Today Rep. Betty McCollum's bipartisan bill to protect the Boundary Waters passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. This means the Boundary Waters protection bill can advance to a vote in the full House of Representatives, a big step towards becoming law.
The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 5598) permanently protects 234,328 acres of federal land and waters within the Superior National Forest from risky sulfide-ore copper mining.
The intent of the bill is really quite simple - it is intended to prevent sulfide-ore copper mining of federal lands in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed which drains into the BWCAW (see map above) and Voyageurs National Park. The bureaucratic term that is used is “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. The withdrawal would not restrict mining for iron ore, taconite, sand and 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. In order to abide by the law for withdrawing these lands, the US Forest Service initiated a 2-year study in 2017. It was abruptly halted by the Trump administration 4 months prior to completion, with the claim that “no new information” was being discovered. The administration has refused to release the draft reports, which we strongly believe clearly find that mining is incompatible.
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 mining project forward, it became apparent that the only way to protect the Boundary Waters and Voyaguers National Park is a permanent and complete mineral withdrawal. Hence, Rep. McCollum was compelled to draft and introduce H.R.5598.
Rep. McCollum is the chief author, and is joined by Reps. Francis Rooney (R-FL), Fred Upton (R-MI), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) as original co-sponsors.
Nearly seventy percent of Minnesotans do not want sulfide-ore copper 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.
Make sure your members of Congress support this bill and work to pass it into law to protect the Boundary Waters. Send a message right now to your members of Congress.
We’ve been working for months with our allies in Congress to get to this point today, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of thousands of supporters like you across the country who’ve contacted your elected officials about the Boundary Waters. THANK YOU.
Let’s make sure this bill becomes law and we protect the Boundary Waters for future generations. Contact your members of Congress today.
Our local, state, and federal elected officials have the power to stop this dangerous mine. That’s why the Boundary waters is on the ballot. Make sure you have a plan to vote. The team at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is putting together a quick social media video to help Get Out the Vote and we need your help. This Fall, your vote will be a critical part of protecting the Boundary Waters and we are doing our part to make sure everyone gets out to vote to protect the Wilderness from sulfide-ore copper mining, but we need your help.
Will you make a big impact and create a quick video of yourself telling us why you’re voting for the Boundary Waters in 2020? After you have made a plan to vote Boundary Waters here, follow the below instructions.
Here’s how: Use your smartphone to record a landscape or horizontal video. Read this script below while recording. Be sure to speak clearly, and at a moderate pace:
"Hi, I’m [FIRST NAME]. Join me in voting for the Boundary Waters this year. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining.
This election will play a critical part in protecting the Wilderness.
We need to protect the Wilderness so that future generations can enjoy this special place.
Our vote will protect:
- 1.1 million acres Unspoiled forests
- 1,100 interconnected lakes and rivers
- Wildlife like moose, loons, Canada lynx, and wolves
- World-class fishing
- The beautiful night sky
- Clean Air
- Clean Water
- Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Economy
- America’s most visited Wilderness
Our local, state, and federal elected officials have the power to stop this dangerous mine. That’s why the Boundary waters is on the ballot. Make sure you have a plan to vote.
Check your registration before it’s too late. Vote the Boundary Waters in 2020."
Send your video to Lauren@SaveTheBoundaryWaters.org by this Thursday, October 1st and we may use it to help get out the vote for the Boundary Waters this Fall on our social media pages.
Thanks for your help!
On September 23rd, 2015 explorers Amy and Dave Freeman set off into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to embark on a year-long adventure. Their main goal of the year in the Wilderness was to raise awareness and help educate others about the threat of a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Their trip helped elevate the fight to protect the Boundary Waters to a national level.
The Freemans remained in the Nation’s most popular Wilderness Area for a full year (366 days), camping at approximately 120 different sites during their Year in the Wilderness and traveling over 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe, and dog team. They emerged from the Wilderness with many important lessons learned about conservation, advocacy, the importance of Wilderness, as well as how a year in the Boundary Waters changed their priorities and understanding of what really matters. They put pen to paper and decided to write a book about their experience, called A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters. They also created a curriculum to relate their experiences to lessons students may be learning in school. Check out Wilderness Classroom to see field notes, lessons, and worksheets for students.
