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Poem | The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Posted by
Lanny Witter

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Author - Lanny Witter

After planning and anticipation, the time comes

There’s the sign that says you are now in the BWCAW

The daily cares quickly start washing away

Find that campsite you hope is empty

Scope it out, hang the food bag and erect tents

The first night it’s Brats and potatoes

Conversation and relaxation around a crackling camp fire

Retire early to be ready for the next day

Dawn arrives, time to rise, so quiet and peaceful

The tent zipper is so loud

Step out into the cool morning air

It is so quiet I can hear a pin drop

The hiss of the camp stove is the only sound

Enjoy a hot cup of coffee on a shore line rock

The granite rock has glacier scars

Not a sound - no breeze

The lake has a mist hovering over it

As the sun rises the mist melts away

The lake is smooth as glass and reflects clouds and trees

The quiet is interrupted by the plop of a jumping fish

The cry of a loon echoes across the lake

What a welcome wilderness sound that is

A breeze turns the lake into ripples

Then the sound of water lapping against the rocks

Time for pancakes that always taste better under the pine trees

Soon it is time to put the canoe in the water

All is quiet except for the sound of the paddle dipping into the water

There’s the sound of the canoe gliding across the lake

The scenic views are awesome and captivating

What is around the next bend you wonder

Portage past water rushing through a bed of rocks

When will we get to the end of the portage - the packs are heavy?

Suddenly you see a welcome patch of blue through the trees

What will the lake look like you wonder?

You arrive and unburden yourself of packs and canoe

Time for a shore lunch of trail mix and jerky

Each lake, portage and campsite are a new experience

Solitude, beautiful scenery, nature, sky blue waters, serenity

Observe picture perfect sunrise and sunsets from a lakeside rock

This is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Photo: Steve Piragis

Community Stories - Risking the Development of Our Youth

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Posted by
Ashley Bredemus

Pick any Saturday night in July and you’ll find a campfire in full swing at the end of the Gunflint Trail, a stone’s throw from entry point 55 into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Saturday night is my favorite night of the week for that very reason. Our 40 campers will have just come back from their canoe trips in the BWCAW, ready to share stories of their travels and sing songs like the Voyageurs before them.

At Camp Birchwood for Boys, we’ve been doing some rendition of trip-end campfires since my grandparents founded the wilderness camp in 1968. Nowadays, we call this tradition the Eagle’s Nest Campfire Circle.

We end every campfire with “kudos” - any camper with a statement of thanks, gratitude, or respect is welcome to stand up and share. You’d be surprised how long “kudos” can go amongst a group of young boys (ages 7-17)…some nights, over an hour! Our girls camp often runs even longer.

“I want to thank John for always carrying more weight on the portages than he needed to…even over Stairway Portage!”

“I’d like to give kudos to Henry and Nate for catching our dinner that last night and showing me how to cook it. That’s something I wouldn’t have learned at home. I’ll never forget the fight that Trout gave you guys!”

“Kudos to Taylor for singing songs with me in the canoe even though it was raining.”

“I’m giving my kudos to Carter because he was always the first person to start setting up camp. He never asked what to do, he just started doing something he knew would be helpful.”

“I really want to say kudos to my cabin mates for making this my best summer yet. I love you guys!”

By the time kudos is over, the sun has set, and our campers give one final battle cry over the quiet BWCAW before hiking back to their cabins, listening to the final loons calling out over the Seagull River.

When winter comes and it’s just my dad and me living on the property, I often think of those special campfire nights when Eagle’s Nest is alive with stories of nature, adventure, and camaraderie. I’m warmed by the memories of young campers expressing gratitude for his or her wilderness experience.

Often, our campers write to us as adults giving kudos to Camp and the Boundary Waters for shaping them into the people they are today, with respect, love, and need for the wilderness.

Then I think of the threat of mining in the BWCAW watershed, such a polarizing thought.

Over the past 50 years we have sent thousands of young men (and women) into the Boundary Waters. Thousands have reflected on their trips at Eagle’s Nest and thousands attribute their growth and development to the wilderness of Northern Minnesota.

