In early September, the administration quietly announced that it would end consideration of a mining ban on lands surrounding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and canceled an environmental assessment that would examine the effects of mining on the region.
The Boundary Waters is a million-plus acre wilderness area in the Superior National Forest in the northern part of Minnesota. It is the most popular wilderness area in the country, famous for canoeing, paddling, and hiking. It’s an unusual geography with a spectacular, interconnected system of lakes, rivers, and streams set into white pine and cedar forests. Multi-day canoe trips are popular in the Boundary Waters, and local outdoor businesses have thrived in proximity to the Wilderness.
Proposed mines would have a devastating impact on the landscape, its outdoor recreation, and the outdoor businesses that depend on it. Sulfide-ore copper mining, in particular, has a high risk of contaminating nearby water and the risk of polluting the Boundary Waters lakes is high.
The administration appears to have moved forward with little regard to public input. Over the years, the BLM and Forest Service have held many public comment periods and the vast majority of Minnesotans and the public were in favor of withdrawing mining in the region.
Where do we go from here? Right now, there’s not a perfect outlet for public participation, especially given the Department of Agriculture’s deaf ear toward many of the recent public comment periods. In the past, Minnesota lawmakers have proposed bills that would withdraw mining permanently in the region, but there is no current legislation in Congress.
If you’d like to act, the best way forward now is to write to your lawmakers raising the profile of the Boundary Waters and setting the stage for further action, either legislation that would protect the region or a potential future administrative mining withdrawal. We’ve made it really easy to send a message to your elected officials about this special place: