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Bringing the Next Generation to the Wilderness

Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Posted by
Sam Chadwick

Last summer, I planned a somewhat last-minute Boundary Waters overnight canoe trip with my family, while we were living and working for several weeks in the Ely area. Permits to nearby spots were hard to come by (we had not planned ahead hey!), and so I picked what was available - South Moose River (entry point 8).

We rented a LARGE canoe to carry all 5+ of us - the Wenonah 4. I was about 6 months pregnant, and this would be the first canoe trip for our 6 and 3 year olds too. My cousin was along in addition to my husband and me, which was so necessary to help wrangle the kids and the stuff!

We rented the boat, some additional paddles and PFDs, and a Garmin Inreach device (in case of emergency) from Piragis Northwoods Company. I have my own gorgeous handmade Glorud paddle and Matt has a Bending Branches paddle. We have MTI Life Jackets for the whole family, and all our gear packs up nicely in our Granite Gear portage packs.

We had been staying at Lodge of Whispering Pines, on Big Lake, west of Ely via the Echo Trail. We drove a little farther along the Echo trail, took a left on a small road to come to our entry point. The river turned out to be a narrow, long meandering passage through beaver-dam created marshy pools. Five miles of that. Our very long canoe was extra work to steer through the zig-zagging pathway.

It seemed to work best like this: If I'm in the stern of the canoe, as we approach a twisty turn in the route, I call out for the bow paddler to paddle backward on whichever side I need. I then do AGGRESSIVE c-strokes on the opposite side, so the watercraft basically stops all forward movement and just rotates. Even this was not enough - sometimes we would gently crash into the humps of tall marsh grass.

Crossing a beaver damWe passed multiple super impressive beaver lodges and saw a few beavers quickly swimming out of sight. In one spot we had to climb out of the canoe in the middle of the marsh, precariously stand on waterlogged branches along an expansive beaver dam, and yank our canoe up and over the dam onto the higher water above. The beaver dams along this route are IMPRESSIVE. Spanning across quite a distance and holding back an immense amount of water. The critters must stay quite busy making and maintaining these and their lodges. The landscape looked a little different than our outfitter had recalled so I bet it changes year to year a bit as the beavers continue their engineering.

The kids did not seem to get bored or tired, they were such troopers. Cassidy loved nothing more than to drag his hands in the water alongside the canoe. Which then of course we had to try and keep him from sucking his thumb with pond-water or reed debris on his hands.

The route had two not-so-long portages. The canoe was ridiculously large as I said, and thus heavier than ideal. Matt carried the canoe, I carried a baby in my uterus - ok also the lighter of the portage packs and maybe some life jackets and paddles, my cousin Johanna carried the big pack and the big tent and did the doubling-back to pick up other things. We kept the kids on the trail between the first and last of our party, and they trudged right along on their own, pep-talking each other and just being generally adorable little kids hiking through the big woods. I was so proud of them.

We reached Big Moose lake and were happy to see more wide open water after the miles of skinny water trials through thick beaver ponds. The lake was quite shallow all the way across - you could see the bottom in many places. The first two campsites across the north edge of the lake looked occupied so we kept on. We found a retired campsite (the fire grate had been taken away but otherwise looked very recent!) but then just around the corner, a lovely big campsite with big rocks along the shore and stately tall trees all around.

We really should have stayed an extra night, for all the work it took to make it there! But we had a lovely afternoon and evening, and long next morning before packing up to paddle out. The kids loved playing with sticks and rocks. Cass found a stick he kept pretending to play like a recorder/clarinet which he called his "flute." Johanna set up a hammock. Evey and I went swimming in the evening, hooting and laughing as we floated around in the cool water.

The thing I remember most from the trip back out was stopping for lunch at the end of a portage to enjoy some Patagonia Provisions smoked salmon with our trail mix and other goodies. It was so good! Also, very smelly, and we were glad we'd eaten it last instead of carrying around fish-smelling wrappers for any longer.

Back at the car, we loaded up and drove into Ely to return our rental stuff and stopped for dinner at Insula. We were all so drained, not to mention a little dusty & dirty! By dusk we were back at our cozy cabin.