Examples of field notes & worksheets:
Seasonal Changes and the Fall Equinox: https://wildernessclassroom.org/seasonal-changes-fall-equinox/
Harvesting Wild Rice: https://wildernessclassroom.org/harvesting-wild-rice/
Settling into Life in the Boundary Waters: https://wildernessclassroom.org/settling-into-life-in-the-boundary-waters/
Tank "wrote" some of the Notes from the Trail entries too: https://wildernessclassroom.org/tanks-thoughts-im-canoe-dog-now/
Looking for a way to make your virtual school more exciting? Have the Freemans host a Virtual assembly for your school through Zoom!
Want to implement Wilderness Classroom into your classroom? You can contact Wilderness Classroom here.
Our local, state, and federal elected officials have the power to stop Twin Metals’ dangerous sulfide-ore copper mine that would permanently pollute the Boundary Waters, America's most-visited Wilderness Area. This is why the Boundary Waters is on the Ballot. We need to preserve this special place for current and future generations.
Minnesota Registration Deadlines:
Online: Oct. 13
By mail: Received by Oct. 13
In person: Nov. 3
Make sure you’ve filled out the census
Volunteer or phonebank for a candidate
Learn more about the Boundary Waters in the upcoming election by visiting the Boundary Waters Action Fund.
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 and is considered one of the most pivotal conservation efforts for America’s public lands. Howard Zahniser, who led the Wilderness Society, authored the act with the help of many notable conservationists. The lead sponsor in the US Senate was Minnesota’s own Senator Hubert Humphrey. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area was one of the first Wilderness areas established by the Act.
The Act recognized the value of preserving special places like the Boundary Waters, “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Today the Wilderness System contains over 111 million acres of public lands with over 800 Wilderness Areas in 44 states. Wilderness areas exist within National Forests, National Parks, Bureau of Land Management Lands and National Wildlife Refuges.
Sigurd Olson, an author and environmentalist revered for his writings about the Boundary Waters, was an important figure in the writing of the 1964 Wilderness Act. He was a former president and governing council member of The Wilderness Society where he helped protect public lands around the country including Voyageurs National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Point Reyes National Seashore. He continued his conservation efforts throughout the years and worked on passing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act on October 21,1978.
Today, the fight to protect the Wilderness continues. Sulfide-ore copper mining threatens the waters and forests of the Boundary Waters, and would irreversibly damage our beloved canoe country Wilderness.
Right now, Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced a bill in Congress that would protect the Boundary Waters from copper-nickel mining in its watershed. H.R. 5598 entitled “The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act” would ban sulfide-ore copper mining of federal lands in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed, where waters drain into the Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park.
Help us pass this bill to protect the Boundary Waters! Here are 3 ways you can help:
1.Contact your US Representative and ask them to sign onto Rep. McCollum’s bill - H.R.5598
2. Make sure you’ve signed our petition, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
3. Donate! It takes a lot of resources to continue to protect the Wilderness.
Check out the Wilderness Map below:
"Here I am on Cam Lake in May this year. I love that little waterfall spilling over the rock slab. It was my first of 3 trips this summer. I always want to get away to the BWCA, but this year I really felt a need to get away. The effort and the reward are just what I needed to recharge myself. We saw 4 moose on that trip, but even if the only wildlife we see is a chipmunk at our campsite, I love just being in the woods and on the lakes and streams. I appreciate all the work of so many in previous generations that loved the Boundary Waters and committed their time to preserve it. It is a special gift that we need to continue to protect so that we have a wild place that we can get away to. Incredible that we have this unique place in our backyards!"
Julia is a member of our Leader Camp and recently won a giveaway for a watch from One Eleven!
You can be entered to win one of our Leader Camp giveaways too! Not a member yet? Join today so that you can get exclusive access to events, giveaways, discounts and other benefits. Now is an impactful time to join this group of committed supporters who contribute $50 or more each year.
Guest Blog Post for Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
Megan Noetzel, Voyageurs Conservancy
Northern Minnesota presents some of the most striking night skies in the nation. Visitors can look up and immerse themselves in a blanket of stars, view barrelling comets, and even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Our dark skies provide a stunning backdrop for the Northwoods.
