“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.
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.
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?