NORTHEASTERN MINNESOTANS FOR WILDERNESS
2019 IMPACT REPORT
LETTER FROM THE BOARD
Dear Boundary Waters Supporter:
As we write this, we are all enduring very challenging times with respect to a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been touched by a new reality. Priorities for all of us must be the health and well-being of ourselves, our families and our communities. This said, our fight does not stop. While our staff are working remotely, we stand united in our actions to protect the Boundary Waters. Let’s look back at the year we had in 2019.
This was a critical year for us to strengthen and grow our effort in the face of a looming threat to our cherished Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The threat, which had seemed distant to some, became very real when Antofagasta’s Twin Metals Minnesota submitted its mine plan of operations on December 18, 2019. We had spent a long time in preparation for that moment and are prepared to take the challenge to the next level.
As you’ll see in the pages of this annual report, we have been working hard on many fronts – from lawsuits and collecting science, to working at both the state and federal capitols, to raising critical operational funds, and to expanding our outreach to supporters and to the media. We are gratified with the successes and the support we were able to achieve.
It is your help that allows us to continue to lead this fight. Without your support and this work, Antofagasta would have a clear path to forcing this mine on Minnesota. We remain the lead organization working with Congress, working at the state capitol, and working through the administrative processes to stop this unconscionable project. And we will not stop until this project is terminated and the Boundary Waters is permanently protected.
We know that 2020 is going to be a critical and pivotal year. With the mine plan now submitted to the state and federal agencies, the project will begin threading its way through the environmental review and permitting processes. The historical importance of iron mining in Minnesota has helped create a permitting process that is affirmatively biased to facilitate the development of other mines, including sulfide-ore copper mines. We need to participate aggressively in the environmental review process – and that means paying for unique scientific experts. We will be pushing Rep. McCollum’s bill – HR5598 – to protect the Boundary Waters and hopefully gaining a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. We need to get our state elected leaders to reflect the wishes of the 70% of Minnesotans who oppose copper mining near the Boundary Waters, so we will be pounding the marble at the St. Paul capitol. We will continue with our legal challenges in the US Courts. And we will be reaching new audiences in new ways – like a self-produced documentary on the threat to the Boundary Waters and another WildWaters music concert. It will be a big year, indeed.
In this time of social distancing, wilderness has never been more important. We remain dedicated to the growth and prosperity of Northeastern Minnesota, strong and vibrant communities with enviable entrepreneurial and job opportunity, and the wilderness edge lifestyle and sustainable local economies that underlie these qualities and attract people of all ages and from all walks of life to this special place. We understand everyone’s lives have been upended by the public health crisis we’re now confronting, but whether it’s making donations, advocating online, sharing information on social media, or more, our advocacy is more important than ever. We’ll continue to keep you closely apprised of opportunities to make a difference.
So, thank you for your confidence and support in 2019! You are giving a voice to the Boundary Waters in this critical time. We are David battling Goliath, but we will not quit until we win. Collectively, we WILL protect the most popular Wilderness in America.
Jon Nelson and Jeff Soderstrom
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness Board Co-chairs
The Campaign to Save The Boundary Waters (the “Campaign”) is leading the effort to protect the Boundary Waters Wilderness from sulfide-ore copper mining.
The Campaign is a program of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW). NMW was organized in 1997 by residents of the Ely, Minnesota, region to protect the integrity of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
NORTHEASTERN MINNESOTANS FOR WILDERNESS MISSION STATEMENT
To protect and preserve wilderness and wild places.
To advocate for the permanent protection of the BWCAW and the enhancement of its wilderness aspect.
To foster education about the value of wilderness and wild places.
WE ARE LEADING THE EFFORT TO PROTECT THE BOUNDARY WATERS.
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is unique in its efforts to protect America’s most visited Wilderness by implementing a multi-pronged protection approach. We educate and raise public awareness about the dangers of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness, but we also lobby and meet with lawmakers on both the state and national levels. We spend time and resources to conduct and assemble scientific research and studies, and engage in litigation when necessary. We participate in public input processes and also have a robust outreach program that creates Wilderness ambassadors across the country. We create and work with powerful networks of partners. We do all of this and more in order to ensure the permanent protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and you make it possible.
