The mining threat to the BWCA Wilderness is real. I’ve written about it many times, but I like to take the opportunity when it arises in the news to remind folks. Today, American Rivers released their list of 2013’s most endangered rivers with the Colorado coming in at number 1. Which is bad news for the Colorado. But it’s number 6 on the list that I’m most interested in. It is the Boundary Waters.
Boundary Waters (Minnesota) THREAT: Copper and nickel mining AT RISK: Recreation economy, drinking water, and wilderness
The 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the most popular wilderness area in the country. The South Kawishiwi River, which flows into the Boundary Waters, is threatened by copper-nickel mining proposals by Twin Metals Minnesota and others on adjacent unprotected public lands. If mining is permitted, the Boundary Waters and its clean water will be irreparably harmed by acid mine drainage containing sulfates and heavy metals. President Obama, Congress, and Minnesota’s Governor Dayton must block proposals to mine and efforts to weaken water quality standards in this sensitive and well-loved area.
The proposed sulfide mining projects in Minnesota will negatively impact the BWCA. There’s no other option. Sulfide mining does not occur on the size and scale that Twin Metals and others seek in MN’s Iron Range without leaving permanent ecological damage in its wake. Copper and nickel are necessary for contemporary life, and the economic needs these mines can meet are real and important. These are hard issues.
But we should not endanger what we have promised to protect. The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, Superior National Forest, these are the natural areas we have set aside as unique, valuable, and worthy of protection. These places encompass the notion of the wild and sacred many like myself seek in the woods. As a nation and a species, we have already decided that the BWCA deserves protection from ourselves.
These mines threaten that protection.
Wilderness protection matters. If that sounds like tree-hugger nonsense, it isn’t. Wilderness runs deep in America, and protecting it remains as important now, more important now, than ever. While new wilderness designations are sought and need to be fought for, even more critical is showing that we can follow through on our commitments to protect those places we have already decided deserve protection.
The wild spaces of this nation are few. Among the most precious is the BWCA. Let’s not ruin it. I hope to take my son there, in the future.