The route turned out to be more difficult and more work than I had intended for a first trip with little kids (and pregnant mom), but it worked out well and was a great time. With all the paddling and portaging, it was the way I'd usually want a Boundary Waters canoe trip to feel: a little bit challenging. We definitely should have stayed at least another night out there! I was delighted, but not surprised to see the kids enjoying themselves so much in the wilderness, just loving hiking and climbing on rocks and playing with water and among the tree trunks.

Highly recommend taking the littles in your life on a Boundary Waters canoe trip.

-Samantha Chadwick
Moose River to Big Moose Lake, August 2019

Help us protect the Boundary Waters for families and future generations of paddlers. 

Boundary Waters Day: A history of protecting the Wilderness

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters celebrates October 21, this landmark date, as “Boundary Waters Day.” 42 years ago, on October 21, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act. This Act expanded the size of the Wilderness and added important protections. The 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Act was marked by Governor Mark Dayton, who issued a proclamation highlighting the passage in 2018.

The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited Wilderness, a canoe country Wilderness with over 1,100 lakes to paddle through and portage to. We must continue to protect this unique landscape for future generations. Take action now to protect the legacy of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness:


Tell your Congressional Representative to Protect the Boundary Waters

Tell Senators Klobuchar and Smith to Protect the Boundary Waters (Minnesota Only)

History of Boundary Waters Protections

The Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest are Anishinaabe land. The Boundary Waters region and the Superior National Forest are within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory where Anishinaabe people (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa) have lived for generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act: 

  • Banned logging

  • Banned mineral development and mining 

  • Banned snowmobile use within the Wilderness 

  • Phased out motor boat usage and limited the size of motor boats, while leaving some lakes open to motor boat usage (22% of the water surface area). 

  • Established a 220,000 acre buffer area around the three major entry points to the Wilderness where no mining would be allowed 

  • Directed the Forest Service to maintain the high water quality of the Wilderness and the buffer area and to minimize to the maximum extent possible the environmental impacts associated with mineral development affecting the Boundary Waters and the federal buffer area.

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

In January 2020, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum introduced a bill in Congress that would protect the Boundary Waters by withdrawing 234,328 acres of federal lands and minerals from the federal mining program.  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, Canada’s Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park. This bill passed out of the Natural Resource Committee in September and heads to the House floor for a vote by the entire U.S. House of Representatives. 


Tell your Congressional Representative to Protect the Boundary Waters

Tell Senators Klobuchar and Smith to Protect the Boundary Waters (Minnesota Only)

The 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Act was marked by Governor Mark Dayton, who issued a proclamation shown above!

Pebble Mine corruption looks a lot like Twin Metals

Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

By now, you’ve heard about the scandal rocking the Pebble mining company that has proposed to mine copper and gold in the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska. The proposed mine would devastate the most significant salmon fishery in the state, trample on indigeous rights, and leave a pollution legacy for generations. Sound familiar? The case has an amazing number of similarities to Antofagasta’s Twin Metals proposed mine. 

  1. Both operations - Pebble’s parent company of Northern Dynasty and Twin Metals’ owner, Antofagasta - are foreign companies. Northern Dynasty is based in Canada and Antofagasta is based in Chile. Both multi-nationals operate in the United States with wholly owned subsidiaries intended to shield the parent mining companies from liability (Pebble Limited Partnership and Twin Metals Minnesota LLC), and have hired local leaders to give the appearance of a home-grown project. Doubtless, this legal structure provides much protection for the true owners of the projects. Make no mistake, these foreign mining companies that own the proposed Pebble mine and Twin Metals mine have no allegiance to the communities they propose to work in - it is all about private profits. But the local leaders - really fronts for the mining companies - usually stand to gain substantially if or when a mine is permitted. Tom Collier, Pebble’s ex-CEO, for example, was to receive a bonus of $12.5M if the project got permitted.

  2. Both operations have extremely questionable rental arrangements with key elected officials. In 2016, the patriarch of the family that controls Antofagasta made his first Washington, D.C. residential acquisition - a mansion in high-end Kalorama district in Washington, DC. Within days, Antofagasta’s owner rented the mansion (for below-market rates) to Ivanka and Jared Kushner (who still live there). With Pebble, the Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors rents an apartment from a staffer of Alaska Congressman Dan Sullivan. This coziness is beyond the pale, and anyone with any integrity would avoid it like the plague.

