Businesses Unite to Protect the Boundary Waters Wilderness
The beloved hunting, fishing and paddling destination and America’s most-visited Wilderness is under threat from a mining proposal. Boundary Waters Business Coalition, launches tomorrow.
By Samantha Chadwick, Deputy Campaign Manager, Campaign to Save The Boundary Waters
Recent Wins for Boundary Waters Protection
In December 2016, Outdoor Industry Association, many of its Minnesota members and others involved with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters celebrated a big win for outdoor recreation. After more than three years of effort by those groups, federal agencies cancelled two mineral leases on areas near the Boundary Waters Wilderness that were owned by a Chilean mining company. In addition, the agencies proposed protecting more than 234,000 acres of federal lands on the edge of the wilderness by removing them from the federal mining program for up to 20 years.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will spend the next two years studying the Boundary Waters Wilderness and its surrounding watershed to determine if copper-ore mining should be prohibited for the long-term. The agencies are taking public comments on the proposed protections now through April 19, 2017.
Threats That Still Remain
To many of us, the thought of an industrial mining zone on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters is unthinkable. But anti-Boundary Waters forces are organizing, and they’re up in arms now over the recent wins for Boundary Waters protection. They are appealing to federal agencies and the new administration to shut down the current environmental review to and allow immediate issuance of new federal mineral leases in the area that borders the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
The future of the Boundary Waters depends on those willing to speak up for this “quiet wilderness.” That’s why this week, more than 200 local Minnesota and and national businesses as well as the Outdoor Industry Association announced the Boundary Waters Business Coalition. It includes small businesses, outfitters, manufacturing companies, hunting and fishing businesses and others that rely on and support the world-class Boundary Waters Wilderness for employment and quality of life.
What You Can Do
Businesses across the country and even internationally can join the Boundary Waters Business Coalition. Individuals and organizations should weigh in during the public comment period. Outdoors enthusiasts of all stripes should continue to celebrate the Boundary Waters and visit, making sure to share its beauty through stories, social media, film, photography and other means. This “adventure advocacy” is perhaps modeled best by Outside Magazine “badass adventurers” Dave and Amy Freeman who recently finished 366 consecutive days exploring the Boundary Waters by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team in an effort to inspire action to protect the area.
Background on the Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters, in northeastern Minnesota, is America’s most–visited Wilderness. It is known worldwide as a paddler’s paradise, world-class fishing and backcountry hunting and recreation area. The 1.1–million acre wilderness and nearby Voyageurs National Park are the centerpieces of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy which produces $11.6 billion annually in consumer spending and 118,000 direct jobs statewide. Sales at hospitality and leisure businesses in Minnesota grew 49 percent from 2003–2013 (Outdoor Industry Association).
They are critical to northeastern Minnesota’s economy where tourism supports 17,000 jobs and brings $850 million in sales annually to the region (Explore Minnesota).
The Boundary Waters is a “pike and walleye fisherman’s paradise” according to Field and Stream. Minnesota ranks 7th nationally in spending by sportsmen and women. Minnesota hunters and anglers spend $3.17 billion and support 47,901 jobs annually (Congressional Sportsmen Foundation).
For more information and to get involved visit