Mondale calls for protection of Boundary Waters from mining

Walter Mondale as U.S. ambassador to Japan, 1993-1996 (Library of Congress)
Walter Mondale as U.S. ambassador to Japan, 1993-1996 (Library of Congress)

Former Minnesota Senator, U.S. Vice President, and ambassador Walter Mondale has published an opinion article supporting efforts to withdraw the Boundary Waters watershed from mining.

In the Star Tribune, Mondale says the federal government’s proposal to block mining upstream of the wilderness is part of a century-long tradition of conservation:

The commitment of Minnesotans to protect the land and waters that are now part of our Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness began in 1902. That year, Gen. C.C. Andrews, the Minnesota forestry commissioner, persuaded the U.S. Land Office to withdraw from homesteading 500,000 acres in what is now the Boundary Waters. From 1905 to 1908, the Land Office withdrew another 659,700 acres. This farsighted action paid off handsomely when President Theodore Roosevelt created the Superior National Forest in 1909. The Boundary Waters spreads across 1.1 million acres of this spectacular 3-million-acre National Forest.

Now, our government has undertaken study of another sort of land withdrawal to protect the Boundary Waters. This past January, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management began a two-year process of preparing an environmental-impact statement (EIS) to determine whether 234,328 acres of National Forest lands near to and upstream from the Boundary Waters should be withdrawn from the federal mineral leasing program for 20 years. This process is specifically authorized by two long-standing U.S. laws: the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Both were passed in the 1970s and have been applied many times, by both Democratic and Republican administrations, to evaluate threats to lands owned by the people of the United States.

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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.

Mondale published a similar column in the New York Times last summer, with co-author Theodore Roosevelt III, great-grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt.

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