As a professional expeditioner, I've spent more than 600 nights in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness since 2011. Paddle blades flash in summer sun and winter frost rims the faces of hard-working sled dogs as seasons move, and so does the spirit of the wilderness visitor.
Having just returned from Washington, D.C., to speak with lawmakers about recent decisions concerning the Boundary Waters, I must share: Minnesota Democrats seem thrilled when we engage with them. During her weekly "Coffee with Tina" gathering, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and her surprise guest, Rep. Dean Phillips, both sang praises for citizen advocacy and the wilderness that Minnesotans - and Americans - hold dear.
The Boundary Waters enthusiasm and Detroit Lakes, Minn., coffee helped me digest the bad news delivered by the Bureau of Land Management just a few hours later: The bureau granted Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of a foreign mining conglomerate, mineral leases that could lead to the development of a sulfide-ore copper mine a few miles upstream of the BWCAW. The devastating move brought the most-polluting industry in the nation one step closer to the edge of America's most-visited wilderness. Now the company may submit a mine plan to initiate environmental review, a process that is appearing increasingly skeletal and under-protective under the administration of President Donald Trump.
The timing of the announcement felt surreal, as I read the press release on my way into a meeting with a Bureau of Land Management official. Her explanation of the top-down directives to fast-track processes that lead to oil, gas, and mineral development was truly disturbing and in contrast to the values I heard articulated by Smith and Phillips.
I appreciated the hospitality of our Minnesota Democrats. I call on them to please fight to defend the Boundary Waters.