Boundary Waters Example: Good News on World Wetland’s Day

Great Northern Diver, a flagship species of the Boundary Waters. Photo: Peter Prokosch

By Steve Piragis

For World Wetlands Day (February 2), our member Steve Piragis, provider of the LT&C-Example “Campaign To Save The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota, USA“, provided us with the following good news:

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has been an example for LT and C now for 4 years but the work to protect this unique ecosystem from sulfide-ore copper mining has been going on for almost 10 years now.  I’m a founding member of the Campaign to Save The Boundary Waters and I represent our tourism business, our employees and our customers.  We outfit canoe trips with rental gear and guides as well as operate a retail store in the wilderness edge community of Ely, Minnesota.  We feel our business would be negatively impacted should toxic copper mining be allowed here.  

The environmental issue is the potential for acid mine drainage that accompanies all sulfide ore mines.  The deposit of ore lies just upstream of the wilderness thus a mine would be a great threat to the pristine wilderness ecosystem.   It is this upstream 95,000 hectares of mostly forested land we strive to permanently remove from possible mineral leasing by the government.    

After setbacks in our efforts under the Trump administration, we recently have celebrated good news coming from the new Biden Whitehouse.  The new Interior Department Secretary just took back mineral leases granted under Trump on grounds they were illegally obtained.  Also, the US Forest Service has requested of Interior that the lands of the watershed be withdrawn from federal mineral leasing and that request is under review.  We fully expect this withdrawal will be granted and the watershed will have a 20-year reprieve.    
There is legislation pending in Congress that would permanently remove all sulfide ore mineral leasing in the watershed by the federal government.  That bill is proceeding through the House of Representatives and I hope to testify in favour of it in Washington, DC in May.  If it passes a companion bill will be introduced in the Senate this year.  The goal is for the President to sign this protection into law before the next Congress convenes in 2023.  Our business, the region’s economy and the ecosystem of Canoe Country deserve nothing less than full protection under the law.   

Steve PiragisPiragis Northwoods CoEly, Mn 55731. USA

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