Protecting America’s Most Popular Wilderness Area

New legislation protects 234,000 acres near the Boundary Waters

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The National Wildlife Federation welcomed legislation introduced today by Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn), which would withdraw mineral rights from 234,000 acres near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and protect the area’s pristine waters from mining.  Her action comes after the Trump administration announced last year it would renew copper mining leases in the headwaters which flow into the wilderness area.  

“The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the most remote and wild landscapes in America encompassing nearly 2,000 pristine lakes and 1,200 miles of canoe routes,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president of public lands for the National Wildlife Federation.  “The Boundary Waters provide outstanding habitat for moose, bear, otters, lynx, wolves, and dozens of other species, including hundreds of varieties of birds. A single open pit mine above this watershed could pollute the pristine waters forever.  That is simply too much to risk.”
“Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill will provide much needed protections for the water, wildlife and recreation opportunities in our state’s magnificent Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” said Jason Dinsmore, director of conservation partnerships in Minnesota for the National Wildlife Federation.  “This wilderness area is a national treasure that provides world-class camping, hiking, paddling, fishing and hunting for thousands of families every year.  Senator McCollum’s legislation will protect Minnesota’s vibrant outdoor recreation industry and more than 200,000 acres of public land and water from the devastating effects of copper sulfide mining.”

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located within Superior National Forest, is the most visited wilderness area in the country.  Encompassing over a million acres of pristine water and woodlands, it provides habitat for 230 species of wildlife.  The area also contains one-fifth of all fresh water in the National Forest Service system.  

Acid mine runoff from a copper sulfide mine site would pose serious risks to aquatic life, a decline in water quality and other severe environmental impacts. In 2016, a U.S. Forest Service study found that allowing a sulfide ore mine within the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness could “cause serious and irreplaceable harm to this unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness area.”

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