Activists rally to protect Boundary Waters

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is hosting a rally on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Minnesota Capitol to encourage the passage of the Boundary Waters Permanent Protection bill.

The lakes and rivers surrounding the Boundary Waters are some of the most pristine freshwaters in the country, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says.

The goal of the Boundary Waters Permanent Protection Bill is to ban sulfide-ore copper mining.

Opponents say mining in the Boundary Waters area would bring jobs to the area, according to Mining Minnesota.

This comes as President Joe Biden placed a 20-year ban on mining in the Boundary Waters nearly two months ago.

Some Republicans rebuked Biden’s ban, like Congressman Pete Stauber, who said in a previous interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, β€œI never thought that any administration would ban mining on the Iron Range, but it has now happened.” Stauber is calling the move β€œan attack on our way of life.”

The Rainy River Headwaters make up a significant part of the Boundary Waters. The downstream half of the Rainy River Headwaters is currently protected under wilderness classifications but this bill hopes to protect the other half of the headwaters from mining. The MPCA defines the protected portion of the Boundary Waters as “immaculate.”

Activists from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters say this is about more than preserving a beautiful piece of the wilderness; the massive watershed also acts as a carbon sink for the Midwest. A carbon sink absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases into the air, essentially storing the excess carbon that may contribute to climate change.

Will Steger, climate activist and founder of Climate Generation, said that putting a sulfide-ore copper mine in the purest interconnected freshwater system on Earth makes “no sense.” In a statement, he said “I’ve documented first-hand the growing effects of climate change on our polar regions. We need the preservation of our dwindling wild places now more than ever; these areas increase climate resiliency and are vital for the survival of humanity on this planet.”

The MPCA recommends protecting the Boundary Waters rather than restoring them. The Rainy River Headwaters are more than 99% undeveloped and have exceptional biological properties, said a report by the MPCA, adding that these waterbodies deserve “extra” protection.

The bill has yet to pass a committee or make it to the floor of the House or Senate.