Monday, December 17, 2018
Posted by
Spencer Shaver, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters

Comment period announced: What does this mean for the BWCA?

The Bureau of Land Management just announced a month-long comment period on their plan to build a copper-nickel mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters. What does this mean for hunters, anglers and the Boundary Waters?

President Trump’s Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management moved to grant Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, mineral leases on the edge of the Boundary Waters Thursday, December 20, 2018. This latest move is a brazen attempt to circumvent the review process for a proposed mine and directly contradicts former United States Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell’s opinion that industrial copper mining must be kept away from the Boundary Waters. As Chief, Tidwell directed the Forest Service to withhold consent to the granting of these leases in 2016, citing the obvious risk to the Boundary Waters and that the granting of any such leases would go against the core mission of the Forest Service: protecting our National Forest Lands.

The Forest Service’s lack of consent to renewal triggered a review of the leases and their suitability for development at all. The Forest Service was given the lead role in conducting that review, originally an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As it became clear that the Forest Service was building a rigorous review based on existing policy, science and economic data that clearly showed the risk of a copper nickel mine upstream of the BWCA was too great, the Trump Administration began downgrading the review to be less robust. In February of 2018, the EIS was downgraded to an Environmental Assessment, a less thorough review that excludes most of what you and I are concerned about. For example, impacts to water quality, impacts to fish and wildlife species and the long term impacts of an industrial copper mine a quarter mile from the Boundary Waters to the surrounding economy have not been taken into account. 

In September of 2018, that review was cancelled by the Trump administration who cited, “no new science” as their reason for cancellation. Over the course of the now-cancelled review hundreds of studies, scientific papers, economic reports, businesses’ concerns and comments from hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts were gathered. Overwhelmingly they called for the protection of the Boundary Waters. Those comment have been discarded by the Trump Administration and disregarded during their decision-making process. BLM was given the lead role in conducting any review, discounting any Forest Service objection to the process.

Because federal agencies are no longer making an attempt to uphold their mission to protect the Boundary Waters, we need to demand action out of all our elected officials and no longer stand for complacency. The public needs the opportunity to weigh in on a project that will not just ruin Wilderness, but local businesses and homeowners downstream. The best available science says a copper-nickel mine upstream of the Boundary Waters would cause irreversible damage to one of Minnesota’s most iconic landscapes. Future generations will be saddled with the price of our inaction, and the stakes have never been higher. Sportsmen and women need to stand up for the protection of our lands and waters before it’s too late. We have a unique relationship to this landscape – a relationship that won’t be passed down to the next generation unless we get in the fight now and demand action from our elected officials. It’s up to us to defend our public lands, waters and sporting heritage.

Take action by clicking here and tell decision makers the Boundary Waters are too important to risk.