Dark skies are not only a starry wonder, but necessary for ecosystems, human health, and the preservation of cultural heritage. Forests and wildlife thrive on the rhythmic cycle of day and night. With dark skies disappearing at an alarming rate, but sometimes unnoticed, a coalition of public land officials, park partners, and community members have embarked on a joint initiative to preserve regional darkness.
Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, and Quetico Provincial Park are all seeking Dark Sky Park certification from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). This exciting pursuit could establish Northern Minnesota as the first International Dark Sky Region. By seeking Dark Sky Park and Dark Sky Region designation, public land managers are committing to reducing light pollution at park facilities and providing educational opportunities for the public to learn about the importance of dark sky preservation.
Dark Sky Certification
Dark Sky Park certification is responsive to a growing concern that threatens the wild character of our parks: light pollution. Dark skies are becoming scarce as technological advances have engulfed our skies with artificial light and these negative impacts are increasing rapidly. The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness states that approximately 80% of North Americans are unable to see the Milky Way due to light pollution.
Disappearing dark skies create several environmental and societal consequences. According to the IDA, artificial light has been found to alter breeding and foraging behaviors in wildlife and affect the growth rate of trees. Light pollution is especially harmful for nocturnal birds’ flight patterns, whose predation habits rely on dark skies.
Exposure to artificial light is also detrimental to our own health, as it disrupts the circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep quality and weakened immune systems. Researchers are continuing to study the impacts of artificial light and human health.
Lastly, losing our starry skies disconnects us from generations of cultural narratives. The Ojibwe star map is culturally significant to Northern Minnesota. These constellations have stories associated with them and many correspond with seasonal changes. French-Canadian voyageurs, gold-miners, lumberjacks, and commercial fishermen are some of the many groups who also utilized the stars. Light pollution erases the ability to connect with the constellations and these historical narratives.
Protecting Dark Skies at Voyageurs
As a community of people committed to the stewardship of Voyageurs National Park, we have a responsibility to protect the sanctity of our dark skies. Dark Sky Park certification does not carry any legal or regulatory authority, but it affirms the park’s commitment to sustainable light use and public education to reduce light pollution and protect the night sky. VNPA and the National Park Service launched our joint Dark Sky Initiative in 2019 to establish our ongoing commitment to dark sky preservation.
The first phase of dark sky preservation focuses on light fixture changes in the park. By using “dark- sky friendly” light fixtures in parking lots and park facilities, Voyageurs National Park is significantly reducing its light pollution output. These fixtures direct light downward and often utilize warmer colors and motion sensor activation. VNPA helped fund the first round of lighting changes. The park’s goal is to reach 100% “dark-friendly” lights within the next 10 years.
Surrounding neighborhoods, businesses, and communities are not required to change their lighting practices in response to this certification. However, there are a multitude of environmental and economic benefits to this transition. Dark sky tourism is a growing travel trend. VNPA will provide resources to business and cabin owners, and host special events to welcome visitors and community members to join this initiative.
While we can’t gather in-person,Voyageurs National Park Association is working to inspire the public with awe-inspiring celestial events. We’ve partnered with IDA Starry Skies of Lake Superior and Robert “Astro Bob” King to launch a bi-weekly Night Sky Explorer virtual learning series. This series introduces individuals and families to astronomy and develop an appreciation for dark skies. As Robert King states, “The greatest wilderness is the one over your head -- you only need to look up!”
You Can Protect the Night
To gaze at the stars on a clear, unpolluted sky is a breathtaking experience. However, as light pollution increases, we risk losing the powerful display of our universe. It is up to all of us to ensure future generations are able to connect with the night sky. You can mitigate the effects of light pollution through personal and community-led action. Here are three dark sky initiatives you can take in your home and community:
Thank you for doing your part to protect the night sky. We hope the Dark Sky Park certification in Voyageurs National Park, BWCAW, and Quetico Provincial Park will inspire visitors to discover the region’s cosmic treasures and preserve its unparalleled beauty for generations to come!
About Voyageurs Conservancy
Voyageurs Converancy (formerly: Voyageurs National Park Association) is the official charitable partner of Minnesota’s National Park. Voyageurs Conservancy works in close partnership with the National Park Service to expand water and land protection, advance environmental education, and increase accessibility to public lands.Voyageurs Conservancy works to preserve the wild character of Voyageurs by funding projects and programs that will sustain it for generations to come.
