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December Campaign Update

Monday, December 23, 2019
Posted by
Becky Rom and Tom Landwehr

December has been a tumultuous month for the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in its watershed. As the lead organization in this fight, the Campaign has been working in overdrive – below is an update on everything that has been happening in the recent weeks. 

Good News: We Had Our Day in Court

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (leader of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters) and nine Minnesota outdoor recreation businesses challenged the unlawful reinstatement of federal mineral leases by the Trump administration by filing a lawsuit in federal court in June 2018. Two additional lawsuits were subsequently filed by four conservation groups. After the three lawsuits were consolidated into a single case, Twin Metals intervened on the side of the Trump administration. On Friday, December 20, 2019, we had our day in court. NMW’s pro bono lawyers at Morrison & Foerster presented the case for NMW, nine businesses, and four conservation groups before US District Court Judge Trevor McFadden. 

National Chair Becky Rom and Matt Norton, Policy and Science Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and many of our supporters and partners attended the oral arguments. We hope Judge McFadden will render his decision soon and we are optimistic that he will rule that the Trump administration unlawfully reinstated Twin Metals federal mineral leases. The fate of the Boundary Waters and the future of the American people, especially those fortunate enough to live in northern Minnesota, hang in the balance. Read about the hearing here:

Canada to Get Answers

Eleven months ago, the government of Canada challenged the US Government to explain how it would address the water pollution from a Twin Metals mine that would degrade the waters of Canada, and in particular in Quetico Park. Until now, Canada received no response. Congresswoman Betty McCollum authored a provision in the federal spending bill, signed into law on December 20, that requires the State Department to respond. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters worked with Congresswoman McCollum to ensure that this provision was passed.

  • This language can be found on page 31 of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Report (H.R. 2740), and as follows:

Report Rainy River Drainage Basin.—The Committee supports the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and the goal of limiting pollution of boundary waters. The Committee is concerned that decisions made by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Interior to approve mineral leases in the Superior National Forest will result in an operational sulfide-ore copper mine that risks polluting the waters within the Rainy River Drainage Basin flowing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Ontario, Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department of State to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 60 days of enactment of this Act detailing: the characteristics of the Boundary Waters-Quetico ecosystem and the hydrology of the Rainy River Drainage Basin and its impact on Canada; U.S. Government plans to monitor and mitigate the risk of acid mine drainage originating in the Superior National Forest polluting Canadian waters; and United States efforts to inform the Government of Canada on the potential for cross-boundary pollution resulting from sulfide-ore copper mining in the Superior National Forest.

  • Article IV of The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, a treaty between the United States and Canada, states: “It is further agreed that the waters herein defined as boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.”

  • McCollum’s letter to Secretary Pompeo can be found here and Prime Minister Trudeau letter here.

Challenging News

Mine Plan of Operation Filed with State of Minnesota and Federal Government

On Wednesday, December 18, Twin Metals submitted a mine plan design for a very large and dangerous mine just miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and in the headwaters of one of the most pristine ecosystems in the nation, immediately upstream of protected areas of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park. Twin Metals has requested that the BLM and the State of Minnesota commence a review and permitting process for this mine. 

We are ready. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has amassed an impressive body of science that shows indisputably that this mine will permanently damage the Wilderness, the Superior National Forest, and other downstream areas and cause irreparable harm to local people and businesses, wildlife and the forested landscape, and the unbelievably clean waters of the area. We stand prepared with a team of experts to review the mine plan and to challenge every aspect and stage of the plan. 

Political Intervention of the Trump Administration

The Trump administration has worked overtime to jam through toxic mining where none should be allowed by ignoring legal requirements, suppressing science, and overturning the will of the American people. It did this again last week by killing a provision in the federal spending bill that would have required the completion of a critically important Superior National Forest mineral withdrawal study. This study was launched by the US Forest Service after it concluded that copper mining posed an unacceptable risk of harm to the Boundary Waters, and was examining the most important questions about locating a sulfide-ore copper mine in the watershed of the Boundary Waters and at the headwaters of one of the most pristine ecosystems in the nation.

