Voyageurs National Park Needs Your Voice
Protect Voyageurs and the BWCAW from Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining
In 2016, the U.S. Forest Service announced a two-year pause on sulfide mining activities in approximately 234,328 acres of the Superior National Forest, a vital portion of the Rainy River Watershed, which flows into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. This review period would have allowed time to gather scientific data and public input to guide the Administration on whether to approve a 20-year withdrawal of these lands from the most toxic industry. Here’s a quick video explaining the process.
In 2018, the Federal Administration downgraded and abruptly canceled this environmental assessment. VNPA maintains that a full two-year Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed withdrawal is essential to allow federal agencies and the public to examine scientific findings thoroughly to determine whether copper-nickel mining should be allowed in this watershed. Read more on how sulfide mine development in the Rainy River Watershed as far away as 100 miles will flow into Voyageurs impacting its waters and wildlife.
On May 13, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s illegally renewed two Twin Metals Minnesota LLC-held hardrock mineral leases located on the Superior National Forest in Northeastern Minnesota. This places our watershed and our National Park one step closer to being impacted by sulfide-ore exploration, development and mining.
VNPA supports legislation recently introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum compelling the U.S. Forest to complete a study on sulfide mining in the Rainy River Watershed. The study had been underway for twenty months before being cancelled by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in 2018. The legislation would also halt mineral leasing in the watershed ountil the completion and delivery of the study to Congress.
➤ Take Action
Contact Governor Tim Walz and Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar (or your local Congressional rep)
We need them to act. Tell them you value the precious waters of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and support the withdrawal of neighboring lands from future sulfide ore mining projects. Pollution from sulfide-ore copper mining would flow through the Rainy River watershed and contaminate the Boundary Waters, Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park, Voyageurs National Park, and the Superior National Forest. The Administration’s recent decision to renew Twin Metals’ leases is an attack on our public lands and a clear disregard for science, public opinion, and legal precedent.
Support our work with a donation today. Be a voice to keep Voyageurs National Park wild and clean today and forever. We rely on the generosity of park advocates like you.
Send a letter to U.S. Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (Sonny Perdue) and of the Department of Interior (David Bernhardt) urging protection of American treasures like Voyageurs and the BWCAW from sulfide-ore copper mining. Tell them to be transparent and release information and analysis related to the decision to abruptly cancel a two-year study on mining in our watershed in September 2018. (Read more in the Star Tribune)
Increase Federal Funding for National Parks
America’s National Parks saw over 330 million recreation visits in 2017 – almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits the year before. In 2016, Park visitors spent an estimated $16.9 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. Each federal dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 in economic activity, a tremendous return on investment to local economies. Click here to learn more about the local economic impact at Voyageurs.
The National Parks budget supports healthy fish and wildlife, public access to the outdoors, rural economies, and our nation’s rich heritage. Congress should reject the President’s proposed cuts, which could be up to 7% cut for the National Park service, which already faces significant backlog, and up to 16% for the Department of Interior as a whole. The Park Service funding is essential to operating and maintaining the places that deeply inspire American families, provide healthy recreational opportunities, support local economies and protect America’s natural and cultural treasures.
➤ Tell your representative to support increased funding for the National Park Service and appropriate funds that support the National Park Service Centennial Challenge.
Improve Public Lands Infrastructure
A long-term under-investment by Congress in public lands has led to a $16 billion repair backlog, including crumbling roads and bridges, run-down trails, and rotting historic buildings. Voyageurs National Park alone has over $16.4 million in backlog which includes projects that would improve visitor safety and save historic structures.
The backlog is a result of aging infrastructure, increased wear and tear from visitation and congressional underfunding. In addition, federal lands do not have the benefit of local or state taxes to fund infrastructure projects. The Trump administration’s proposed budget will only allocate $805 million to address the $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our National Parks, which accounts for 69% of Interior’s $16 billion overall backlog.
In the News: The Guardian launches a new series and explores the National Park Service’s $11 billion maintenance backlog.
➤ Tell your representative to support the National Park Service Legacy Act which would provide investments that would go toward reducing the backlog the National Park Service faces to repair roads, visitor facilities, trails, and other park structures.
Fully Fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund
Minnesota has received approximately $240.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Saint Croix National Scenic River. LWCF is a dedicated funding source allows the federal government to buy private lands from willing sellers and is crucial to VNPA’s Land Preservation Initiative.
The future of our outdoor access depends on investment from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. LWCF is overwhelmingly popular with the American people and has maintained broad bipartisan support over its half century history of successful, locally-driven conservation. Read more about why LWCF matters to you.
In the spring of 2019, Congress voted to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a huge win for conservation across the United States. Despite this, there is more work to be done to ensure the adequate funding within each years’ budget. The increase the Subcommittee included for the program in its FY20 bill reflects the broad bipartisan support for the program. This is encouraging, but continue to voice your support to your representatives!
➤ Take Action: The date for permanent re-authorization of the LWCF has passed, but you can still ask your representative to help push for general re-authorization, and support of the LWCF.