Today, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, with two other conservation groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and The Wilderness Society, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration over its decision to renew 13 prospecting permits that could lead to an expanded Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mine.
Any sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters would cause irreparable damage to America’s most visited Wilderness. This isn’t just our opinion, but also the conclusion of the U.S. Forest Service.
The renewed prospecting permits allow Twin Metals to drill exploration holes, build roads, and do other mining exploratory work throughout more than 15,000 acres of Superior National Forest. The goal of Twin Metals is to find additional mineral deposits and to expand its proposed mining project. Altogether the renewed permits extend well beyond the geographic footprint of the proposed Twin Metals mine. The area covered by the renewed permits extends south along Birch Lake and east to the very edge of the Wilderness. All are within within the watershed of the Boundary Waters and within the headwaters of lakes and rivers that flow into the Wilderness.
The Bureau of Land Management, in deciding on May 1 to extend the prospecting permits for four more years, failed to consider how Twin Metals’ mine plan, mineral leases and permits could harm the critical resources of the Boundary Waters and its watershed. The Bureau also failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over potential harm to three federally listed endangered species and their critical habitat: Canada lynx, gray wolves, and northern long-eared bats.
This is the fourth lawsuit the Campaign, working with conservation partners, has filed in response to the Trump Administration’s continuous attacks on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Critical decisions are being rendered without consideration of scientific and ecological knowledge and without public notice or input. The proposed Twin Metals mine project has been resurrected from the dead, while bedrock environmental laws and regulations are being rolled back, weakened, or eliminated - risky sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters is being fast-tracked.
Under the Obama administration, federal officials terminated Twin Metals mineral leases because the U.S. Forest Service concluded that sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters was risky and threatened irreparable harm to the Wilderness - harm that could never be fixed or mitigated.
With this new lawsuit, there are now FIVE LAWSUITS in the state and federal courts related to protection of the Boundary Waters. Here’s a bit of a primer and reminder on the other lawsuits:
Federal lawsuit #1: Reinstatement of Leases - This lawsuit is against the federal government for reinstating two expired federal mineral leases previously held by Twin Metals. These leases were lawfully extinguished in 2016, but brought back to life by the Trump administration. This suit was decided against us in the Washington, DC, District Court, but we appealed. The case is now under consideration in the DC Court of Appeals. We are represented by the national law firm of Morrison & Foerster.
Federal lawsuit #2: Renewal of Leases- This lawsuit is also against the federal government. In it, we and the other plaintiffs claim that the federal government failed to follow rules under NEPA to adequately evaluate the renewal of the two resurrected Twin Metal mineral leases. This suit was filed in May 2020 in federal district court in Washington, DC. We are represented by the national law firm of Morrison & Foerster.
State lawsuit: Minnesota Rules - This lawsuit was filed against the State of Minnesota in June under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. In this suit, the Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, the sole plaintiff, is represented by the law firm of CiresiConlin, LLC. We are challenging the Department of Natural Resources’s nonferrous regulations which we believe are insufficient to protect the Boundary Waters. If we are successful, the DNR will be compelled to rewrite the rules, and there will be an opportunity for consideration of current science. Specifically, we request that the rules be changed to prohibit sulfide-ore copper mining in the entire Rainy River Headwaters, which is the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Sulfide-ore copper mining is currently banned in the northern half of the Rainy River Headwaters (the Boundary Waters) but the southern half - which constitutes the headwaters of the watershed - is unprotected. Our contention is that the only way to ensure that the waters of the Boundary Waters remain clean and without degradation from mining is to ban sulfide-ore copper mining in the southern half. All waters in the southern half flow north into the northern half. Eighty percent of the Boundary Waters is in the northern half of the watershed and are at significant risk unless the DNR regulations are updated to reflect modern science and common sense.
NEPA Lawsuit: Environmental Rollbacks - While Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (lead organization of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters) is not a party in this lawsuit, our National Campaign Chair - Becky Rom - is cited as one of the affected persons. This lawsuit against the Trump administration challenges the recent evisceration of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Our partners in the fight to protect the Boundary Waters - EarthJustice and The Wilderness Society - are defending one of the nation’s most important environmental protection laws. Changes the Trump administration made will mean polluted water, degraded natural landscapes, and air that’s not fit to breath and sharply limit public involvement in some of our nation’s most important natural resource decisions.
