A decision issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today abandons the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) request to freeze mining in the watershed of a beloved wilderness, exposing northern Minnesota’s pristine public lands and waterways to lasting impacts from sulfide-ore copper mines. USDA’s announcement that it will cancel the USFS application to the Secretary of Interior to withdraw 234,000 acres of public land in the Superior National Forest from mineral leasing stymies efforts to establish practical safeguards that would have remained in place for 20 years.
The Trump administration’s reversal of this bid for stronger protections in a cherished wilderness recreation area opens the door to mining impacts affecting the Superior National Forest and the adjacent Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, an area with 18 hiking trails and 1,200 miles of canoe routes bordering Canada. Acid mine drainage poses a uniquely severe threat here because the geology of the region makes the watershed especially susceptible to contamination.
Earthjustice is currently involved in litigation to challenge the Interior Department’s reinstatement of mining leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota, which has proposed sulfide-ore mining operations at the edge of the Boundary Waters. The lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity, and Izaak Walton League, and parallels two other lawsuits opposing the Twin Metals leases.
The following statement from Earthjustice attorney Erin Whalen is a reaction to today’s USDA announcement:
“The Boundary Waters is a valuable economic driver for northeastern Minnesotans, and for the rest of us what it offers is priceless: a chance to learn self-reliance, experience freedom, and connect to the vanishing wild. Today’s decision represents a willful failure by the Trump administration to preserve these values intact for America’s children and grandchildren.”
Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2093