In September 2018, the Trump administration abruptly canceled the nearly completed study. At the end of a tumultuous weekend of negotiations with Congress on the federal spending bill, the Trump administration refused to agree to funding for the entire federal government until this provision was removed. Why is the Trump administration afraid of the science, economics, and social analysis, unless the study proves that the watershed of the Boundary Waters is the wrong place for a toxic copper mine. To understand why the Trump administration’s position is wrong for our nation and its people, read this editorial by northern Minnesota’s Timberjay:,15817?

Read also this letter from Alex Falconer, Government Affairs Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters featured in the Star Tribune:

Clearly, there is a lot going on. Pleases consider rushing a year-end gift to help support the Campaign, which leads this critical effort. With your support, we are seeing and will continue to see results from the Campaign’s years of hard work. Thank you.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters leads a national coalition of businesses, conservation groups, and youth groups to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Basin, the headwaters of the Boundary Waters, Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park.

2020 Campaign Goals

Monday, December 9, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is the the lead organization fighting to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. December is a critical time of year for us to raise money to achieve our goals next year. 2020 is going to be the Campaign's most critical year yet. Your gifts before December 31, 2019 will play a major part in the work we will accomplish. Here’s an inside scoop into what we will be working on with the help of generous supporters like you:

  • Continue lawsuit against federal government. 
    We sued the Trump administration for reinstating Antofagasta’s sulfide-ore copper mining leases in 2018. The lease language was clear that the leases should not be renewed.  We will continue this fight - and to the Court of Appeals, if necessary - to get these leases formally terminated.

  • Work with Congress to complete the environmental study.
    In 2017, the Forest Service initiated a 24-month study to determine if sulfide-ore mining was compatible with the purposes of the Superior National Forest. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue abruptly stopped the study after 20 months and has been unwilling to provide the preliminary information. We are working with Congress to require the completion of the study, as we are certain it would recommend no sulfide-ore mining.

  • Work with Congress to provide protection for the BWCA.
    Recently, Congress has passed legislation protecting other important natural areas from mining by prohibiting mining on federal lands. We are working with Congress to get the same consideration for the BWCA.

  • Work on State Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
    Antofagasta is likely to submit a mine plan and mining permit application early in 2020. We believe the state of Minnesota should not begin an EIS process because they don't have the federal reports identified above. If they do, we will be fully engaged with science and many citizens to ensure a thorough and robust EIS development process.

  • Promote state legislation to that would protect the BWCAW.
    The state standards for protecting the water quality of the BWCAW are insufficient to prevent degradation. We are identifying legislators who will introduce and support legislation that would ensure no degradation of waters or lands in the BWCAW. We plan to have legislation introduced in the 2020 Minnesota Legislature.

  • Educate & Advocate.
    The threat of mining to the BWCAW has gotten a lot of media attention in the last year, and we were responsible for much of that. We will continue to keep this issue in the news, and by direct education, so that citizens and lawmakers understand the serious threat this mine poses to the most popular wilderness in the United States.

Please stay in the loop for Campaign updates and sign up for our newsletter here. Thank you for your care and consideration of the Wilderness. It means the world to us. 

NMW Annual Member Meeting 2019 Information

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Posted by
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

You are cordially invited to attend the 2019 Annual Meeting of Members of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) to make important decisions for the upcoming year ahead.

NMW Annual Member Meeting
Saturday, December 7, 2019 | 1:00pm CT
at Northern Grounds, 2 W. Sheridan St., Ely, Minnesota

The purpose of the 2019 annual meeting will be to discuss the election of the following persons, as recommended by the Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors, to serve a three-year term on the board of directors of NMW expiring at the annual meeting of members to be held in 2022 or until their successor is duly elected and qualified:

  • Jon Nelson
  • Diane Hofstede
  • Adam Fetcher
  • Steve Piragis
  • Bill Hohengarten
  • Matt Entenza
  • Jen Pearson

Only members of record as of November 1, 2019 are entitled to notice of and to vote at the annual
meeting. Members entitled to vote may vote in person or by proxy. To be valid, a duly completed proxy must be filed with the Secretary of NMW before or at the annual meeting. If you intend to file a proxy in advance of the annual meeting, please submit it by hand or mail to:

NMW Secretary, 206 E. Sheridan
St., Ely, MN 55731.

