When I entered Wilderness for the first time as a confused and lost 19 year old girl I had no idea the path life would take me on. Now, 11 years later I’m a wife, a mother to a son and am expecting a daughter next month. Wilderness for me used to be my sanctuary. After meeting my husband, Bobby, wilderness was a setting of bonding and discovery. As we were starting our lives together we entered wilderness together and did extraordinary things. We learned about each other, we learned the importance of communication, we learned to care for one another, we learned to trust one another. We had conversations within the sanctuary of Mother Nature that would never have been able to take place in a bar or a restaurant or even the comforts of our own home. When out exploring the wilderness a closeness and a bond is formed that nothing else can possibly duplicate.
Now, it has become a classroom for our children. A place for us to take our children to to help them learn life lessons, learn about ecosystems, learn about history, learn about the importance of preservation, learn Leave No Trace Principals, and learn to be thoughtful, caring human beings.
At the age of two our son, Jack, has entered 2 wilderness areas, one of which is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). His third trip into the BWCA he was accompanied by his loving and doting grandparents.
Jack was able to be a part of a multigenerational trip into an area that has been protected since 1926. He was given a glimpse into what life was like for a Voyageur traveling the area 200 years ago. These wilderness areas are truly precious and deserve our respect and protection.
In this country we have been given a remarkable gift, with more than 107 million acres of wilderness being protected and managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) in 44 states, we have unique and unparalleled access to outdoor recreational opportunities in a wilderness setting. At over 1 million acres with 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 237.5 miles of hiking trails, and 2,000 campsites the BWCA is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country, averaging upwards of 250,000 visitors annually.
Currently, this area’s pristine and untouched characteristics are being threatened by the possibility of sulfide-ore copper mining coming to the surrounding area. This mining would create local jobs and provide metals like copper and nickel for industry. But, at what cost would these things be taken from the earth? While the mining itself isn’t taking place within the boundaries of the BWCA it is near the border and waste water could flow into the BWCA’s watershed which would then lead to Voyageurs National Park and Quetico Provincial Park. Sulfide-ore copper mining is a practice never before seen here in Minnesota because of the notorious harm it causes to the surrounding areas.
The BWCA contains 20% of the freshwater found throughout the entire National Forest system and these potential mining practices will threaten that freshwater with contamination. The fish, wildlife, and human visitors will all be threatened should these mining operations be allowed.
For me the importance and urgency required when talking about protecting a national treasure such as the BWCA is a personal and emotional need. The importance of wilderness, of pristine, untouched natural experiences, of truly immersing yourself into the wild and wonder of this beautiful gift we have been given should never be jeopardized for any reason. Experiences had within a wilderness area are unlike anything else.
The landscape should be ever-changing due to Mother Nature’s interference and not that of human hands. Derechos blow through, wildfire consumes, and pouring rains erode and shift the earth over time. These changes are a part of the natural landscape and have been since the beginning of time, but, the changes and harm caused by human interference should be protested and stopped. We have sought to protect this wilderness area for the last 90 years. Why should that change now?
When I think of my children I imagine all the adventures we will have with them throughout their lives. I think of the memories made. The photographs taken. The tears shed. The laughter shared.
I imagine them setting forth on their own as a young woman and a young man seeking adventure by themselves, with friends, or with families of their own. I picture them emulating trips we have done in the past. Being able to experience the same campsites. The same lakes. The same paths. When our wilderness is threatened the opportunities for outdoor recreation of future generations are threatened.
Lyndon B. Johnson said it beautifully when talking of the importance of protecting wilderness areas for future generations. He said, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”
The BWCA is a profoundly important stretch of wilderness that must be protected. This includes protection from within and without. As we, the visitors, enter the wilderness we must educate ourselves. We must practice and respect all Leave No Trace Principles. Protecting this area from exterior threats, like a disruptive and environmentally toxic mining operation should have every one of us standing up, speaking out, and working hard to protect this vital natural resource for generations to come. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
Please, stand with us and speak out against the proposed mines. Sign the petition today, contact your local representative, educate others, or share your own personal stories. There are so many ways in which you can stand up and protect this scenic area for this generation and all those to come.