Another striking image of a bit of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (
by Dan Burns
Jan 14, 2023, 9:30 AM

MN lege: A new effort to protect the BWCA

From being destroyed by sulfide mining, that is. I wrote a while back about how previous efforts to do the same have been languishing. I couldn’t find a description of this in the vernacular, yet, so I have to go to the source. Namely, the actual proposed legislation.

Except with the prior approval of the legislature in those cases of national emergency which have been declared by the Congress and which direct the need for exploration and mining of federal lands within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the Rainy River headwaters, and after an investigation and determination by the commissioner of natural resources pursuant to subdivision 5 no state-owned or administered land may be leased for exploration or mining of minerals, and no state permits, licenses or leases shall be issued to use any other state natural resources for any mineral exploration or mining operations in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Rainy River headwaters. Mining for taconite or iron ore, sand, gravel, and granite may be allowed on state-owned or administered land in the Rainy River headwaters if the commissioner of natural resources determines that the mining will not be detrimental to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The main drivers here are Sen. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven) and Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton). I for one of course wish them the very, very best on this. It wouldn’t significantly, directly impact the main PolyMet proposal. But it could crush the Teck plan, so expect fireworks.

Which gets to the big question of whether Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) will sign it if it gets that far. His practice has been to stay as clear as he can of the mining and pipeline controversies in the state. But protecting the BWCA is very popular, and he presumably doesn’t have to worry about reelection any more. Not that he’s had to worry much about his gubernatorial elections in any case.

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