Policy Blog: Feds Deny Mining Lease Renewal Near Boundary Waters

Rejected lease renewals extend protection for some of America's most pristine waterways and ensure continued recreation.

By Jessica Wahl December 16, 2016

Yesterday, the United States Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior announced a milestone for protecting world-class recreation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) by rejecting two lease renewals for mining copper and nickel near the area.

Earlier this year, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) prioritized the protection of these interconnected waterways from mining that would have had a devastating impact on the pristine ecosystem. Boundary Waters is a cornerstone of Minnesota’s $11.6 billion outdoor recreation economy and the recreation-driven communities in the nearby region.

Dozens of outdoor businesses, including outfitters and specialty retailers, were part of the effort to protect over one million acres of land and water. The Boundary Waters is one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world, with unparalleled remote paddling destinations, and thanks to this recent announcement, it may stay that way. However, there are more steps that need to be taken to completely withdraw sulfide-ore copper mining from the area and to ensure this decision won’t be undone in future administrations.

“This is a very important decision for our business and for all the sustainable businesses in the Boundary Waters region,” explained Steve Piragis, Founder of Piragis Northwoods Company. “We look forward to the process playing out over the next two years where science and economics will be the important determining factors on whether mining of sulfide ore will be allowed in the watershed of the Boundary Waters (in the future).” 

 To help ensure the protection of Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining for generations to come, please visit the business coalition for Boundary Water protection or email me.