It’s Time to Make Protecting the BWCAW Into a National Issue


The outrage many of us felt when the Trump administration announced it would no longer consider a 20-year mining moratorium in a large part of the Superior National Forest is still fresh.

Thousands had spoke up against sulfide mining. Our concerns were backed up by science. Studies suggested opening the region to copper-sulfide mining would actually harm the economy in the long run.

But ultimately, money and foreign influence seemed to win.

To say that many of us feel frustrated, is an understatement.

On Monday, October 8th, a sign of hope came from Yellowstone.

A Ban Near Yellowstone

In October, Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke — who describes himself as “a pro-mining guy” — signed a 20-year ban on new mining claims on 47-square miles of public land on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. Considering how Trump’s administration has been so blatantly pro-mining, this move may come as a surprise to many. Indeed, it has upset mining interests in the area.

Yellowstone is, of course, one of the crown jewels of the National Park System. It’s a place treasured by people around the country. It’s a natural area that receives international attention.

Of course, with this 20-year ban on new mines in this area near Yellowstone, one can’t help but hear echos of the proposed 20-year mineral ban in areas adjacent to the BWCAW.

It seems unfair that while Secretary Zinke is all too eager to open Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and the BWCAW to mining interests, he gives privileged protection to Yellowstone. We’re happy this protection is in place and realize the dynamics for the mineral ban near Yellowstone are different than they are near the BWCAW. But the news from Yellowstone makes one thing abundantly clear:

To protect the Boundary Waters, we need make the fight against sulfide mining a national issue.

Water, Our Most Precious Resource

As Minnesotans and midwesterners, many of us have grown up around water. Lakes are everywhere. Sometimes it rains too much! But an abundance of pristine water is nothing to take for granted.

Fresh water shortages affect almost every corner of the globe, and clean water is becoming increasingly scarce. Northern Minnesota’s clean, water-rich environment is a rarity, as such, it’s more important than ever to make sure it stays clean and pristine.

Even if there were not a global water crisis, the Boundary Waters would still be one of the most important — and unique — ecosystems in our country.

As such, it is more outrageous than ever that politicians and others would even think about supporting a toxic industry that was guaranteed to pollute these pristine waters.

It’s time to make protecting the Boundary Waters into a national issue.

If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Illinois, talk to out-of-state friends, colleagues and family about the issue. If you live outside of the region, contact local, state and federal legislatures. What’s happening in northeastern Minnesota might not concern them, but we need to make noise about these threatened waters.

In Secretary Zinke’s own words: “I’m a pro-mining guy. I love hardrock. But there are places to mine and places not to mine.”

At a time when major cities are running out of water, when drought threatens large parts of the country, it’s in the nation’s interests to protect the rare, pristine waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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