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What About Canada?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Posted by
Sam Chadwick

One of the frequently asked questions at presentations and events held by the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is “what about Canada?

Proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters and within the Rainy River Drainage Basin is indeed a threat to waterways along the international border and into Canada. This includes Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park to the north of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The eventual flow of these waters is to Lake of the Woods and ultimately to Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada.

Pollution from sulfide-ore copper mining would violate the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909

In 1909, the United States and Canada signed the Boundary Waters Treaty in recognition that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems that form much of the international border. By treaty, each country agreed not to cause a variety of injuries to the other by mistreatment of their shared “boundary waters.”

Article IV of the Treaty commits Canada and the United States to ensure that neither country will pollute the waters forming or flowing across their common border to the injury of property or health on the other side.

The Treaty also created the International Joint Commission (IJC), which is composed of three commissioners appointed by each country, and charged with preventing and resolving disputes involving the boundary waters, according to the principles established in the Treaty. The IJC maintains a number of water system-specific boards to address issues, including water quality on several scales including rivers, lake systems, and watersheds. One such board is the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed (IR-LOWW) Board.

The International Joint Commission shares concerns about copper mining’s impacts

The IR-LOWW Board coordinates bi-national water quality efforts for the transboundary watershed, monitoring and reporting on its ecological health and water quality, and sharing with the IJC the status of the watershed and issues of concern.

The IR-LOWWB is informed by two advisory committees - a community advisory group and an industry advisory group. Active members of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters sit on both committees, and the committees have worked with the IR-LOWWB to elevate concerns about proposals for sulfide-ore copper mining on the U.S. side of the Rainy River Drainage Basin.

In October 2014, the IR-LOWWB brought to the IJC its concern that a large number of proposals for mining in the transboundary area draining to Lake of the Woods had the potential to increase mining contamination of the boundary waters in the IR-LOWW. The Board noted that it planned to study the vulnerability of the boundary waters to contamination from mining.

The Board also requested that the IJC seek guidance from the two signatory governments (the U.S. and Canada) as to how an analysis of cumulative effects from potential mining pollution should be coordinated between the two governments and their subdivisions.

The IJC responded that it shared the Board’s concerns, and in January 2015 wrote to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Office and the U.S. State Department, forwarding the request, asking for clarification from the governments on how cumulative effects and transboundary effects are being assessed not only in general but with a particular interest in the Lake of the Woods basin.

First Nations Communities are concerned about copper mining impacts on ancestral homelands

Representatives from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters have met with officials from the government of Canada at the Minnesota Consulate and the Embassy in Washington, D.C. We have met with local elected officials on the Canadian side, as well.

Recently, during a trip to Fort Frances, Ontario, in 2019, Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters representatives met with staff and members of Grand Council Treaty 3, which consists of 28 First Nation Communities.

Lac La Croix is one of the Treaty 3 Communities. In 2016 and 2019,  staff and board members of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters paddled to the Lac La Croix Village as guests during the community’s annual PowWow.

During the 2019 visit, we learned about how Basswood Lake, located in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park and along the international border, is an ancestral homeland of the Lac La Croix First Nation Community and a sacred place for Anishinaabe.

During the Obama administration, the Lac La Croix First Nation Community and two Chippewa Bands on the U.S. side of the border requested that the U.S. ban sulfide-ore copper mining on federal public lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin.

The Obama administration heeded science, law, and the public’s support for protecting the Boundary Waters and denied Twin Metals’ leases. This put in motion a 20-year ban on copper mining in the watershed, actions since reversed by the Trump administration.

Canada expresses concerns about renewing Twin Metals leases

The government of Canada submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in January 2019 during the public comment period of a draft Environmental Assessment on the Twin Metals lease renewal.

Canada expressed concerns about cross boundary impacts and cumulative impacts. The final Environmental Assessment did not respond to the concerns of Global Canada.

The U.S. Government is all but ignoring these risks and the U.S.’s treaty obligations

The U.S. federal agencies did not address the Boundary Waters Treaty when it reinstated and renewed Twin Metals’ federal mineral leases after they had been cancelled during the Obama administration.

In 2019, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, the lead author of a bill for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters from copper mining (HR 5598), included a provision in an Appropriations Bill directing the U.S. State Department to respond to concerns about pollution impacts to Canada in a report back to Congress.

