Hiker walks on path near BWCA Wilderness Superior Hiking Trail sign
Superior Hiking Trail to Eagle Mountain—the highest point in Minnesota—in the BWCA

Permanent Protection for the BWCA Still Needed

On Thursday, January 26th, 2023, US Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman to run the agency, announced a 20-year moratorium of sulfide-ore copper mining on 225,000 acres of land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). Sulfide-ore copper mining has never been done in Minnesota and has not been done anywhere without adverse environmental impacts to the surrounding area. 

Conservation Minnesota applauds the announcement to protect one of the last pristine wildernesses in the country for future generations. The debate around sulfide-ore copper mining near the BWCA has been going on for decades. The science is clear—we cannot afford to risk this amazing resource for short-term profit by international mining conglomerates whose track records on environmental protection are abysmal. 

This is a step in the right direction, but this moratorium can be overturned by future presidential administrations. We need to continue to push for permanent protections for the BWCA and the surrounding area, both locally and nationally. Minnesota state Senator Kelly Morrison and state Representative Sandra Feist have introduced the Boundary Waters Permanent Protection Bill (SF 167/HF 329). This bill will: 

  • Extend the existing state ban on mining within the BWCA
  • Ban sulfide-ore copper mining on state owned lands within the BWCA
  • Ban new permits and leases for sulfide-ore copper mining on state lands upstream from the BWCA within the Rainy River Watershed 

At the national level, Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (HR 2794) would permanently protect the entirety of the Superior National Forest, home to the BWCA, from sulfide-ore copper mining.

Conservation Minnesota, along with our partners, will keep a close eye on these bills as they move through the legislative process. To stay up to date on permanent protection for the BWCA follow us on social media:

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