  3. The worst part of the rental arrangement is the implication of access to key elected officials, and this is where some of the most egregious similarities are found. In both projects, there is demonstrable evidence that the companies have influence over key local elected officials, and a behind-the-scenes access to top officials in the Trump administration. The Pebble CEO asserted a strong connection to both Alaska Senators but also a strong connection to Alaska’s Governor who, he said, could get immediate access to the White House Chief of Staff anytime he wanted. This is a stark similarity to the relationship between Twin Metals, two Minnesota Congressmen, and top political appointees in the key departments - Interior and Agriculture, according to documents secured in Freedom of Information Act Requests. Minnesota U.S. Reps. Stauber and Emmer have both been vocal supporters of the Twin Metals project. Political appointees in these departments have directed  agencies to reverse Obama-era Boundary Waters protections and prohibitions on sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and instead steamroll the proposed Twin Metals mine through the leasing and environmental review processes. Rep. Emmer is head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the US House of Representatives. Because of that position, he has extraordinary access to the top levels of the Trump administration. Emails we’ve seen show that these Congressmen successfully influenced federal agencies to make lease terms more favorable to Twin Metals, at their request!

  4. Under the Trump administration, federal oversight agencies have issued narrow and surprisingly uninformed environmental reviews of the impact of the respective projects. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a very cursory Environmental Assessment on the renewal of Twin Metals federal mineral leases that failed to consider any environmental impacts. We are suing the BLM because of the wholly inadequate review, including the failure to consider the impact of sulfide-ore copper mining on the Boundary Waters. In the case of Pebble, the Army Corps of Engineers found the mine would not impact the irreplaceable salmon fishery of Bristol Bay. In both cases, the agencies reversed opposite findings issued under the Obama administration, decisions that were carefully and rigorously based on scientific review.

  5. In the recently released secret recordings, Pebble’s ex-CEO Tom Collier (he resigned) asserted point blank that Pebble mine would grow immensely past it’s proposed footprint. In fact, he said it could operate for centuries. This, in spite of the fact that the proposal submitted to the government was for a 20 year operation. Collier testified in 2019 that there were no plans to expand, even though that would leave 90% of the known deposit in the ground. That is almost identical to the situation at Twin Metals. The mine plan of operations Twin Metals submitted to state and federal agencies calls for a 25-year mining operation extracting 182 million tons of ore. In a 2018 report to its shareholders, Antofagasta provided information that shows that the mine plan Twin Metals submitted to federal and state agencies represented just 7.3% of the total tonnage it controlled; if it developed all of its assets, then the full project could be as much as 13.7 times larger than the filed mine plan. A mine fully developed would require toxic tailings waste storage that could cover up to 18.4 square miles of surface lands, all located very close to the shores of Birch Lake and  immediately upstream of the fragile Boundary Waters.   As Collier was quoted as saying, “Once you have something like this in production, why would you want to stop?” 

  6. A majority of citizens of both states opposed the respective projects. In Alaska, a 2019 poll showed 54% of residents opposed the project. In Minnesota, various polls over the years have shown between 62 to 70% opposition among Minnesota voters, including a 2020 StarTribune poll that showed 62% opposition. A poll from July 2020 showed that 68% of Minnesota voters support a permanent ban on copper mining next to the Boundary Waters.

It most surely appears that Twin Metals is using Pebble Mining’s playbook. One can only infer the shady manipulations between the company and the federal government are intended to conceal the real scope of the project and gloss over its guaranteed environmental destruction. With a strong majority of citizens opposed to this project, and knowing how these companies are operating, we have to wonder why our more honest elected officials haven’t yet killed this project. Let’s make sure they know that we won’t let Twin Metals pull a Pebble Mining fast one on us.

Bruce Vento Tribute

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Posted by
Becky Rom - National Campaign Chair

Today we celebrate Bruce Vento, who was a tireless advocate for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He was born 80 years ago today. 

Bruce Vento served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 until his death in 2000, representing Minnesota's 4th congressional district. Vento worked hard to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and many other public lands across the country. His successor Rep. Betty McCollum continues to be a Champion for the Boundary Waters today. 

Read the tribute below that was given by National Campaign Chair Becky Rom at an event honoring Bruce’s years of public service shortly before he died. 


