Two conservation-minded statesmen recently wrote an op-ed calling to protect the Boundary Waters from mining in its watershed. Former Vice President and U.S. Senator from Minnesota Walter Mondale, and Theodore Roosevelt IV, the great-grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, published the article in the New York Times.
The pair wrote that they believe mining for copper and nickel in an area that drains toward the wilderness is an unacceptable risk:
“Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most popular wild destinations. Water is its lifeblood. Over 1,200 miles of streams wend their way through 1.1 million acres thick with fir, pine and spruce and stippled by lakes left behind by glaciers. Moose, bears, wolves, loons, ospreys, eagles and northern pike make their home there and in the surrounding Superior National Forest.
“All of this is now threatened by a proposal for a huge mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ores. The mine would lie within the national forest along the South Kawishiwi River, which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Wilderness.”
A public comment period closes this Wednesday on the question of allowing such mines in the wilderness watershed. Hundreds of mine supporters and opponents turned out in Duluth last week for a hearing held by the Forest Service. A second public meeting will be held tomorrow, July 19, in Ely.
Mondale and Roosevelt called for two actions by the federal government: The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service should refuse to renew mineral leases key to the Twin Metals proposal; and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ought to impose a 20-year-moratorium on mining in the watershed, similar to a step taken in 2012 to protect Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining.
As a Democratic Senator, Mondale authored and championed legislation creating Voyageurs National Park and supported increased federal protection for the Boundary Waters. In 1970, he testified on behalf of Voyageurs National Park, saying, “I can’t think of anything that I would rather have my Senate career stand for than the proposition that I was helpful in adopting and preserving this magnificent location for my generation and for generations that follow.” Mondale also co-authored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
Roosevelt is descended from the man who signed the legislation establishing the Superior National Forest in 1909. A Republican and an investment banker, he is also on the Governing Council of The Wilderness Society.