MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act.
Signed by Jimmy Carter in October 1978, the act designated Minnesota’s northeastern region (BWCAW) as wilderness and protected it from mining, the U.S. Forest Service says.
The statute hoped to protect and manage wildlife, maintain environmental quality, and prevent commercial development.
The Mining Protection Area was created under the same act, in addition to prohibiting certain motorized vehicles, more road construction, and most mineral development.
Lawsuits against proposed mining gained momentum early summer 2018. But on September 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed mineral exploration ban around the Rainy River watershed.
This opened up the area up to mining by controversial Twin Cities Metals, who haven’t yet finalized permits, Voyageurs National Park Association says.
This decision also canceled a proposed 20-year mining ban and a two-year environmental impact study.
In a March 2018 study by Fabrizio Ward and Save the Boundary Waters, 59 percent of Minnesotans opposed sulfide-ore copper mining near BWCAW. Seventy-nine percent favored the two-year impact study– the study that no longer exists.
Despite the area’s uncertainty surrounding land use, BWCAW is still among the most popular outdoor areas, with 36 percent visitors being out-of-state, the forest service says.
A 40th anniversary celebration of the wilderness act will take place in Minneapolis on Monday, October 22, with an after-party to follow.
Even if September is when BWCAW enthusiasts usually end their trips, now might be a good time to start planning next year’s adventure.