WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of hunters and anglers today applauded an announcement by the Department of the Interior to cancel two federal hardrock mineral leases located in the Superior National Forest within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed, citing the importance of this move to sustaining the Boundary Waters’ recreational, economic and fish and wildlife values.
Sportsmen and women also commended federal agencies’ reinterpretation of the legal “m-opinion” that underpinned several previous agency decisions to allow for sulfide-ore copper mining permits and leases to be granted within the watershed. Thousands of members of organized hunting, fishing and conservation groups support this decision, which is an important step in the effort to permanently protect the Boundary Waters watershed from the negative impacts of hardrock mining.
Over 250,000 people recently commented in a federally led process to set aside the over 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest from destructive hardrock mining, with the public input overwhelmingly in favor of the area’s long-term conservation. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America's most-visited wilderness area and supports a regional economy highly dependent on access to public lands.
“Today’s announcement by the Biden administration is the right decision for the Boundary Waters and for the outdoor community that has worked so hard to protect it for future generations,” said Lukas Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. “Spending time outdoors is what rejuvenates and energizes us. The importance of preserving places like the Boundary Waters that provide that experience is immeasurable. We appreciate these steps taken by federal land management agencies that lay out the correct process by which we can protect our priceless public lands and waters. Now we must build on this momentum and achieve permanent protection for the BWCA.”
BHA President and CEO Land Tawney thanked the administration for its action and emphasized the need for Congress to pass legislation that permanently conserves the Boundary Waters watershed.
“With memories of my family’s trip to the Boundary Waters this summer still fresh in my mind, I had the great pleasure of telling my kids today that an imminent threat no longer exists,” Tawney said. “We join a thunderous applause in thanking the administration for rescinding the leases that never should have been issued in the first place – and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to assure the long-term protection of the Boundary Waters watershed.”
“The Minnesota chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is pleased with the administration’s decision to address these problematic leases,” said MN BHA Chair Matt Lee, who lives in Minneapolis. “We're also encouraged by parallel efforts to place a 20-year mineral withdrawal to create a moratorium on new mining development that would contaminate the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Rainy River watershed. We have worked hard to press decision-makers to ensure we keep these waters clean and safe. I would like to thank all of our members – who have reached out to the last three administrations – with the goal of ensuring that these lands and waters are protected for future generations. We look forward to our continued work with the administration and congressional leaders to implement permanent conservation measures for the Boundary Waters.”
Leaders in the hunting and angling community reacted positively to today’s decision from Interior:
“We applaud the administration’s decision to cancel the hardrock mineral leases upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Superior National Forest was originally set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt to conserve this remarkable landscape, and today’s announcement renews the opportunity to permanently safeguard the Boundary Waters as a renowned canoeing, fishing and hunting destination.”
“The reasons to safeguard the magnificent Boundary Waters, America’s most popular wilderness area, are as crystal clear as the pristine waters of the Rainy River Watershed,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The Boundary Waters are a natural treasure that is simply too important to risk – and the costs for people and wildlife too steep. The Biden administration’s decision will safeguard essential habitat for hundreds of wildlife species and protect thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefits that depend upon the Boundary Waters’ world-class camping, hiking, paddling, fishing and hunting.”
“Downstream of the mining leases are sensitive populations of native lake trout that are significant not only to anglers but also as part of Minnesota’s natural heritage,” said John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. “Today’s decision is an important step to help ensure that populations of these unique fish remain healthy long into the future.”
Founded in 2015, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters is a hunting and angling voice for protecting the BWCA from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining in its watershed. Since its inception, SFBW has worked along with BHA to protect the land, water and wildlife that makes the BWCA an iconic place to hunt, fish, camp and explore.
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