SCIENCE & LEGAL
America’s most visited Wilderness area is threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining. This kind of mining has devastated natural areas all across America. Our Science and Legal team is working to ensure that all facts, data, and laws are brought to light in the fight to protect the Boundary Waters.
Two federal leases held by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta were terminated in 2016 under the Obama administration but reinstated in 2018 under the Trump administration. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, alongside nine Boundary Waters businesses, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on June 21st, 2018, challenging the unlawful actions by the U.S. Department of Interior, Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani (previously employed at the Charles H. Koch Foundation), and the Bureau of Land Management, for reinstating the two long-expired federal mineral leases on Superior National Forest lands near the Boundary Waters.
In March 2020 Judge McFadden decided to give deference to the Department of the Interior’s decision to reverse its 2016 position. We strongly disagree with this ruling. We believe the record clearly shows that the Trump administration reversal was a political decision to benefit mining giant Antofagasta. We intend to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and continue fighting. This is far from over.
BUSINESSES LAWSUIT PLAINTIFFS:
Ely Outfitting Company
Hungry Jack Outfitters
Piragis Northwoods Company
River Point Resort and Outfitting Company
Voyageur Outward Bound School
Women’s Wilderness Discovery
From Twin Metals’ mine plan proposal along Birch Lake on the edge of the Boundary Waters
MINE PLAN PUSHBACK
Despite the legal limbo over the federal mineral leases, Twin Metals submitted its project plans to state and federal regulators on December 18, 2019, which begins the environmental review process. Minnesota officials have already said they will take their own hard look at this independently of the federal agencies. In this process, we will bring the science and economics needed to convince them to reject the mine entirely.
Our team of experts is reviewing the plans submitted by the mining company and identifying the significant problems, omissions, and risks the project poses to air, water, wildlife, the local and regional economy, and to the public health of Minnesotans and visitors.
Sampling water quality in Birch Lake near the proposed mine site.
Protecting a resource as precious as the Boundary Waters requires the resolve and leadership of elected officials. We work very closely with elected leaders in Washington, DC, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and around the country to educate them on the potential devastation a sulfide-ore copper mine would wreak on the edge of the Wilderness. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans are opposed to this mine, and our elected officials need to know that we expect strong leadership to protect the Wilderness.
REP. McCOLLUM AUTHORED 3 BILLS TO PROTECT THE BWCA
One appropriations bill included report language prohibiting further work on the proposed mine, requiring completion of the withdrawal study, and prohibiting leasing of minerals during the time of the study, which would analyze whether mining should be done in this area at all.
A second appropriations bill for the State Department which included language that the department report back to Congress on the impacts to Canada resulting from a sulfide-ore mine on waters flowing into Canada.
Finally, and most importantly, Rep. McCollum worked on an extremely strong protection bill that she introduced early in 2020. That bill, HR 5598, the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act - would permanently prevent leasing of sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. We stand firmly behind this bill, and are extraordinarily grateful to Rep. McCollum for her leadership
In Minnesota, we meet with state elected officials to let them know what’s at stake—the integrity of the wilderness, the revenue of local businesses, the livelihoods of thousands of employees, the future of youth camps and the way of life of outdoors-loving Minnesotans. A very visible sign of our work was the “Rally to Save the Boundary Waters” on May 22, 2019, which drew over 400 people to the Minnesota State Capitol. We delivered a petition with over 200,000 signatures to Governor Walz that demanded the state act to protect the Boundary Waters. We will continue this work in 2020, and every year, until we get the protection the Wilderness needs.
Our on-the-ground staff works with passionate people like you around the country that love the Boundary Waters. Our committed outreach team plans, prepares and gives presentations and provides training to supporters, activists, and volunteer ambassadors all over the nation in an effort to educate as many people as possible on the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters.
NEW 2019 AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
Ambassadors are a new and crucial part of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. From around the country, these lead volunteers work closely with our staff to develop and strengthen outreach and advocacy in their areas. This helps us build the people power that we need to protect the Boundary Waters!
Our Communications Team works in amazing ways to engage new and long-term Boundary Waters advocates with information that doesn’t just entertain, but educates and spurs action.
In 2019, we saw a huge increase in social media engagement from our constituents and community. Nearly 23,000 actions were taken to contact elected officials online about protecting the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining, and in 2019 alone, we saw over 5.2 million impressions on Facebook, and just over 1.1 million Twitter impressions.