Rep. McCollum was able to view the confidential “report” - which consisted of just eight paragraphs. Rep. McCollum called the report “embarrassingly inadequate” and characterized it as comparable to an elementary student’s book report.

Canadian people, First Nations Communities, and the Canadian government are taking steps to protect these waterways, but the U.S. still needs to act

Awareness and activism from citizens and leaders on the north side of the border is important, and the Boundary Waters Treaty must be enforced.

Even with more Canadian involvement, the Twin Metals mine is likely to be decided at the U.S. federal government level and, to some extent, the State of Minnesota. Twin Metals needs federal mineral leases to proceed. These leases are the subject of current lawsuits brought by Save the Boundary Waters.

To make sure the Boundary Waters, Quetico, and waters leading north through Canada to Hudson Bay are not destroyed by a Twin Metals mine, we must make sure it is never approved and built.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is a growing coalition of over 350 organizations and businesses with a multi-pronged approach to permanently protecting the Boundary Waters and the Rainy River Drainage basin.

Immediate efforts of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters include our expert review of Twin Metals’ mine proposal to expose the risks of this project, fighting to win our lawsuits against the reinstatement and renewal of the federal mineral leases, and passing HR5598, the Boundary Waters Protection and Pollution Prevention Act.



Our commitment to racial and environmental justice

Friday, June 12, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

We at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
grieve along with all of America for George Floyd. His senseless murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police is a harsh reminder of the violent and systemic injustice that persists in our nation, particularly for black people. In our quest to preserve the Boundary Waters, we believe that environmental justice requires racial and social justice and that we cannot succeed in protecting the environment for all while systemic racism persists in America. 

In 2018, Save the Boundary Waters staff and board formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) working group to deliberate and act on our own organizational shortcomings as well as those of the outdoor industry and environmental movement as a whole. We recognized that we had much work to do - and indeed we still do.

Below is our DEI statement. We are committed to transparency about our goals, achievements, and failures as we continue this important work. You can expect more information as we develop additional strategies to achieve our DEI goals and strive to be anti-racist. We also welcome your input - please send ideas and questions to

Wilderness and the pursuit of its protection should be made to be welcoming and accessible to all. Protecting Wilderness relies upon public engagement which cannot be expected when people are disenfranchised, unwelcome, hurt, or tokenized due to their sexuality, race, age, ability, size, gender identity, gender expression, culture, religion, political affiliation, or anything else. The pursuit of permanent protection for the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining and other threats is no different. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters (the Campaign) is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the organization as it works to protect this special place for everyone and for generations to come.

We ask you to continue to strive with us to become actively anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and a welcoming movement for all. 


You can take immediate action to combat environmental inequity right now - Black Millennials for Flint has asked citizens to contact your members of Congress and tell them to support H.R 5986, the Environmental Justice for All Act. Click here to take action today.


Join us in supporting the businesses and communities impacted by the events in Minneapolis these past weeks:

  • Incredible local indigenous nonprofit we’ve partnered with, Migizi, that needs to rebuild from major damage to their building. Give here.
  • Give to WBC in partnership with Northside Funders Group who will direct all donations to support Northside businesses that have been impacted. Give here.
  • Make a donation to help rebuild Lake Street’s small businesses and community organizations. Give here.

We also encourage you to support efforts in your local communities during these especially challenging times.   

Executive Order to Waive Environmental Review

Monday, June 8, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Press Release

Boundary Waters in even greater danger after new Executive Order waiving environmental reviews to expedite risky projects 

New order just the latest in a long line of attacks on our nation’s environmental laws designed to protect clean air and water

Last week President Trump signed a sweeping Executive Order seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis to circumvent public input and responsible review of the environmental and public health impacts of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Order allows agencies to bypass current laws requiring critical input from the public and environmental review and could hasten dangerous projects, such as Antofagasta’s Twin Metals mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters, toward completion without the necessary vetting. 

“This Executive Order is another appalling attack on government transparency and accountability, and could significantly impact the environmental review process for dangerous sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters,” said Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “The use of a national emergency declaration to grant favors to extractive industries by forcing through risky projects is yet another example of the current Administration’s disdain for protecting America’s outstanding natural places.”