Federal Lawsuit #3: Renewal of Prospecting Permits - This lawsuit challenges the Trump administration over its decision to renew 13 prospecting permits that could allow Twin Metals to significantly expand its proposed sulfide-ore copper mine.
Your support to protect the Boundary Waters is critical. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is leading the fight to protect America’s most visited Wilderness. Help us stop this rush to build a dangerous mine on the doorstep of our beloved canoe country. Donate now.
Check out the recording and slides from our August 13 town hall where we heard from Save the Boundary Waters Campaign National Chair Becky Rom and Alison Flint, Senior Legal Director for The Wilderness Society, about how we are working together to protect the Boundary Waters.
On July 29, two of our partners in the fight to save the Boundary Waters filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging the recent evisceration of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These partners - EarthJustice and The Wilderness Society - are defending one of the nation’s most important environmental protection laws. Changes the Trump administration made will mean polluted water, degraded natural landscapes, and air that’s not fit to breath.
Passed in 1971, NEPA is one of our nation’s bedrock environmental protection laws. It provides for a thorough review of environmental impacts for any project the federal government must approve. It guarantees that alternatives are considered, that the public has an opportunity to review the project and offer recommended improvements, and that the review process is transparent and fair. This is what we would expect our federal government to do.
It has special significance to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta is proposing a huge sulfide-ore copper mine on the edge of the BWCAW. Under the Obama administration, federal officials terminated leases for the project because they found sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters risked irreparable harm to the Wilderness. Under the Trump administration, this science is being denied and suppressed, the project has been resurrected from the dead, and now the environmental protections are being rolled back and eliminated so the project can be fast-tracked. The proposed Twin Metals mine could be one of the first projects where the new NEPA rules will be used - a guarantee that a bad project would proceed.
While Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (we lead the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters) is not a party in this lawsuitsuit, our National Campaign Chair - Becky Rom - is cited as one of the affected persons, and we have been working with the plaintiff, The Wilderness Society, and the law firm, Earthjustice. With this new suit, there are now FOUR lawsuits in the state and federal courts related to protection of the Boundary Waters. Here’s a bit of a primer and reminder on the other 3 lawsuits:
Federal lawsuit #1 is against the federal government for reinstating the expired federal leases previously held by Twin Metals. These leases were lawfully extinguished in 2016, but brought back to life by the Trump administration. This suit was decided against us in the Washington, DC, District Court, but we appealed and it is now under consideration in the DC Court of Appeals.
Federal lawsuit #2 is also against the federal government. In it, we and the other plaintiffs claim that the federal government failed to follow rules under NEPA to adequately evaluate the renewal of the federal leases. This suit was filed recently in federal district court in Washington, DC, and no judicial action has yet taken place.
A lawsuit was filed against the State of Minnesota in June under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. In this suit, the Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness is the only plaintiff. We are represented by the law firm of CiresiConlin, LLC. This suit claims that the regulations the Department of Natural Resources follows to govern mining are insufficient to protect the Boundary Waters. If a judge agrees, the DNR will be compelled to rewrite the rules, and there will be an opportunity to bring current science into the new rules. We are requesting that the rules be changed to prohibit sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Headwaters, which is the watershed of the Boundary Waters.
Lawsuits take time and are very expensive, so must be used judiciously. We are extremely fortunate to have outstanding partners in our pro-bono law firms. In addition to CiresiConlin, mentioned above, we are represented in federal court by Morrison & Foerster, LLC. and EarthJustice. Without their excellent help, we would not be able to bring these powerful cases against the government.
Jordan Lake -Alyssa Brault, Business Relations Associate
Clearwater Lake -Nicole Kari, Administrative Coordinator
Photo Credit: Brad Carlson
Lac La Croix- Levi Lexvold, Regional Organizer & Ely Office Manager
Birch Lake -Lisa Pugh, Science and Policy Associate (not technically a Boundary Waters lake but important to this issue!)
Clearwater Lake -Megan Wind, Communications Specialist
Gabbro Lake -Tom Landwehr, Executive Director
Clear Lake - Marley Kehew, Campaign Intern
Lake Agnes- Ingrid Lyons, Development Director
Knife Lake -Samantha Chadwick, Deputy Campaign Manager