I am writing to the citizens of Minnesota to summarize my view of the value of and threats to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness based on my firsthand observations over the last 28 years.
I recently completed my 14th visit to your beautiful state to paddle into the BWCAW from Ely. To me, the Boundary Waters represents an asset of rare value and, combined with the Quetico, is unique on Earth. Its combination of wild country, accessibility, challenge, excitement, rejuvenation, and truly quiet contemplation is becoming increasingly scarce.
I entered the BWCAW at Fall Lake, just outside Ely, on Sept. 16. In town, fishermen reported surface water temperatures on Basswood Lake of 65 degrees, well above the long-term average. That same day, the air temperature in Ely was 81.
Fishing on Crooked Lake for several days, I hooked several small bass and walleyes that didn't fight much, looked discolored, and just laid on the surface when released. A couple walleyes had a light fuzz around their gill covers.
It was a non-scientific sample, but I believe a factor in the condition of the fish was the warm water temperature. Add that to resource development, invasive species, airborne pollution, and flattening in the demand for overnight BWCAW permits, and I fear a global treasure of immeasurable value simply could vanish under our collective noses within a few generations.
As an economist, I'm acutely aware of the critical need for economic development in Northeastern Minnesota to help families keep kids in their hometowns with gainful employment.
I applaud Minnesotans for their successes in trying to find the difficult balance between environmental preservation and economic development. For the sake of future generations, I urge Minnesotans to remain vigilant for both the environmental and economic future of the Quetico Superior.