September 9, 2000 By Becky Rom

We gather tonight to say thank you to Congressman Bruce Vento and to celebrate his career as a champion of our cause. When Mr. Vento steps down this coming January, he will have served in Congress for 24 years.For every one of those years, Bruce Vento has held a pivotal position on the House Resources Committee. For over ten years, Bruce Vento chaired that Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.As Subcommittee Chair, his inspired leadership resulted in the protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of America's lands and the enactment of over 300 laws protecting and preserving our natural environment.

Congressman Vento has been a tireless advocate for wilderness protection. Under his guidance, Congress protected the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and new parks and wilderness stretching from Alaska to Nevada to the American Samoa. Congressman Vento donned the mantle of protector of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park when he stepped into the halls of Congress in 1977 and he wears it today. Bruce was a key player in the passage of the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act, known as the Burton-Vento bill, and during the past 6 years he has been an unparallelled and tireless defender during the bitter and divisive attacks on the integrity of the canoe country. During this last fight, motorboat advocates argued that there were three portages that were too difficult to traverse when pulling a motorboat mounted on portage wheels and that they needed trucks to haul the boats. Congressman Helen Chenoweth scheduled a field hearing, to be held on one of these portages. Congressman Vento and I were both there. The portage actually is one of the gentler portages in the wilderness and not particularly long; travelers with a canoe and packs-or a 14foot fishing boat, for that matter- would cross portages like this one without giving it a second thought. But the motorboat advocates were determined to prove that it was impossible to traverse this portage pushing a boat on portage wheels. To demonstrate this, they showed up with a large and heavy motorboat, loaded down with coolers and all sorts of miscellaneous fishing gear - and, to top it off, with three outboard motors attached. Cocky and grinning, they were convinced that they were about to show that Bruce Vento could not portage a boat across the portage. Bruce walked to the back of the boat- resting in the water- and, with determination and will-power, lifted that boat out of the water, and with Helen Chenoweth walking at the bow, pushed that heavy monster of a boat across the portage.

Congressman Vento fought relentlessly for the highest standards of stewardship at all four federal land management agencies - the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. He led his colleagues on the Subcommittee to support ever-stronger wilderness bills while skillfully deflecting countless proposals for low-quality parks or commercialization of natural areas. He supported a broadening of the National Park Service mission to include social, industrial, and labor history, not just the "great men and the great battles." His bipartisan work eventually resolved a decades old dispute over Park Service concessionaires.

Congressman Vento is famous for mastering the details of every land use law in existence. Shortly after the Republicans took control of the House and Congressman Jim Hansen became Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, an obscure public lands issue arose during a hearing. Jim Hansen did not know the law; he turned to his counsel, who, with a shrug of shoulders, indicated that he didn't know it either. They whispered to each other for a moment, and then Jim Hansen turned, very reluctantly, toward Bruce Vento and said that perhaps the gentleman from Minnesota "could help us out." Well, Congressman Vento could, and he was off and running, talking nonstop for 15 minutes or so, completely in command of the subject. 

Congressman Vento stood firm against the "property rights" and "takings" movements of the early 1990's. Not just a public lands person, he led efforts in the House in the 1970's to strengthen the Clean Air Act to regulate more than just soot, as it originally did. 

He did all of this, protection of public lands and the environment, for no political gain, but from his deep and personal love of nature.

This past January Congressman Vento was diagnosed with a virulent strain of cancer. He is leaving Congress to devote his energies to overcoming this new and daunting challenge and for that reason also he is unable to join us this evening. Knowing full well of his courage and tenacity, we know that he will overcome this challenge as he has so many others.

Congressman Vento's accomplishments are great, but I want to tell you something about the man behind these statistics. Bruce was born on the East Side of the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, the second of 8 children. His four grandparents immigrated from the "old country." Some people ask, where did Bruce, a city boy, get his love of nature? Bruce tells this story in answer to the question. His love of nature grew out of his relationship with his Italian grandfather, who used to take Bruce mushroom picking. His grandfather knew all the different types of mushrooms that grew in the woods of Minnesota. After Bruce and his grandfather returned from mushroom picking, Bruce's Italian grandmother would cook the mushrooms. First she would feed some to the family cat, and then to Bruce's grandfather. If they both lived, she would then feed the mushrooms to the rest of the family. The East Side of St. Paul, where Bruce continues to live, is home to blue collar workers - and they have no better friend than Congressman Vento. After working in factories, he taught science in the public schools for ten years, a clear manifestation of his love for the natural world. Drawing on these roots, Bruce Vento has focused on improving the status of the ordinary working person in health, housing, and education. His vision was that everyone could get an education that would allow him to have a decent job, an affordable house, enough security to have the time to enjoy the natural wonders, and an education that included an understanding and appreciation of nature. Because of Congressman Vento, many more Americans can enjoy all of these, but most especially the natural world.

Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Bruce Vento, our champion of parks and defender of wilderness. 



"What Trump’s new executive order actually means for mining in Minnesota"

Monday, October 5, 2020
Posted by
Becky Rom - National Campaign Chair

Read an article from Minnpost "What Trump’s new executive order actually means for mining in Minnesota" 

On September 30, 2020, in Duluth MN, President Trump announced a new Executive Order to accelerate mine permitting. This could steamroll the process of putting a sulfide-ore copper mine next the Boundary Waters.

This new Executive Order signals a clear and present danger. The Trump admininstration continues its rush to weaken the review and permitting process and bypass critical input from the public.

Donate now and help us protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining. 

President Trump’s Executive Order declares it a national emergency that the United States does not have more mines, smelters, and refineries, and authorizes the use of taxpayer dollars in the form of grants, loans, and loan guarantees for mining companies to build more mining infrastructure. The President’s rationale is that the United States views it as a threat that America’s domestic mineral supply chain depends on foreign countries.

In May 2019 federal agencies gave away the nation’s minerals in the Superior National Forest - at the edge of the Boundary Waters - to a foreign mining conglomerate, Antofagasta, a company that has no fidelity or loyalty to the United States, and stripped out longstanding lease provisions that required the mining company to return to the United States the same quantity of copper and nickel it shipped out of the country for processing. Antofagasta has long term contracts with mineral processors located in China; all of its minerals are shipped overseas for this purpose.

The Executive Order does not return to the American people the copper and nickel it gave away to Antofagasta. The Executive Order does not require Antofagasta to process any minerals from mines in the Superior National Forest in the United States.

Also, although the Executive Order directs federal departments and agencies to accelerate the issuance of permits and completion of mining projects, it does not give federal agencies any new tools nor does it immunize them from existing laws. Federal environmental review of a Twin Metals mine plan commenced in mid-summer and, according to the federal agencies, will continue until September 2022. Only after the completion of environmental review can mine permitting be processed. Therefore, it does not appear that this Executive Order will have any short term impact on a proposed Twin Metals mine. A state environmental review and permitting process is not affected by this Executive Order.

The Executive Order does signal that this administration’s highest priority for America’s public lands is mining, even those public lands that form the headwaters of the Boundary Waters, a pristine lakeland wilderness that is extensively crisscrossed with lakes, rivers, and wetlands and a place where clean water is an imperative for the survival of the ecosystem.

Read the article from Minnpost here

HR5598 passes out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

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.

Learn more:

What Rep. McCollum’s bill H.R.5598 would do to protect the Boundary Waters

Q&A: Fact checking the hearing on the HR5598



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.

Minnesotans: Please send a note right now to our Minnesota Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar telling them to introduce this bill in the Senate. 

Help Us Get Out the Vote

Monday, September 28, 2020
Posted by
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

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 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!

Wilderness Classroom

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Posted by
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

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:

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.

Vote the Boundary Waters

Monday, September 21, 2020
Posted by
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

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. 

Make a plan to vote!

Minnesota Registration Deadlines:
Online: Oct. 13
By mail: Received by Oct. 13
In person: Nov. 3


Double check to make sure you're registered to vote!

Due to COVID 19 states are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this years. Every state’s election rules are different. Requesting an absentee ballot and mail it in as soon as you can.
Minnesota absentee ballot deadlines
Request: Nov. 2
Return by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3
Return in person: Nov. 3 by 3:00 p.m.

If you would prefer to vote in person, find your polling place ahead of time and make a plan for when you want to go.

Other ways to be involved: 

Sign up to become a poll worker

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.

Wilderness Act of 1964

Thursday, September 3, 2020
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

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: