Additional Reading

The history of the Boundary Waters region is rich with people who possessed the foresight to protect this beautiful land. These people ranged from average citizens who argued for their beloved canoe country in their hometowns to powerful politicans who waged long, exhausting campaigns to pass the legislation necessary to set this land aside as Wilderness.

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has always been where all those different people came together to work for that common cause. The history of the Friends is the history of the hard-fought victories that made possible this wild land of lakes and rivers that so many people return to year after year to seek adventure, beauty, rejuvenation, and solitude.

The Friends came into existence in 1976. In the middle of that year, the organization published its first newsletter. Two years later, in 1978, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, the culmination of what the Friends had been working toward since inception.

But the organization’s work was not done. Throughout the 1980s, the Friends would be called on to fight challenges to the BWCAW Act that would have dismantled the Wilderness irrevocably. In the early 1990s, the Friends were deeply involved in heated disagreements about motorized portages in the Wilderness, and later in the decade participated in federal mediation hearings facilitated by Paul Wellstone on the motorized portage issue.

Since the turn of the century, the Friends work has centered on the Boundary Waters ecosystem, particularly in response to the 1999 Blowdown which dramatically changed the landscape in hundreds of thousands of acres of the Wilderness and the massive forest fires of 2006 and 2007. At the same time, the Friends has advocated for the Wilderness in responses to proposed timber sales in the Superior National Forest and to the threats to the BWCAW’s waters from the pollution caused by sulfide mining.

Learn more about the issues the Friends is currently working »

Help write the next chapter of the history of the Friends and the Boundary Waters… get involved today!