Business coalition calls for Boundary Waters protection

More than 200 businesses have joined a coalition of companies that are calling for protection of the Boundary Waters wilderness area from copper-nickel mine proposals.

The Boundary Waters Business Coalition cites canoe country’s economic impact, pointing to figures showing that tourism supports 17,000 jobs in northeastern Minnesota, and brings $913 million in sales annually to the region. Another study released recently showed $57 million spent in 2016 by wilderness visitors.

“Our jobs depend on a healthy Boundary Waters,” said Jason Zabokrtsky, owner of Ely Outfitting Company & Boundary Waters Guide Service. “Putting America’s most toxic industry right next to America’s most visited Wilderness would put shops like ours out of business.”

The coalition includes Duluth gear manufacturer Frost River, national brands like Klean Kanteen, Simms Fishing, and Patagonia, and other Ely businesses Piragis Northwoods Co., Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, Wintergreen Northern Wear, and River Point Resort & Outfitting Co.

“Patagonia is proud to be a member of the Boundary Waters Business Coalition and support the permanent protection of America’s most visited wilderness,” the company stated. “The Boundary Waters is a special place for millions of Americans who love hunting, fishing, paddling and outdoor recreation. Along with other local, state and national businesses and brands, we are part of the movement to protect this wild place.”

Other well-known businesses include Granite Gear, Loll Designs, Northstar Canoes, Rapala, Wenonah Canoe, Osprey Packs, Kelty, Katadyn, and Chaco. The Outdoor Industry Association, representing 1,200 companies, also signed on with a statement about the value of the wilderness. The coalition is sponsored by the Save the Boundary Waters Campaign, which is seeking to block mine proposals that could pollute the wilderness.

A similar group, the Downstream Business Coalition, was organized in 2015 in the Lake Superior watershed to protest the PolyMet mine proposal. Read about founding member Bent Paddle Brewing in the spring 2016 issue of Wilderness News.

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