Thirdeyemom

Our Local Treasure, The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools”. –  John Muir

As much as I have traveled to the far corners of the earth, I am constantly amazed at the beauty of my own home, Minnesota. A land of over 12,000 lakes, Minnesota is a nature lover’s paradise that is awash in forests, water, fields and plains, and rugged wilderness. Minnesota is also home to one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States, the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA). The BWCWA is one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited and its extraordinary beauty and tranquility is unequal to any place I’ve been except the far reaches of Patagonia. Its 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, and 1,500 miles of canoe routes are like no other place on earth.

When we were in Ely just two weekends ago, we noticed all the lawn signs up supporting the mining industry. Ely is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range, a group of four large mining areas of iron-ore that dot northern Minnesota near Lake Superior and the Canadian Border. Ely is known for its strong mining and timber harvesting industry (which was established as a clause in the 1964 Wilderness Act that also protects this pristine wilderness). However, it is also known for its strong tourism sector given its prime location as a launching off point into the BWCWA.

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties; Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties (Ely); Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons.

What I didn’t realize was the struggle and conflict between conservation and industrial development has been impacting the BWCWA for over a century and once again has come to a head on collision.

Just yesterday, I received my mail and noticed with dismay the cover of the latest Sierra Club Magazine. In the November/December issue (which is not up yet on the website, it is so new), Conor Mihell’s powerful piece Border Dispute: The Fight to Keep a Mega-Mine Away from the Boundary Waters Wilderness opened my eyes to what those signs meant and the impact for both parties, the miners and the environment if the legislation succeeds.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

If the Chilean company Antofagasta is able to renew the federal mining lease, their proposed sulfide-ore copper mine located adjacent to and draining into the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, could make America’s most popular wilderness, its most polluted, argues Mihell. 1.1 million acres of pristine wilderness could be forever changed.

After reading the piece, I realized that I too could not sit back and let this happen. I decided to write this piece to raise awareness of the issue and also use my advocacy to contact the Interior Secretary of the US Government to pledge to protect the BWCWA. (To see how you can help, click here).

Isn’t this a place worth protecting?

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My daughter gazing out at the pure blue water

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My son and our puppy

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Ely, MN

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”. –  John Muir

Ely, MNEly, MN

Ely, MN

Ely, MN

Ely, MN

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”. –  John Muir

Ely, MN

Ely, MN

Local treasures like this cannot be destroyed. We have the responsibility to protect them for future generations.

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This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Local.

40 comments

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  3. The photo under the one of your son and puppy is amazing. What a beautiful place, Have to confess about knowing nothing about Minnesota – but I’m learning! Sounds like the cause needs a high profile person to champion it.

  4. Beautiful awareness post – and the truth is that we all get impacted of this is destroyed – it is much more than a local problem because of the way habitats and water systems are shared! And if the butterfly effect from Brazil can ripple and impact – how much more do we need to be mindful of protecting areas like this!
    And cute puppy ! Wolf 🐺

  5. Heartbreaking how the world over we have to fight for the natural environment, when I would have thought it self-evident that we need it. So sad. I wish you great good fortune in your quest to save this beautiful wilderness. Gorgeous photos Nicole.
    Alison

  6. My daughter and I are studying American government in our home school. The topic this week and last has been Interest Groups: how they operate, their goals, etc. Environmental Groups were one positive example. In past years, we were part of a citizen water quality monitoring group in our state known as Alabama Water Watch. We live near the Gulf of Mexico and know the importance of clean water and keeping a close eye on the activities of industry. Our thoughts and prayers go with you in this endeavor.

  7. As you might expect, I am all for protecting the planet and its natural habitats. But it can get so complicated because the people in those habitats need livelihoods, too, and that intersection just gets so messy so often. I am sure Sally Jewell herself would fight every time for the environment, but now that I know a tiny bit more about how DC works (and the DOI in particular), I know it’s a rough slog to get these things addressed properly and quickly!

    • Yea it is so true Lexi. The rural towns are dying and mining has been a big part of their livelihoods. It is very complicated indeed. Once he link to there article is up I will send it

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