The business portion of the annual meeting will include reports from NMW’s executive director and
other officers concerning NMW activities and financial condition, and an opportunity for member
questions. Following the formal business portion of the annual meeting, there will be a presentation by our friends and supporters, Dave and Amy Freeman with a reception to follow.

We cordially invite you to attend and look forward to seeing you on December 7.

Dodd Cosgrove, Secretary
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

Update from Steve Piragis

Monday, November 11, 2019
Posted by
Steve Piragis

My wife Nancy and I have been in Ely, Minnesota since 1979, when we founded a little wilderness shop on the small town’s main street. We took our first trip to the Boundary Waters around that same time, and soon made the easy decision to spend the rest of our lives in Ely.

Over the past forty years, we’ve outfitted thousands of trips into the Boundary Waters, and have had the privilege of watching visitors fall in love with this incredible place. And who wouldn’t? The Boundary Waters is a Wilderness unlike any other, and deserves every ounce of protection.

Today, we are asking you to help protect this little slice of heaven with a donation to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Every dollar you donate will be doubled thanks to a generous $70,000 match. The Campaign needs your help to raise over $200,000 by the end of the day on Thursday, November 14!

Thank you if you have already donated. Thanks to you, we are getting geared up for an incredible Give to the Max Day.

What my family and many other business owners are worried about is the immense threat posed by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. This type of mining is extremely toxic, and would devastate the Boundary Waters.

A threatened Wilderness means a threatened local economy. Ely hasn’t had a mine in over 50 years, and in that time has built a blossoming main street of outfitters, restaurants, wilderness shops, and more. If the Twin Metals mine comes to fruition, Ely could start to look more like the mining towns of the past – at the mercy of international mineral prices, shops closed, and streets empty. You play a critical role in protecting the Boundary Waters and surrounding areas from the economic and environmental devastation sure to come with sulfide-ore copper mining.

So I’ll leave you with a question - how much is the Boundary Waters worth to you? If you feel like so many others do, and think that this place deserves protection, please consider making a gift today.

Heinselman lake has just been named within Quetico Provincial Park by The Ontario Geographic Names board, honoring the work of Miron (“Bud”) Heinselman.  Not only was Bud the principal advocate for saving the virgin forests of the BWCAW via the 1978 amendments to the Wilderness Act,  his field research and writings on the role of fire in the boreal forests are the foundation of current wilderness fire management in both the US and Canada.

Bud spent much of his research life in the boreal forests, documenting the age of the trees and thus piecing together the evidence demonstrating that all of those forests originated from fires. He was the sole forester willing to stand up for wilderness protection of the BWCAW forests prior to the passage of the US Wilderness Act in 1964. In 1972 while still with the Forest Service, he testified under subpoena in a Federal lawsuit which resulted in an EIS on BWCAW logging. His testimony convinced the Court that the Forest Service program of allowing wilderness logging was unwise. When logging continued despite that EIS, Bud’s love for the virgin forests led him to retire early from the Forest Service to become a full time advocate.  From 1974 through late 1978,  Bud and his wife Fran worked as tireless wilderness lobbyists, living much of the time in Washington DC at their own expense,  and leading the effort which produced the passage of a true BWCAW wilderness law in 1978,  not just for forest management, but also drastically reducing motorized use. His passion for a canoe-only wilderness was just as intense as his love for forests and he was moved to tears when it became necessary to compromise to allow some motorboat use. 

He was the first researcher to document the critical role of fire in the boreal forest ecosystem.  His field surveys demonstrating the history of fires in Canada and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and his writings based on that research, are the still the foundation of fire history research and fire behavior research in Canada and the United States. His writings on fire ecology are among the most frequently cited by other authors in the field, both Canadian and American. Leading forest fire researchers and managers in both Canada and the US still acknowledge Heinselman’s work as “seminal” and recognize that “it all started with Bud.” Wilderness lovers owe him a great debt, not just for his work on BWCAW, but for revolutionizing the management of wilderness forests.

Note: Why Quetico?  Heinselman’s fire ecology work in Canada clearly justifies the honor. Also, naming a lake in the US is problematic; there are not many unnamed lakes on the U.S. side. Bud and Fran took annual trips to Quetico, which often included a similar small, unnamed lake with no portages. 

Chuck Dayton

How to write a letter-to-the-editor

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

A letter-to-the-editor (LTE) is a letter from a reader that is printed in the ‘opinions’ section of a newspaper or other publication. They’re used to show readers’ issues of concern. Since the opinions section is often the most read, letters to the editor are very important for our movement to reach new eyes. We encourage our supporters across the country to write in a way that conveys their love for and desire to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Information on how and to whom to submit an LTE is usually found right on the ‘letters’ page in the paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed. If you can’t find the information you need, simply call the paper and ask how to go about submitting a letter.

The most effective letters have three main components

1. Your personal story for why the Boundary Waters and/or Wilderness areas in general are important to save and preserve for future generations. We often find that people’s personal stories about why the Boundary Waters is so important to them is the most effective way to show others the need to protect this special place. Be yourself and let your passion shine through. To get started, ask yourself some questions like these:

When did you first learn about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)?

Why is the BWCAW or wilderness in general important to you?

What motivated you to join the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters?

How would the proposed mines directly affect your future experiences in the BWCAW?

2. Include Facts. Refer to our fact sheets that can be found on the Save the Boundary Waters website under the “Media” tab. These provide excellent source material that can be used for your letter. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Courtney Otto ( or another staff member.

3. The ask. Main message. This is an extremely important part of the letter. This is when you call the readers to action and tell them how they can make a difference. Here’s our recommended ask:

“The proposed sulfide-ore copper nickel mining projects on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are the greatest threat our beloved canoe country has faced. If permitted these mines will irreparably harm the waters flowing into the heart of the Wilderness, putting the ecosystem, and everything that depends on it, at risk. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the oldest and most embattled Wilderness areas in America and it is up to us to protect its legacy for current and future generations. In order to accomplish this we need (insert name, org, etc) to take a stand and do what is right to protect our beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”

A few things to remember:

Refute, advocate, and make a call to action. Most letters to the editor follow a standard format. Open your letter by refuting the claim made in the original story the paper ran. Use the next few sentences to backup your claims and advocate for your position. Then wrap your letter up by explaining what you think needs to happen now, make your call to action. Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original and from the reader. Be sure that you take the time to write the letter in your own words. Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address, and daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Courtney Otto or other staff for help, and request our how-to guide. We recommend checking in with staff before submitting your letter.

Volunteer of the Month Blog: Lucy Soderstrom

Monday, November 4, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Lucy Soderstrom is a Minnesota native who took her love of the Boundary Waters with her all the way to Tacoma, Washington. She’s a Save the Boundary Waters Volunteer Ambassador who leads a group of volunteers in the Tacoma/Seattle area. She started her team in the summer of 2019.

At monthly meetings, Lucy and her team write letters to editors of local newspapers and try to spread the word about the organization’s mission. The team tables mainly at the University of Puget Sound, where Lucy is a student, but also at local coffee shops. Soon, they’ll be setting up a table in Patagonia in Seattle. Lucy also spends a lot of time connecting with local groups like the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people looking to make fighting climate change a priority across the United States. They’re currently working on collaborating on a crowd-sponsored event.

Lucy spends as much time as she can in her family’s cabin in Ely, Minnesota, at the edge of the BWCA. As a kid, she went to Camp Widjiwagan, a YMCA summer camp for canoeing and backpacking in the Boundary Waters, for 7 years as a camper, and 2 as a counselor. She says she “loved being able to invite kids to explore the boundary waters, learn about themselves through that space, and watch them grow in confidence in themselves and love of nature.”

One of her favorite memories from the Boundary Waters comes from Camp Widjiwagan. As a counselor, she led a trip with four 13- and 14-year-old girls “and it was like 29 hours of rain, straight rain, no pauses, and it was difficult to stay positive during that. And then the next morning, the sun came out and we were all so excited. We got out, we all just ran into the lake and went swimming because it was really nice.”

Lucy became interested in Boundary Waters activism in the 10th grade when she wrote a research paper about the PolyMet mine project. Soon afterward, she began volunteering for Save the Boundary Waters. After moving to Washington for college, she kept up to date on what was going on in the Campaign. After some reflection, she says, “there were a lot of people that I knew who care about the Boundary Waters, and I knew we could harness that energy. . . I realized that this is a perfect spot for a regional team,” she said. She loves hearing stories about people’s unexpected connections to the Boundary Waters.