New York Times
The New Yorker
Canoe & Kayak
OUTDOOR INDUSTRY VOICES
“The Boundary Waters is an important place to protect not only for Minnesotans, for but everyone in the world. It’s not only the wildlife and plants, it offers a place where people can find reprieve from the stresses of modern society. The Boundary Waters is not the place for mining, and we must continue to advocate for its protection.“
- CAROLINE GLEICH
Professional Ski Mountaineer
WILD WATERS MUSIC FESTIVAL
In August, 4600 people attended our first-ever Wild Waters Music Fest to Save the Boundary Waters at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park.
View the gallery of photos from the event by clicking the white arrow on the photos below
50 STATES & 6 COUNTRIES
TO SAVE THE BOUNDARY WATERS
DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR MATCHES
PATAGONIA: At the end of 2019, Patagonia matched up to $10 million dollars in donations through their Patagonia Action Works network for over 1,000 grassroots environmental organizations in 17 days. The Campaign raised $220,000 during this match.
We are grateful for generous grants in 2019 from:
The Conservation Alliance
Quetico Superior Foundation
Leuthold Family Foundation
Mortenson Family Foundation
National Parks Conservation Association
The Clif Bar Family Foundation
The Wilderness Society
Public Welfare Foundation
Edward R. Bazinet Foundation
And many others!
HOW YOU SHOWED UP
In 2019, the Campaign held its second annual Gala which raised over $250,000 and generated palpable excitement in the fight to protect the Boundary Waters. Speakers included Paul Schurke, Ann Bancroft, Will Steger, and former Governor Mark Dayton. Read more about our gala here.
GIVE TO THE MAX DAY
MEET THE TEAM
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, led by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness based in the Wilderness-edge town of Ely, Minnesota, is a diverse national coalition of 350 organizations & businesses, dedicated to protecting the Boundary Waters from the imminent threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. Read more about us.
2019 NMW BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dodd Cosgrove, Secretary
David Miller, Treasurer
Jon Nelson, Co-chair
Dr. Jen Pearson
Becky Rom, Vice-chair
Jeff Soderstrom, Co-Chair
Director of Finance and Administration
Deputy Campaign Manager
Director of Government Relations
Regional Organizer & Ely Office Manager
Policy & Science Director
Science and Policy Associate
KIDS FOR THE BOUNDARY WATERS
Kids For The Boundary Waters is an initiative supported by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. The effort is organized and led by college student Joseph Goldstein and an advisory board of youth. Kids for the Boundary Waters has led multiple advocacy trips of over 70 kids to Washington D.C. to meet directly with lawmakers about the Boundary Waters.
BOUNDARY WATERS BUSINESS COALITION
More than 300 local, state, regional, national, and even international businesses have joined the Boundary Waters Business Coalition to advocate for permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from risky sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of this iconic Wilderness.
American Canoe Association
Crow River Trail Guards
Defenders of Wildlife
The Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation
Fishing for Life
Friends of the Boundary Waters
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
The Izaak Walton League
Keep It Public
League of Conservation Voters
Minnesota Conservation Federation
National Parks Conservation Association
National Wildlife Federation
National Resources Defense Council
Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters
Veterans for the Boundary Waters
Voyageurs National Park Association
The Wilderness Society
Winter Wildlands Alliance
In addition to these Campaign Partner organizations, we work with numerous NGOs, tribes, camps, faith communities, businesses and other allies across the country.
Read more about our partners here.
COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION
Wilderness and the pursuit of its protection should be made to be welcoming and accessible to all. Protecting Wilderness relies upon public engagement which cannot be expected when people are disenfranchised, unwelcome, hurt, or tokenized due to their sexuality, race, age, ability, size, gender identity, gender expression, culture, religion, political affiliation, or anything else. The pursuit of permanent protection for the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining and other threats is no different. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters (the Campaign) is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the organization as it works to protect this special place for everyone and for generations to come.
BE A PART OF THE MOVEMENT
Many people ask how they can protect the Boundary Waters. The wonderful answer is that there are so many ways you can help save this special place from sulfide-ore copper mining. All of the following options are available on our website and anyone on our staff would love to help answer any of your questions about how you can get involved.