This wild frontier, where our young campers can escape the pressures of modern society, finding equilibrium, clarity, and connection, is at risk.

It’s not just the development of our campers at risk either. There are many youth camps around the Boundary Waters with similar missions to ours - ultimately providing children with meaningful wilderness experiences that have a positive impact on their lives, in turn, making the world a better place.

However, according to the Twin Metals website, sulfide-ore copper mining will “contribute significant revenues to Minnesota’s K-12 public schools through the Minnesota Permanent School Fund.” Supporters would argue that the mining operation will do more for the development of our youth than the Boundary Waters could, rather than put it at risk.

Although, their contributions would only benefit Minnesota, I think we can all agree increased revenue to the school districts of the state would be positive. However, we have to ask ourselves, “At what cost?”

What example does that set for future generations if our once pristine wilderness vanishes?

They’ll be able to read about the simplicities of calling loons on quiet lakes deep in the Boundary Waters from authors like Sigurd Olson. They’ll hear boyhood stories from their grandfathers of running rapids or catching 25-year-old Lake Trout. They’ll hear of the joys attributed to camping in BWCAW, but they won’t know it for themselves.

Our future generations of youth will ask, “What happened to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area?”

What will we say?

My future grandchildren would likely ask their parents why Camp Birchwood is no longer sending out trips.

The answer: Copper-nickel mining won. Man placed profit over preservation. Short term financial gain eclipsed our connection to the land and, therefore, our human spirit.

However, that dim picture I’ve just painted does not have to be our reality! With your support, the BWCAW can serve generations of youth to come. Children, 100 years from now, can sit atop Eagle’s Nest around a campfire and share their own wilderness tales and give their own kudos.

So, in the spirit of tradition, kudos to everyone supporting the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. The effects of your help will last hundreds of years and serve countless children.

Happy Trails,

Ashley from An Outdoor Experience


Save the BWCA Ambassadors!

Saturday, April 27, 2019
Posted by
Courtney Otto
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is announcing a new initiative to help streamline the efforts of our volunteer program -
Save the Boundary Waters Ambassadors!

Learn more about how to get involved!

Our first Ambassadors and their volunteer teams:

Kate Conway in Scottsdale, Arizona with her Greater Scottsdale Save the Boundary Waters team of volunteers

John Sand in Austin, MN with his Austin Save the Boundary Waters team of volunteers.

Both Kate and John are working with their volunteers on the following goals: 1. Getting a Letter to the Editor in local papers; 2. Setting up an event to educate the public about copper-nickel mining in the watershed of the Boundary waters; 3. Meeting with local elected officials asking them to protect the Boundary Waters.

So, are you somebody with an outgoing personality and strong leadership skills? Do you love the Boundary Waters? Are you passionate about educating and activating the people in your area to help save the BWCA? Then volunteer to be a Save the Boundary Waters Ambassador!

Ambassadors are a crucial part of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and they work closely with Campaign staff to develop and strengthen a team of volunteers. These teams then use efficient and strategic tactics aligned with overarching Campaign goals that will educate and activate people within their areas. This helps us build the people power that we need to protect the Boundary Waters!

All Ambassadors will also be trained in the following skills:

  • How to take a stand for the Boundary Waters

  • How to interact and advocate for a healthy Boundary Waters with elected officials and land management agencies

  • Grassroots organizing techniques

  • Leadership, communication, and lobbying skills

Learn more about how to get involved!

Volunteer Spotlight: Audrey Jewett!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Why do you like volunteering for the Campaign?

It has always been so fun and easy to talk about the Boundary Waters! Like so many others I shape my summers around this place, so it only feels right to share the awesomeness of the BWCA with others, and how we can protect it! I first presented to my high school, Benilde St. Margaret's in 2014 after signing Dave and Amy's signature Canoe in Duluth, at the first days of their Paddle to D.C. trek. Since then the campaign has grown so much, and I feel lucky to have been apart of it all.

What is your favorite event you’ve ever volunteered at?
The MN state fair 2018 was a blast! Getting to talk to the sheer numbers of Boundary Waters supporters that came through our booth was an absolute joy.

What is your favorite lake?

Clearwater lake! Hiking up the Palisades is the best!

Favorite memory in the Boundary Waters?

My boyfriend and I camped on Caribou Lake a few years ago and took a trip to Johnson Falls. We had the most spectacular picnic under the waterfall, a moment I truly will never forget.

What would you never go to the Boundary Waters without?

My coffee press - can't go without my coffee!

Why do you want to protect the Boundary Waters?

The Boundary Waters has been exhaustively protected to maintain it's current status as a roadless wilderness and federally protected wilderness area. There is precious little undeveloped land left on our earth, and the BWCA looks nearly identical to how it did hundreds of years ago. However, threats to its purity are mounting. I feel a sense of urgency to elevate this issue before time runs out.

I feel deeply connected to this place as so many others do; I was lucky enough to spend a week in Ely each summer with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, paddling in for day trips just outside Ely, and just soaking up all the Ely community had to offer. These childhood carefree memories will stick with me forever. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I try to remember those strolls down to Miners Lake and Shagwa lake, waiting for my uncle to get off work at Piragis so we could all walk the dogs together and lay in the hammock. I am intricately connected to the strength of these communities and when I am speaking for the Boundary Waters, I also speak for the 17,000 local jobs supported by the tourism and outdoor recreation economy of Ely, Grand Marais, and the surrounding area.

I was introduced to the richness of these end-of-the-road communities, and it is clear these communities form around something greater than all of us. It wasn't until high school that I began taking more extensive camping trips into the BWCA, and was able to fully understand the vastness of this place, but my deep love and appreciation for those economies that thrive off the outdoor recreation economy grounds me in my work to, As Edward Abbey once said, "Keep it as it was".

You are working to build up a campus organization for the Boundary Waters at DePaul University. Why is it so important to you to get students involved in the Campaign?

DePaul is a Vincentian University, modeled after the life and work of Saint Vincent DePaul. His motto, and consequently the University's, was "What Must Be Done". My four years on this campus have taught me how to pursue social justice through action, and leaders of the campaign to Save the BWCA have as well. Using the tools I've been given through my coursework and fieldwork experience, I now feel called to share with others what must be done for the Boundary Waters. We cannot afford to risk this indescribable place. I am inspired by the Kids for the Boundary Waters group flying into DC, so I am currently planning agendas for three events on campus this week to support their efforts. This week we'll be signing the petition, writing letters to our elected officials, and forming our next Chicago meet up.

Sign up here to be a volunteer!

Volunteer Appreciation Week

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
One of the best ways to get involved with the Campaign is to volunteer. 
Sign up here!

Some of our volunteer opportunities include the tabling at events, lobbying at the Capitol, the Minnesota State Fair, brewery fundraisers, paddling events, phone banking, data entry, creating art, hosting an event in your community, giving presentations and so much more! 

Sign up here to be a volunteer!

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Bose!

Monday, April 22, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

It's Volunteer Appreciation Week and we are highlighting our awesome volunteers! Learn more about Tom Bose.

Why do you want to protect the Boundary Waters?

We have so few national treasures left. We have a responsibility to our children and our grandchildren to pass those few to them untarnished. Among the national treasures, the Boundary Waters is the only canoeing wilderness – absolutely unique for us. Would we tear down Independence Hall to build an office complex? Nor should we damage the Boundary Waters for a handful of 30-year jobs. We need to stay true to our responsibility to our children and grandchildren.

When did you first volunteer?

Cannot remember for sure. Four to five years ago. I remember Becky Rom made a presentation at the Minneapolis Club. As folks were leaving, I asked how I might volunteer.

Why do you like volunteering for the Campaign?

Multiple organizations are working along multiple lines to protect the Boundary Waters. Among those organizations the Campaign is most focused. The Campaign has a clear goal: permanent protection in legislation banning sulfide ore mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. The Campaign has a strategy to achieve that goal and is executing on the strategy.

What is your favorite event you’ve ever volunteered at?

The State Fair. You meet folks from all over the state from all sorts of backgrounds. Many leave the booth as supporters.

