1902 - The U.S. General Land Office sets aside 500,000 acres in what would become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, keeping it undeveloped by removing it from settlement acreage being offered to homesteaders.

1904 - Congress grants 20,000 acres to the state for the Burntside Forest Reserve. Minnesota forestry officials declare "State Forest Reserves should be devoted not alone to the business of raising timber, but to the pleasure of all the people."

1905-1908 - General C. C. Andrews of Minnesota persuades the U.S. General Land Office to set aside another 659,700 acres.

1909 - President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Superior National Forest, covering many of the lands previously set aside, including parts of what would become the BWCAW.

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1913 - The 1.2 million acre Quetico Provincial Park is designated by the government of Ontario just across the border. The park has been off limits to logging since 1971.

1926 - As roads begin to push into the Superior National Forest - Echo Trail, Fernberg Road, Gunflint Trail - U.S. Agriculture Secretary W.M. Jardine creates a 646,000-acre "roadless area" to "retain as much as possible of the land which has recreational opportunities of this nature as a wilderness." Logging is allowed to continue.

1930 - Congress passes the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act to protect water levels and lakeshores by prohibiting dams and also banning logging within 400 feet of recreational waterways in the Superior National Forest.

1938 - U.S. Forest Service establishes Superior Roadless Primitive Area with boundaries similar to the eventual BWCAW.

1941 - Forest Service establishes no-logging zone of 362,000 acres along the Ontario border. Other areas remain open to logging.

1948 - Congress passes Thye-Blatnik Act to buy resorts and private lands in the Roadless Area. The act also provides in-lieu-of-tax payments to Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties for federal wilderness land to make up for lost private property taxes.

1949 - President Harry Truman issues an executive order prohibiting planes from landing on lakes or flying below 4,000 feet over the Roadless Area. Minnesota passes similar law.

1958 - Forest Service changes name of Superior Roadless Area to Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Logging and motorboats still are allowed in much of the area.

1964 - President Lyndon Johnson signs the Wilderness Act into law. BWCA becomes part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, although with a unique clause that allows logging, snowmobiling and motorboats to continue.

1965 - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman increases the no-logging zone and imposes more limits on motorboats and snowmobiling.

1966 - Forest Service institutes travel permits for BWCA canoe and boat trips.

1972 - Lawsuit filed by Minnesota Public Interest Research Group to prohibit logging of virgin forest in the wilderness until an environmental impact statement is completed by the Forest Service.

1973 - Federal Judge Philip Neville rules to prohibit mining in the BWCA in a lawsuit brought by the Izaak Walton League. He is reversed on appeal to 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1974.

1975 - Federal Judge Miles Lord bans logging of virgin forests, but his decision is reversed on appeal in 1976. U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar introduces a bill to "resolve" BWCA issues by creating a 600,000-acre wilderness (no logging or motors) and a 400,000-acre recreation area (allowing motors). The recreation area designation is strongly opposed by environmentalists. Rep. Don Fraser of Minneapolis introduces a rival bill to make most of BWCA wilderness.

1976 - State of Minnesota passes legislation prohibiting mining and peat harvesting in the BWCA.

Oct. 15, 1978 - U.S. Senate gives final approval to the BWCA Wilderness Act, which had passed the House earlier that morning. The law eliminated all logging, snowmobiling and mining in the BWCAW but allowed motorboats on 25 percent of the water area. About 50,000 acres are added to the BWCAW for a total of nearly 1.1 million acres, of which about 900,000 acres is federal land.

Oct. 21, 1978 - President Jimmy Carter signs the BWCAW Act. into law.

1979 - Motor vehicles, including boats, are banned in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, adjacent to the BWCAW, with the exception of the Lac La Croix First Nation.

1979-1982 - The state of Minnesota and others challenge the BWCAW Act, but the act is upheld by 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review the opinion in 1982.

1991-1993 - Court decisions require motorized portages in BWCAW to be closed.

1996-1997 - Federal mediation process to settle debate over motorized or mechanical portages, pushed by U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, meets often for many months but ends without consensus.

1998 - After mediation fails, Congress passes law allowing two motorized portages to reopen; one small lake is added to motorless regulation.

1999 - A huge July 4 windstorm downs millions of trees across 300,000 BWCAW acres. Many people are injured and stranded, but no one is killed. State and federal officials immediately worry dead trees will spur bigger forest fires.

2007 - The Ham Lake fire burns across 76,000 acres and destroys 163 buildings along and near the Gunflint Trail, including areas affected by the 1999 blowdown.

2011 - A small, lightning-caused fire near Pagami Creek east of Ely in the BWCAW that started Aug. 18 explodes into a raging inferno on Sept. 12, eventually burning across 93,000 acres, the state's largest wildfire in nearly 80 years. Forest Service criticized for allowing the initial fire to burn for weeks inside the wilderness.

2012 - News Tribune story first outlining the scope of the proposed Twin Metals underground copper mine proposed just outside the BWCAW but within the wilderness watershed. Opposition to the mine grows, with wilderness advocates calling copper mining among the biggest threats to the wilderness because of potential water pollution.

December, 2016 - Obama administration imposes a moratorium on mining in Superior National Forest areas near the BWCAW and orders a study of potential mining impact on the wilderness.

Sept. 6, 2018 - Trump administration drops all of the Obama administration restrictions, eliminating roadblocks to mining in the area just outside the BWCAW, including Twin Metals proposed mine.

Sources: The Wilderness Society, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, News Tribune archives, Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland College.


Anglers and hunters share their BWCAW stories

BWCAW turns 40