A lump of coal for hunters, anglers and the Boundary Waters
The Trump Administration has announced it will renew two leases for copper-nickel mining upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota's world-class fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation destination.
This renewal is based on an opinion released by acting Deputy Solicitor to the Interior Daniel Jorjani, who has held that position for two years despite never undergoing the required U.S. Senate confirmation.
The U.S. Forest Service originally canceled these leases in 2016 when that agency determined copper-nickel mining posed too great of a threat to the Boundary Waters, the surrounding Superior National Forest, and the thriving outdoor economy of northeast Minnesota.
The new decision from the Bureau of Land Management reverses course and threatens to reopen the path for Chilean-based Twin Metals and other interested parties to lease public lands in the BWCAW watershed for sulfide-ore copper mining.
To add insult to injury, the latest decision includes an inadequate 30-day public comment period, which falls over the holiday season when many Americans are focused on vacation, rest, and family activities.
"The Trump administration just dropped a massive lump of coal in our lap, and a four week public comment period under the cover of the holiday season is flat-out insulting," said Lukas Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. "Minnesotans want the Boundary Waters protected, and we will not stand idly by and watch as this administration dismantles the protections our parents, grandparents, and past conservationists put in place for all of us."
Leaf urged hunters and anglers in the region to contact their elected officials immediately, especially Governor-elect Tim Walz and Minnesota's two U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and demand continued protection of the nation's most popular wilderness.
Sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters will devastate the outdoor recreation economy of northeast Minnesota. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Minnesota's outdoor recreation economy annually generates $16.7 billion in consumer spending, $4.5 billion per year in wages and salaries, and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, and it supports 140,000 direct jobs. Minnesota's hunting and fishing economy supports an additional 47,901 jobs statewide, and generates $3.17 billion in consumer spending annually.
The decision to renew the leases follows the abrupt cancellation of a two-year study intended to determine the risks of a copper-nickel mine in the Boundary Waters watershed.
By allowing Twin Metals' parent company Antofagasta to unlawfully plow forward with their plan to exploit America's most-visited wilderness, the Trump administration is willfully choosing the benefit for a foreign mining company over the well-being of northeastern Minnesota.
Spencer Shaver is conservation policy director at Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, a coalition of hunters, anglers, businesses and organizations dedicated to defending the Boundary Waters and public lands in Minnesota from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining