico-Superior ecosystem is an international border-straddling lake-and-forest landscape, the protected core of which includes the Superior National Forest (including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) and Voyageurs National Park on the U.S. side, and the Quetico and LaVerendrye Provincial Parks on the Canadian side of the border.