People across the nation are being tested by the coronavirus pandemic. With many traditional activities and venues suspended or closed, we’re struggling to find places for comfort.
“Social distancing, that’s the buzzword. Well, shoot, that’s how most outdoors-oriented people roll all the time,” Bob Frye wrote March 20 for TribLive, a western Pennsylvania publication.
Unfortunately, our great outdoors is under assault. During the last three-plus years, the administration of President Donald Trump has orchestrated the largest reduction of protected public lands in U.S. history, according to a study published in the journal Science. In addition, his administration has attempted to roll back nearly 100 environmental rules, according to a Feb. 28 story in the Falmouth Enterprise in Massachusetts.
The assault has continued even as we struggle with a rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve had controversial new rules from the administration on the Waters of the United States rule, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act … and National Environmental Policy Act, and that’s just in the past month,” Outdoor News Managing Editor Rob Drieslein wrote in the March 13 issue.
In Minnesota, the Trump administration is pushing sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Twin Metals, a mining company owned by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, wants to build a sulfide mine near Ely, within the Boundary Waters watershed. A federal judge recently upheld the Trump administration’s reinstated mineral leases to Twin Metals.
The bipartisan Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act, introduced by Reps. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, and Francis Rooney, R-Florida, would complete an administrative withdrawal of 234,328 acres of public lands in the BWCAW watershed from sulfide mining. Drafted in response to an outcry from business owners, hunters, anglers, and others over the proposed Twin Metals mine, H.R. 5598 would maintain the Boundary Waters’ pristine waterways and unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities.
A smorgasbord of sportsmen’s groups support the legislation, including the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Izaak Walton League, the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the American Sportfishing Association, the Quality Deer Management Association, National Wildlife Federation, and the National Deer Alliance.
“While some of our priority issues — including advancing federal legislation like the … Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act — may pause while Congress and the administration address the threat and impacts of the coronavirus, our commitment to these bills and policies is as strong as ever,” Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO, wrote on March 19.
Sulfide mining companies have forever said there would be no impact. In Montana’s infamous Berkeley Pit, a shuttered open-pit copper mine now full of water poisoned with sulfuric acid, a flock of 3,000 migrating snow geese landed on the lake in 2016 and promptly died, as explained in a January 2017 Great Falls Tribune story. No sulfide-ore copper mine has ever operated and closed without polluting nearby waters, according to the National Wildlife Federation. That’s a 100% failure rate.
At a 2016 post-election rally in North Carolina, Trump told the crowd he would honor the legacy of America’s greatest hunter-conservationist (and Medal of Honor recipient) Theodore Roosevelt. Given Trump’s ongoing public-lands assault combined with a seemingly limitless propensity for false or misleading claims — 16,241 in his first three years, according to the Washington Post — we now know he speaks with a forked tongue.
In the words of Outdoor News contributor Murray Smart (in “President Trump’s attacks on the environment continue,” Feb. 7), “Another day, another assault by the Trump administration on the air, land, water, and wildlife of America.”
David Lien of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and formerly of Grand Rapids is a former Air Force officer and the founder and former chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (backcountryhunters.org). He's the author of "Hunting for Experience II: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation." In 2014, he was recognized by Field & Stream as a "Hero of Conservation."