Creating a Legacy: The Quetico Superior Foundation Grant Program

At the Quetico Superior Foundation (QSF), our mission is to protect the wilderness character of Minnesota’s Border Lakes Canoe Country and Ontario’s Quetico region. We do that through the publication of Wilderness News and by giving grants to non-profit organizations that share our mission. We know that leaving a lasting legacy is better done through the actions of many. Here, we pay tribute to and thank some of the organizations that have put our grants to use over the last few years:

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

With potential new mining projects on the horizon, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness sought funding to develop and publish a regional hydrological model to understand water flow into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) as well as update a report on the economic impacts of the wilderness area. Both projects were undertaken in partnership with leading experts in their fields, and provide valuable information when it comes to having honest conversations about mining and its impacts—at home in Minnesota or with lawmakers in Washington D.C.


Urban Boat Builders

In this unique program, boat builders mentor youth who have been, or are at risk of incarceration in the juvenile justice system. Students learn how to transform a pile of wood and supplies into a boat they can launch and paddle on local lakes in the Twin Cities and—with the help of a QSF grant—in the BWCAW. From boat building to five days in the wilderness, it’s a truly transformative experience for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this life-changing experience.



Voyageurs National Park

A QSF grant also helped Voyageurs National Park fund a water flow model for its watershed, which would be impacted differently by mining than the BWCAW. Having this type of information will help Voyageurs, the Forest Service and the National Park Service manage and protect the health and vitality of the only National Park in Minnesota.



The Trust for Public Land

Over the past decade, the Trust for Public Land has worked with donors and partners to protect islands on Burntside Lake near Listening Point, the historic retreat of environmental activist and writer Sigurd Olson. Most recently, a QSF grant helped the organization acquire and permanently protect Gusty Island by adding it to the Burntside Islands Scientific and Natural Area. The 4.5-acre island is easily accessible for a day trip by boat or canoe. Past QSF support has also helped the Trust for Public Land acquire nearby Gaul Island.



Hamline Center for Global Environmental Education

“Waters to the Sea” is an internationally acclaimed multi-media education program that increases environmental awareness among elementary school children, particularly as it relates to North America’s water resources. QSF grants helped fund an education initiative to inform citizens, educators and students about the environmental challenges to the Boundary Waters region and engage them in addressing these concerns.



Sustainable Ely

This Ely-based education center provides the public with factual information on the impacts of sulfide ore mining on the local economy, community, and environment. Year-round residents, business owners and seasonal residents volunteer their time to staff the Center and educate the public, inspiring them to act in opposition to mining in the Quetico-Superior Region.



The Oberholtzer Foundation

The legacy of wilderness traveler and activist Ernest Oberholtzer is kept alive through the Oberholtzer Foundation. Oberholtzer, known affectionately as “Ober”, earned himself a reputation as an explorer when he paddled from Le Pas, Manitoba to Hudson Bay and back with Ojibwe trapper and guide Billy Magee in 1912. He became an advocate for the border lakes region, speaking out against plans to dam the Rainy Lake watershed for power generation and helping to form the Quetico Superior Council to lobby for the protection of the region. He was also a founding member of The Wilderness Society. With help from QSF grants, the Oberholtzer Foundation has made ongoing capital improvements to Mallard Island, Ober’s home on Rainy Lake, and completed a commemorative tour of his 1912 canoe voyage in 2012.


Heart of the Continent Partnership

There are more than 5 million acres of public lands along the Minnesota/Ontario boarder, encompassing everything from county lands to national forest. The diversity of land management organizations, individuals and communities can make collaboration difficult. The Heart of the Continent Partnership focuses on building region-wide dialogue and opportunities for groups to work together when it comes to caring for the health of the land and the people who live there. Quetico Superior Foundation grants have provided support over the years, including helping to fund a staff position during its inaugural years.


For more information on past grants, see
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Originally published in Wilderness News Fall Winter 2015

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