BHA Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Boundary Waters

News for Immediate Release
Feb. 5, 2020
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, mckalip@backcountryhunters.org

BHA president/CEO urges House subcommittee to advance a bill
that would prevent mining within wilderness watershed

WASHINGTON – Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney testified at a House of Representatives hearing today regarding the need to protect the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from copper-nickel mining.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met this morning to consider the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 5598), which would permanently conserve 234,328 acres of public land upstream of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Rainy River watershed. The bill’s lead sponsors are Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Francis Rooney (R-FL); original co-sponsors include Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Tawney was joined at the hearing by former U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and outfitter, guide and BHA member Jason Zabokrtsky. Tawney stressed the significance that the Boundary Waters holds for sportsmen and women in the United States, noting the diverse lineup of hunting, fishing and conservation organizations that have signed on in support of the bill.

“BHA and our partners within the Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters represent a coalition of hunters and anglers united in our support of protecting public lands upstream of the Boundary Waters Wilderness,” said Tawney. “Perhaps nowhere else in the country better represents the idea that some public lands and waters are too important to risk.”

The BWCAW encompasses more than 1 million acres of public lands and waters and provides opportunities to hunt, fish, canoe, hike and camp that have been enjoyed by generations of sportsmen and women. This legacy has been threatened by a proposal to develop a sulfide-ore copper mine near the wilderness boundary. A 2018 decision to remove restrictions on mining in the watershed, thereby furthering the proposal, was strongly criticized by BHA and a host of outdoors interests, who have consistently advocated for the region’s protection. 

Tawney and other proponents of the bill touted the regional economic benefits of the BWCAW, including its effect on Minnesota’s $16.7 billion outdoor recreation economy. Outdoor businesses, including First Lite, RepYourWater, New Belgium Brewing Company, Scott Fly Rods, Patagonia and others, have come forward in support of H.R. 5598.

“There has never been a copper sulfide mine that has not leached contaminants,” Tawney stated in his remarks. “Never. Mineral development of this fragile and dynamic ecosystem doesn’t make sense. Not now. Not ever.”

Tawney concluded his testimony with an account of a recent canoe trip through the wilderness area, thanked the committee and asked members to cosponsor and quickly pass H.R. 5598.

BHA members and supporters are taking action in support of the Boundary Waters.

Sportsmen groups are signaling their support of H.R. 5598.

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