Tom Bose delivering petitions at Minnesota State Fair 2017.

What is your favorite lake?

Farm Lake. Grew up in Indianapolis. In May, 1952 my Dad came from visiting a neighbor. He said, “I just heard about a boys camp in this fabulous place in Minnesota. I went there in the 1930s with five guys. For two weeks we paddle a route called Hunters Island. You have to go.” In June I boarded a train for Duluth. Arrived at Camp Voyageur on Farm Lake a day later.

I was a camper and then a counselor at Camp Voyageur. Made friends there. In the middles 1970s a half dozen of us bought lots along the west shore of Farm Lake. We built cabins together. Our children and now even our grandchildren are learning the experience. We look across Farm Lake to the entrance to the North Kawishiwi, entry point 31 – an entry to a special place.

Favorite memory in the Boundary Waters?

So many special memories from that first campsite on Horse Lake in 1962 to moon light snowshoeing on the North Kawishiwi this past winter. No way to pick one favorite.

What would you never go to the Boundary Waters without?

Friends. The Boundary Waters experience is best shared.

Have you seen any interesting wildlife on your BWCA trips?

All sorts of birds. The red of the scarlet tanager munching seed pods at our misty July campsite on Gabbro. The pine siskins busy in the Norways at our September campsite on Lac La Croix. The snow geese on the Dahlgren River this past October. The Canadian jays that visited our Little Saganaga campsite for a piece of pancake. The loons calling role around Ima Lake. Chickadees everywhere.

Campaign update on the copper-nickel mining near BWCA

Monday, April 22, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

An update on the proposed sulfide-ore copper nickel mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

Proposed mine site. Photo: Brad Carlson

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has been busy meeting with agency and elected officials to track the progress of the federal leases being renewed for mining giant Antofagasta on the edge of the Wilderness.  Here's what we know:

1. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has concluded the public input process of the cursory Environmental Assessment (EA) on the lease renewal.  It is now reviewing comments. We don't know its timeline for completion. The Forest Service has taken a very limited role in these proceedings, even though it has the authority to lead all environmental review processes for leasing.

2. The BLM has said it will renew two federal leases examined in the EA. These leases were terminated in 2016, unlawfully reinstated in 2018 and are held by Twin Metals, the Minnesota shell entity for Antofagasta. More than 94,000 comments were submitted in opposition to lease renewal and reams of scientific reports, yet it is apparent that the BLM will fast-track this without regard to the scores of thousands of comments it has received in opposition, or the facts and science submitted to the BLM. The EA failed to consider any of the studies and reports that document the risk of harm to the Boundary Waters, the mammals, birds, and fish of the Wilderness, the impacts to clean water and clean air, and the loss of wilderness character of the Boundary Waters.

3. Once the federal leases are renewed, Antofagasta may seek to submit a "Mine Plan of Operations". This is a high-level description of the mine project - the location of facilities, the proposal for handling waste, the plan for "reclaiming" disturbed lands (which really are never restored), and similar elements. There is some question about whether a mine plan can actually be submitted because of legal challenges to the adequacy of federal environmental review and challenges to any issued federal mineral leases.

Antofagasta had previously said it would submit its mine plan in 2019, so we are monitoring developments and activity on the ground.  Clearly, the mining company and the Trump administration are doing everything they can to force this project to fruition as soon as they can.  We are doing our best to compel them to follow the law, and to find as the previous administration did, that it is simply unacceptable to site a sulfide-ore copper mine adjacent the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The Campaign returns to Washington, D.C.

Monday, April 15, 2019
Posted by
Tom Landwehr

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters was back in Washington, D.C., last week meeting with partners. Learn more about our latest trip. 

The federal government is currently working on renewing leases that had been terminated in 2016.  In order to avoid a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement, the administration in 2017 flaunted law and process by first "reinstating" the leases that had previously expired. By "reinstating" the leases, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declared that the leases had not expired, so Twin Metals, owned by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, could apply to "renew" the leases and get a multi-year extension. Why go through these contortions and become the subject of litigation? (Yes, we are suing!) Why not just issue new leases? The reason is simple: a new lease would require a full environmental review and would require concurrence of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Antofagasta and the mining friends in the Administration knew that the project could never be found to be harmless, hence, a reinstatement.

On our D.C. trips, we are meeting with partners to demand more transparency in this process, and to ensure that the best science is used in decision-making. We have strong allies on our side, and our concerns are being heard. For example, Congressional oversight committees provide funds and guide policy at the federal agencies. In at least 7 of these oversight committees in the last 2 months, where leadership from BLM and USFS have appeared, Congressional representatives have raised serious questions about the lease renewal process. We are especially thankful to Representatives Betty McCollum, Raul Grijalva, and Alan Lowenthal for their diligence and doggedness in getting the agencies to follow the law.

Below is an oversight hearing (House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands) we attended where USFS Chief Vickie Christensen (left, back to camera) and BLM Deputy Director Brian Steed were questioned.

Our work with Congress and national partners is critical to preventing the renewal of these leases, or ensuring they follow a rigorous environmental review process if they can't be stopped. It is inconceivable the federal government could find that this proposed mine would be compatible next to America’s most-visited Wilderness. A broad coalition of partners - local, state, and national - is essential to make sure the voice of Minnesota and America is heard.

Help us hold this administration’s feet to the fire. Donate today to protect the Boundary Waters.

Conserve With Us - Businesses working together for Earth Month!

Friday, April 5, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Thanks to Conserve With Us and all business partners for making it easy for your customers to take action to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness during the month of April. We greatly appreciate your continued support to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters.

We thank the 14 businesses who are helping take action with us this month!

Check out the 300+ member Boundary Waters Business Coalition!

“I would never go to the Boundary Waters without…”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Gear is an essential part of planning a Boundary Waters trip. There’s a lot to consider when packing your portage packs. What will the weather be like? Is this sleeping bag warm enough? Is my portage pack too heavy? We asked a few members of our staff what things they would never go to the Boundary Waters without:

“I've got a lot to say about my cast iron pan. What's my word count limit?!”
- Alex, Public Affairs and Legislative Director

“A cribbage board and deck of cards are an essential part of any Boundary Waters trip. Whether it's a rainy day inside the tent or a late night of laughs in the Wilderness, there's a cribbage match from every Boundary Waters trip I've taken that's made each one even more memorable.”
- Lauren, Communications Director

“It's a significant list, but the bare minimum begins with a Silva Ranger compass and strike-anywhere matches in a water-tight container.  Add to that wool base layer, insulation layers and a waterproof shell.”
Matt, Policy Director

“The map(s) for the route I plan to do plus adjoining maps because I'll likely go there instead and 10% of the trip calorie budget in Snickers candy bars. “
- Lisa, Science and Policy Associate

“Helinox ground chair! No more logs or rocks to sit on - as the old guys like to say: ‘we don't go to the woods to rough it, we go to smooth it. Things are rough enough in the cities!’"
- Tom, Executive Director

“Some personal fave things I don't like to go without: favorite snack of pineapple rings I partially dehydrate at home (they get so sticky and delicious!), a sketch book and pen in a plastic baggie, a roomy hammock, and my JetBoil. Also Salted Nut Rolls - perfect cure for afternoon hangry.”
- Sam, Deputy Campaign Manager

“My wife and I once brought playing cards only to realize we had forgotten the rules for almost all the card games we thought we remembered how to play. We clearly had become overly reliant on the internet to refresh our memories. Now we always bring a little sheet with various card game rules.”
- Carter, Development Officer

“Coffee and my canoe chair, because I like sitting on a rock and enjoying the sunrise with a warm beverage in hand before everyone wakes up.”
- Megan, Communications Specialist

“A backpack full of old and comfy band t-shirts, some scary podcasts downloaded onto my phone to ensure I won’t sleep, and a full privacy curtain.”
- Nicole, Administrative Coordinator

"Camp shoes. Basic comfort, but it's a great feeling when you stick your sweaty feet in fresh shoes."
- Ingrid, Development Manager