NEPA is one of America’s bedrock environmental laws. It requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes:

  • making decisions on permit applications,

  • adopting federal land management actions, 

  • reviewing environmental impacts of proposed hardrock mines, especially in sensitive areas, and

  • constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities.

Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.

This Executive Order is just the latest attack on our environmental laws that significantly heightens the risk for the Boundary Waters and surrounding communities. Earlier last week the Trump Administration finalized a rule undermining the Clean Water Act by blocking state and tribal governments’ ability to protect their own natural resources. Recently the Minnesota Star Tribune covered how these changes impact the Boundary Waters.

The Star Tribune reported that:

The changes come at a critical time for Minnesota with one of the most controversial mine projects in the state’s history entering the regulatory review process. The huge sulfide ore copper-nickel mine that Chilean mining giant Antofagasta and its Twin Metals subsidiary want to build just outside the Boundary Waters will dig up 20,000 tons of ore per day.

The project could require an EPA Section 401 water quality certification if it’s determined that the mine could damage water quality in the Boundary Waters, where even motorized fishing boats aren’t allowed.

The Boundary Waters area enjoys special protections in Minnesota, which deems it an “outstanding resource value water” in state law.

Katrina Kessler, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), called the proposed Section 401 changes “a big concern for Minnesota.”

Kessler sent the EPA a comment letter last October after the agency first proposed the changes, saying the proposed rule “would leave us unable to address the potential water quality concerns in or near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”

In an interview, Kessler said that Minnesota’s stricter standards would be overruled and the state “would only be directed to protect to a very low bar.”

Since taking office in 2017 the Trump Administration has systematically shredded protections for the Boundary Waters, America’s most popular Wilderness. From arbitrarily reinstating dangerous mineral leases to canceling studies on the impact of sulfide ore mining on the Boundary Waters Wilderness to now changing the rules to make it easier for mining companies to pollute and harder for states to regulate, this Administration is doing everything it can to pave the way for this toxic project to move forward. 


Media Contact: Jeremy Drucker (612) 670-9650

Thank you Patagonia

Thursday, May 21, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Patagonia, the well-known and visionary outdoor clothing company founded by Yvon Chouinard has been one of the most important allies in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters since this effort began in 2013 and we are incredibly grateful for this support.

Through its retail stores, digital teams, and grants Patagonia has provided vital support in the way of thousands of dollars in donations, event hosting, social media and web activation, and the talents and time of its own employees.

The Patagonia team has done so much for the cause it would be impossible to list everything here, but here are some of the key ways Patagonia has helped reach and inspire hundreds of thousands of people to protect the Boundary Waters:


The Patagonia team has contributed to all our major film projects through thousands of dollars of direct media grants and through the involvement of their own staff, like filmmaker Nate Ptacek, on projects including Paddle to DC: Quest for Clean Water, Bear Witness, and Public Trust.

They’ve also awarded us, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, with generous monetary grants for our programs including for outreach, litigation, and political advocacy.

Patagonia is of course known for their apparel and gear, and the company is incredibly generous when it comes to providing gear for an event, raffle, or silent auction. The team at the St. Paul Patagonia store and others eagerly send us luggage and other valuable items that our supporters love and are always excited to bid on or enter to win.

Multiple Patagonia staff over the years have been supported through the company’s paid “internship” program where they spend time working directly on behalf of our cause on the company’s dime.


Patagonia stores in Minnesota, Illinois, and Washington DC have hosted fabulous events for us (we’ve even recently done a virtual event with the Ontario/St. Paul/DC stores’ teams and customers!) over the years. Highlights have included several celebrations in the Georgetown, Washington DC store for our capital fly-in visits with Kids for the Boundary Waters and overflowing crowds for explorers Amy and Dave Freeman at the St. Paul store.


Patagonia Action Works meaningfully connects their customers and community with grassroots environmental groups such as Save the Boundary Waters as part of their commitment to the 1% for the Planet program. Each month they promote and share our events, petitions, advocacy actions, and more with their audiences, and it makes a huge impact on building awareness about the Boundary Waters online. 


The Patagonia team has supported Save the Boundary Waters in so many other creative ways - designer Geoffrey Holstad  designed our series of very popular Boundary Waters wildlife stickers, Patagonia has written about the issue in their widely-read Cleanest Line Blog, invited our senior staff to attend their Tools Conference with top public lands advocates in the country, and the St. Paul store even reorganized part of their floor plan and decorated their front windows with Boundary Waters pictures, and displayed one of our signature canoes in the retail store!

Photo credit: Nate Ptacek

Patagonia has produced and is now screening a feature-length documentary Public Trust, which highlights three major public lands issues facing America today: Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the slashing of Bears Ears National Monument, and threat of copper mining near the Boundary Waters. Our partner organization, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, has been closely involved with the Patagonia team and is featured in this new film screening.

Patagonia was just featured in a New York Times article about their careful response to the COVID19 crisis and how the company and it’s staff are managing through the pandemic. Read the article here.

We are incredibly grateful for the support from Patagonia. Their support is helping us reach and inspire hundreds of thousands of people to protect the Boundary Waters and attract the attention of national leaders who can take action this year to protect this great canoe country wilderness. 

When the day will come, may the wilderness be there

Thursday, May 14, 2020
Posted by
Dan Swenson-Klatt, owner of Butter Bakery Cafe

Every May I find myself longing for a trip northward.  For the past 35 years, I’ve only missed a handful of opportunities to make the journey up highway 61 and along the Gunflint Trail to a canoe base near the border. These early-mid May trips have been a part of a volunteer opening weekend for Wilderness Canoe Base, and for me, an opening into life after winter.  This year, especially, after the stressful months of trying to maintain my business during the covid-19 pandemic, the wilderness is calling to me very loudly for an opportunity to restore my spirit, but the current sheltering restrictions have me waiting for a later visit. I will try to be patient.

I grew up just three blocks from a lake, albeit a suburban one ringed mostly with houses and roads.  I had a short bike ride to open fields and natural wooded undeveloped areas (now all but gone) that provided me with childhood adventures of many kinds.  And as a child, I made many car trips into NW Wisconsin where my grandmother lived on the edge of the Chippewa Forest, nestled next to a resort and fishing lake.  Being outdoors, camping, and studying nature were all part of my family’s attempt to bridge the gap between living in a tidy suburban development and the honoring the wilderness.

It was a visit into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when I was 12, three years before its official federal designation, that gave me an entirely different perspective on wilderness.  To go for days without cars, boat motors even, no homes and few if any people other than the group I was traveling with opened up my imagination to how the earth can get along just fine without humans.  I didn’t have to pretend the homes weren’t there or try to block out the sounds of cars as I sat in the midst of this vast expanse.  It was bigger than anything I could explore; it was awesome.

I found ways to return year after year on other trips, and while there were always familiar parts about the visit, there was always something new or at least new to me.  Even if I was returning to the same lakes or portages, they were never the same.  As I became more comfortable and familiar with the area, I also grew to understand that I was a visitor, an outsider, and that other creatures made this their home, I was just their guest. 

Over the years I have tried to introduce this love and respect for the BWCA to my own children, to students I taught, and to friends and family who’ve been willing to join me on the long trek into the wilderness.  And now, nearly 50 years later, I find myself fighting alongside others for its existence.  How is it even possible after all these years that a federally protected area must defend itself against a multi-national mining corporation? 

A few years ago, I visited a retreat center built from the remnants of a copper mining site.  For all its beauty, deep in the cascades, there was a sadness there as well.  The site was being remediated for issues from tailings and leaking.  The destruction of the area was evident.  The ability of the retreat center to function was a challenge as well.  The costs were high, but just part of the ongoing operations of a multi-national mining corporation.  Just another line item in doing business, pay the fines, spend the money for cleanup, move on and go extract somewhere else.

But for the creatures, the trees, the plants that make the BWCA their home, moving on is not an option.  For the millions who have enjoyed the wilderness area for what it is and what it has to offer us freely, moving on is not an option. If the poisons of mining waste are allowed to leech and drift their way into the ecosystem, this beautiful area will just be gone.

Choosing to honor this area while choosing to make decisions that benefit our planet and people and business can be made.  They are decisions that are about right time, right place, right scale.  Unfortunately, these are likely not going to be in the best interest of a multi-national mining corporation, but that’s okay, because those kinds of corporations don’t have our best interests or the earth’s best interests in mind either. We have come so far in these past 50 years since that first Earth Day, yet the arguments must still be raised for why the earth itself deserves our respect and stewardship.  

May we find the collective will and strength to make the arguments for preservation of the wilderness and to make decisions that will allow future generations to find the same wonder and beauty in our Boundary Waters Wilderness Area that I have been able to make. And I do hope to see you on that blue Green Path through the wilderness.

Join me in supporting the work of Save the Boundary Waters

As a spouse of 35 years, parent of two adult children, former middle school language arts teacher, writer, reader and performer, former soccer player now avid MN United Loons fan (as well as the real loons of the wilderness), gardener and facilitator of personal and community growth - Dan's winding path has led him to be the operator of Butter Bakery Cafe (a Boundary Waters Business Coalition member) for the past 14 years, where just being a neighbor has been one of his greatest joys.

Explore this Tribal Nations Map

Thursday, May 14, 2020
Posted by
Save the Boundary Waters

Check out this detailed map created by Aaron Carapella who is a cartographer of Cherokee and European ancestry. He has heavily researched indigenous history and lands to create many beautiful maps featuring native people and tribes.

We invite you to zoom in, scroll around, and explore this map of tribal nations and indigenous names in what is also known today as North America. Link to PDF of map here. Please be patient as this map loads - it is large and very detailed. 

Save the Boundary Waters strives to keep diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of our work and when our DEI team came across this map, we wanted to share it with you (with the artist's permission)!

This is also an opportunity to share a bit about tribal nations in northeastern Minnesota where our organization is based, and how tribes have interacted with the Boundary Waters sulfide-ore copper mining issue.

Indigenous people have lived in the Boundary Waters region for countless generations. Much of Minnesota’s “Arrowhead” region, including the Boundary Waters, is within the 1854 Ceded Territory, where Anishinaabe people (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa) retain hunting, fishing, and gathering rights. Hunting, fishing, and gathering activities of two northern Bands are coordinated by the tribal government-run 1854 Treaty Authority - read more about the Treaty Authority here.

On the east side of the Boundary Waters lies Grand Portage Indian Reservation which contains Grand Portage National Monument, and to the west of the Wilderness are the three sections of the Bois Forte Reservation.

In 2016, three Chippewa Bands (Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, and White Earth) and one Canadian First Nation Community (Lac La Croix) requested that the U.S. federal government ban sulfide-ore copper mining on federal public lands on the U.S. side of the Rainy River Drainage Basin. The decision by the U.S. Forest Service Chief in December 2016 to recommend a 20-year mining ban was in part a response to the request of the three Bands and the First Nation Community. 

In 2016 and 2019, Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters staff and board members paddled to the Lac La Croix Village as guests during the community’s annual PowWow. During the 2019 visit, we learned about how Basswood Lake, located in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park and along the international border, is an ancestral homeland of the Lac La Croix First Nation Community and a sacred place for Anishinaabe. 

In 2019, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (consisting of 6 Minnesota Chippewa Bands) stated its support for legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Betty McCollum that would ban sulfide-ore copper mining on federal lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin, part of 1854 Ceded Territory. This bill would permanently protect areas where the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe exercises its treaty rights of hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Unfortunately, the Bois Forte Band, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, received blowback from some mining proponents who launched a boycott of Bois Forte’s Fortune Bay Resort because of support by the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe for protection of the Rainy River Drainage Basin. This blatant attempt to silence the Tribe - who derive food and medicine from areas that would be degraded by sulfide-ore mining - is regrettable. We encourage people to support the Bois Forte Band and the Boundary Waters by enjoying leisure time at Fortune Bay Resort on Lake Vermilion in Tower (resort temporarily closed during Minnesota’s Stay At Home order due to COVID-19 - check with Fortune Bay for opening information and safety.)

Explore the map to see whose ancestral and current-day lands you live or recreate on.

This Tribal Nations Map is not to be printed or reproduced. Support a native-owned business by purchasing this or other maps and browsing the selection of books and other resources from Tribal Nations Maps.

Thank you for giving at home!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

During the week of what would have been our largest fundraiser of the year, our annual Gala, we were able to participate in a week of generosity through GiveAtHomeMN, and it was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who participated in our events. Whether it was watching the documentary at the film screenings, attending our social hour webinar, or participating in the silent auction, we were thrilled to see the support and passion for protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

You made an incredible impact:

$136,000 raised in a week!

900+ donors from 45 states

$40,000 in matching gifts

$10,650 from the Silent Auction

Our original goal was to raise $60,000 and it only took a few days until we had to raise that goal due to the overwhelming generosity from Boundary Waters defenders like you!

What will this money go towards?

When you support Save the Boundary Waters, you are supporting a strategic, multi-pronged approach to achieve permanent protection for the Boundary Waters watershed from copper mining. 

Save the Boundary Waters is working on multiple fronts to protect this special place. These efforts include:

  • Educating and raising public awareness about the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters
  • Lobbying and meeting with lawmakers on the state and national levels
  • Significant time and resources conducting and assembling scientific research and studies, engaging in litigation when necessary
  • Participating in public input processes and rallying thousands of citizens to weigh in
  • Running a robust outreach program that creates Wilderness ambassadors across the entire country
  • And more!

Thank you for supporting permanent protection for the Boundary Waters!

Didn’t get a chance to give? It’s not too late to donate! When you make a gift today, you support this comprehensive approach to protecting this incredible Wilderness. GiveMN is waiving transaction fees through the end of May, so you can still donate today!

donate here

We're suing. Again. Here's why.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Today (May 6, 2020) Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, the leader of the Campaign To Save the Boundary Waters, nine Minnesota outdoor recreation businesses, and four conservation groups filed a new federal lawsuit. Today’s lawsuit challenges the recent actions of the federal government to facilitate the unconscionable development of a sulfide-ore copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). 

As the plaintiffs, we allege that the defendants - the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and their agencies the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service - prepared a completely inadequate Environmental Assessment (EA) to renew two federal mineral leases held by Chilean mining giant, Antofagasta, through its subsidiary, Twin Metals. Federal law - the National Environmental Policy Act - requires that a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed. Such an analysis would demonstrate the significant and harmful environmental, social, and economic impacts this proposed mine would have on the Boundary Waters, and the air, land, water, wildlife, and people, and clearly show that sulfide-ore copper mining is unacceptable in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Instead, the BLM prepared a wholly inadequate short Environmental Assessment which completely ignored scores of scientific studies, including dozens of reports previously considered by the Forest Service and many additional directly relevant scientific and economic reports brought forward by the Campaign. Like the “report” prepared recently by the U.S. State Department in response to federal legislation requiring a study of impacts to Canada from a Twin Metals mine, the EA was comparable to a grade school student’s book report.


Our staff led a strong working group of partners, who together developed and submitted a comprehensive set of comments and dozens of scientific documents that were submitted to the BLM during the EA comment period. Thanks to our partners The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, National Parks Conservation Association, Earthjustice, and Voyageurs National Park Association for their contributions to the official comment letter on the EA, which laid the groundwork for our lawsuit challenging the EA. Working with our broader coalition of over 350 conservation groups, hunting and fishing groups, and businesses, our staff organized nearly 100,000 people to submit comments - a strong showing despite a comment period that ran over the year-end holidays, during a partial federal government shutdown, with periodic breakdowns of the comment submittal website, and for an unconscionably short comment period. 

In April, we also appealed an unfavorable decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. That case challenges the interpretation of the language of the leases, and is a completely separate issue from this lawsuit.  

The Trump administration has demonstrated, time and again, that it has no regard for protecting the environment.  From gutting bedrock environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act (see StarTribune article here); to fast-tracking catastrophic projects like the Twin Metals mine, the administration has put corporations, including Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, in charge of our public lands and waters. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

Once again, we have outstanding legal representation by the Morrison & Foerster law firm. Two other law firms are also assisting, making this is a very high-powered legal team. Legal representation is on a pro-bono basis on our behalf. We are deeply appreciative of their help.

Even so, the legal challenges require a great deal of resources. Your donations are critical to keeping these challenges going. We are confident we will ultimately be successful, but the legal process moves very slowly. Thank you for your continued support of this precious place, and stay tuned as this case moves through the legal system.


Many have already joined our team. We want you to join our team too! 

Donate ANY amount today and your dollars will be instantly doubled thanks to a generous donor match to help us further our legal efforts and stop a Twin Metals mine in its tracks.

If you want your donation dollars to go to permanently protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining, click below to donate now!

Throwback - Canoe Country Outfitters

Monday, May 4, 2020
Posted by
Becky Rom - National Campaign Chair

45 years later the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from copper mining continues. 

My dad, Bill Rom, owned and operated Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, Minnesota for thirty years, from 1946 to 1975. He sold the outfitting business after the canoe trip season in the fall of 1975.

Every winter my dad sent a newsletter to customers of Canoe Country Outfitters, who were about 25,000 in number. Many of the people who outfitted with Canoe Country Outfitters for Boundary Waters and Quetico canoe trips knew my dad personally and treated him as their friend. During winter months, my dad talked to customers on the phone and at sport shows about canoe trip plans for the next summer, and he greeted them before and after canoe trips during the spring/summer/fall. His newsletters were another way he communicated with his customers, and the newsletters were viewed as letters from a friend. 

This newsletter was written in the winter of 1975 before the summer canoe season. It was the last newsletter he wrote as owner of Canoe Country Outfitters.

- Becky Rom, 
National Campaign Chair 

See full PDF here.

Inspiration of Sigurd Olson

Thursday, April 30, 2020
Posted by
Nicole Kari

We are in a particularly tough moment in time. Our global community is facing new challenges, in more ways than one, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all trying to manage financial pressures, adjust to our home environments and responsibilities, and are experiencing new normals. We continue to take care of and worry about our friends, families, and neighbors the best that we know how. Among these tribulations, we are looking for stability, familiarity and direction in order to survive. We don’t have many answers to our difficult questions and issues. We look for moments of respite in between the uncertainty.

To help soothe some pangs of cabin fever, I have been able to take in the writings of Sigurd Olson, an American author and environmentalist who lived near and loved the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I have a copy of his classic book, The Singing Wilderness, that has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. Reading these essays has transported me to the places I enjoy being in most: Minnesota’s natural world. I wholeheartedly know that walks in my local park are one of the main reasons I am mentally, emotionally and physically surviving. In this time spent outside, I can find a stable foundation, as I always have throughout my life. I am able to bear witness to the beautiful and grounding fact that nature is continuing on its course, despite our human challenges. It is there for us to take care of, quietly observe and take solace in. It has been calming to be able to both read about and see the changes that are occurring outside here in Minnesota--winter is giving way to spring, a refreshing time of regeneration, aliveness, and growth. These seasonal processes remind me that we are still connected through nature, and that we will adapt through our challenges, similar to the wildflowers that give rise after the snow melts.

I am looking forward to the day where I can again be in one of my favorite special places that always grounds me, as it did for Sigurd: The Boundary Waters. In the meantime, I can live vicariously through his words, and experience the changing of the seasons in my own backyard, and I can envision the same natural changes that are surely happening in the BWCA as well. I enjoyed his essays on Spring (and I must admit I dabbled in his Summer essays as well, as I am dreaming of the days of again safely paddling in Canoe Country with my family while wearing shorts). 

"…The grouse was drumming on its log and the frogs were tuning up in the little pond. The killdeer were quiet now and the blackbirds had gone to sleep, but I heard the song of the hermit thrush, the clear villain notes that in a little while would make every valley alive with music. Spring in the Northeastern was worth waiting for and dreaming about for half the year." -The Singing Wilderness, The Winds of March essay

"Of all the resinous odors in my experience, balsam seems to have the power of awakening the most vivid memories...I never walk through a stand of it without rubbing some of the needles in the palm of my hand so I can breathe in a concentrated dose. That heady smell brings memories of camps all over the wilderness lake country, of balsam beds on hundreds of little islands and rocky points." -The Singing Wilderness, Smell of the Morning essay

"I had seen the stars very close, had heard the song of the coyotes and listened for the first full breathing of the lake. I had made medicine with the chickadees and the whisky-jacks, had played a game of hide-and-seek with the ravens, had caught a trout and seen its ghostly flash in the blue-black depths of the lake. I had spent some days as leisurely as a bear coming out of its den, soaking up the warmth of spring." -The Singing Wilderness, No Place Between essay

"That night it was still, and in the moonlight the loons began as I had heard them before, first the wild, excited calling of a group of birds dashing across the water, then answers from other groups until the entire expanse of the lake was full of their music. We sat around until long after dark and listened, but instead of becoming quiet as the moon went high, the calling increased and there again was the wild harmony, the music that comes only once a year, when it is spring on Lac La Croix." -The Singing Wilderness, The Loons of Lac La Croix essay

"There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness, and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known." -The Singing Wilderness, The Way of a Canoe essay