After moving to Washington, being an ambassador for Save the Boundary Waters has connected Lucy to her former home. “I just love feeling like I can do something, and that I’m involved, and I’m seeing tangible accomplishments being made, because out here in Washington, it feels far away, and I miss the Boundary Waters,” she said. “It feels good to still be having an impact on the places I care about most.”

Learn more about our Volunteer Ambassador program here!

Boundary Waters Gala 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

On October 9, 2019 the Campaign held the second annual Boundary Waters Gala. Thank you to everyone who joined us to celebrate America's most visited Wilderness. We raised over $250,000 to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Over 450 guests joined us, including former Governor Mark Dayton, Vice President Walter Mondale, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, partner organizations such as The Wilderness Society, Voyageur Outward Bound School, and National Wildlife Federation, Crow River Trail Guards, and partner businesses such as Northstar, Wenonah, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Wintergreen, Women's Wilderness Discovery, Piragis Northwoods, Ely Outfitting Co., and more!

Our guest speakers included Paul Schurke, Will Steger, Ann Bancroft, Becky Rom, and Tom Landwehr, and former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was presented the 2019 Wilderness Warrior Award! 
VIP Reception
Nicollet Island Pavillon
Dave and Amy Freeman reading from A Year in the Wilderness
Gov. Mark Dayton receiving Wilderness Warrior Award
Video message from Sally Jewel
Animals from the Minnesota Zoo 
Boundary Waters Map
Paul Schurke and Ann Bancroft

7 Reasons to Fall for the Boundary Waters

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Every season offers a new experience in the Boundary Waters, but fall is always a favorite. With a changing palette of colors surrounding your visit, there's more than one reason to visit the Wilderness this fall. Not only will campsites be yours for the choosing, but seldom-seen wildlife literally come out of the woodwork, prepping for the cold months ahead. 

Here are a few reasons you should fall for the Boundary Waters this fall: 

1. Fall Colors: While the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is fighting to stop copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness, we fully support taking in the beauty of the copper-colored leaves and foliage that add to the beauty of this one-of-a-kind Lakeland Wilderness. 

2. Moose are in rut: Through late September, early October, Minnesota's arguably favorite mammal is slightly easier to spot as the moose are in rut, which means the bulls (males) are fighting each other for the chance to mate with a cow (female). 

3. Bear sightings increase: As these majestic creatures prepare for winter hibernation, bears become a more frequent sight in the Boundary Waters as they scavenge for food. 

4. Claim any campsite: With crisper nights and greyer days, many of the summer tourists have come and gone which means not only is it easier to get a permit in September to your favorite lake, you most likely will get your choice of scenic campsites. 

5. Self-issued permits: If you wait until October to plan your next Boundary Waters trip, there's no need to stop at the Ranger Station to get your permit. You can go directly to your entry point and fill out a self-issued, overnight permit.

6. Bonus scenery: An additional perk to any fall Boundary Waters trip is the extra scenic drive along the North Shore! With Superior National Forest Fall Colors Tour trails close to parts of the Boundary Waters, you'll get an added glimpse of this majestic Minnesota season with just the flick of your blinker.

7. We'll take you there: One of the many bonuses to supporting the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is us bringing the Boundary Waters to you when you can't make the trip up. Take a few seconds to watch this digital Fall Colors Tour below.


Wilderness Perspectives: Two Eagles

Monday, September 23, 2019
Posted by
Doug Wallace

Lac LaCroix — Tiger Bay at Sunset

Two Eagles 

Rising Sun yawned and crawled across tops of tall pines standing at attention. Sky had just cast off its predawn blanket revealing a deep bronze tinged blue, and looked at itself mirrored in Vermilion’s still waters. Canoe was eager for us to slide in, paddles laying along side her Ash gunnels. Shoving off, she moved her way toward a sliver of land and a tree holding a high plush branch pointing off to the northwest. Out of nowhere three eagles appeared, gliding toward that branch. One veered off while the others slowed together, like two ballet dancers landing softly as one on a gently swaying cushion of dew glistening green. They turned their majestic white heads and embraced rising Sun, as we glided below in awe. 

Doug Wallace, August, 2019

Bear Creek, in the BWCAW south of Pine Lake

Trout Lake (BWCAW)