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How the specter of the decades-long fight over the BWCA hangs over PolyMet

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Canoeing on Gunflint Lake, circa 1950

The dummy hanging by its neck from the boom of a logging truck was probably reason enough for Sigurd Olson to turn around and go home. 

It was July 8, 1977, and tensions in northeastern Minnesota had reached a fever pitch over a proposal to carve out the Boundary Waters as a national wilderness area, cut off from motorboats, snowmobiles and logging and mining industries. Environmentalists like Olson wanted it preserved, but many loggers and boaters worried the proposal would choke out their livelihood.

Olson was in Ely for a field hearing on the proposal, where more than 1,000 people parked their trucks and cars and packed into an auditorium. He had become a poster child for the effort to preserve the Boundary Waters, and his name was pinned on the lynched dummy’s shirt, along with that of Miron “Bud” Heinselman, another well-known environmentalist.

As he stepped up to the podium to testify, the auditorium erupted in yells and boos. The jeers went on for minutes, despite calls from then-Rep. Bruce Vento — who chaired the hearing — for the crowd to quiet. At one point during the yelling, Vento asked an aide if there was a way out of the auditorium in case the crowd turned into a mob. Eventually, the audience quieted, and Olson delivered a brief statement.

“Some places should be preserved from development or exploitation for they satisfy a human need for solace, belonging and perspective. In the end we turn to nature in a frenzied chaotic world, there to find silence, oneness, wholeness, spiritual release,” Olson concluded. “Please make this statement a part of the record.”

The preservation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is still considered one of the most significant conservation acts in state history. It was also one of the most controversial, a fight that spanned more than a decade, toppled a U.S. Senate campaign and sharply divided communities and regions of the state. 

Today, the clash is frequently cited by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton as his administration grapples with whether to grant PolyMet Mining Corporation a permit for a proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. Like the ’70s Boundary Waters fight, the project has sharply divided a region desperate for jobs and environmentalists who worry the mine, situated near the Boundary Waters, could destroy the same wilderness they fought to preserve. 

Dayton, who was just beginning his political career during the controversy, has said his agency’s decision on PolyMet could be “all that and worse,” likely resulting in years of litigation and political fallout. “This will be the most momentous, difficult and controversial decision I’ll make as governor.”

Industry v. ‘the outsiders’

U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey helped ignite the national debate about preserving the wild. 

Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, circa 1965
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, circa 1965

In 1956, Humphrey introduced the first version of what would become the Wilderness Act. After eight years and 66 rewrites, the final version of the act directed the secretary of the interior to review every roadless area of 5,000 or more acres within the National Wildlife Refuge and National Park Systems. The secretary would recommend to the president if it should be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Boundary Waters was the only specific wilderness to get a mention in the bill — designated as an “instant wilderness” area that also allowed some logging and use of motors to continue.

The act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but the exceptions for motorboats and industry carved out in the bill touched off years of debates in northeastern Minnesota. In the early 1970s, various groups successfully sued to ban mining and logging in virgin forests in the wilderness, rulings that were later overturned.

In 1976, 8th District Rep. Jim Oberstar tried to resolve the ongoing disputes over the Boundary Waters by introducing a bill to create a 600,000-acre wilderness with no logging or motors and a nearly 400,000-acre recreation area. Environmentalists enlisted Minneapolis 5th District Rep. Don Fraser to introduce a competing bill to eliminate all recreation, logging and mining from the Boundary Waters.

The move pitted Democrats against Democrats and let loose long simmering tensions in the area. “In the towns located on the edge of the Boundary Waters, residents were aroused over attempts by ‘outside agitators’ to come in and dictate the use of the land,” reported a story in Sports Illustrated from 1977. “In Ely, the village sometimes called Canoe Town USA, bumper stickers appeared saying SIERRA CLUB KISS MY AXE. At one point, a Forest Service building was burned, tires were slashed on vehicles owned by pro-wilderness people and an outfitter who leaned toward the Fraser bill had the display window in his store broken a couple of times.”

Intense lobbying went on in Minnesota and in Washington, D.C., and editorials advocating both sides of the issue appeared in national publications. In order to resolve differences between the two bills, a U.S. House subcommittee held two field hearings in Minnesota in July of 1977. The first took place in St. Paul in a state Capitol hearing room, which was filled to capacity.

Sigurd Olson, circa 1960
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Sigurd Olson, circa 1960

The second hearing in Ely, where Olson and others were hung in effigy, is still talked about in the community today. Olson served as a wilderness guide in the lakes and forests of Ontario and Minnesota and was known as the “Bourgeois” — a term voyagers gave to their trusted leaders. He spent most of his life pushing for complete protection of the Boundary Waters. But that day in Ely, Olson was the controversial mascot for the environmentalist movement. 

“Many threats have plagued the area over the years, road programs, power dams, airplane and fly-in resort developments, the acquisition of private land, logging and mining, and I realize now that had any of these issues been lost there would be no wilderness in the BWCA today,” Olson testified.

Debate on the two bills deadlocked, so a new proposal was drafted, this time sponsored by California Rep. Phillip Burton and Vento, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 4th District. This version called for complete elimination of logging from the wilderness area, with some motor use. It took negotiations between Ely City Attorney Ron Walls and environmental attorney Chuck Dayton to reach a final deal, which eliminated logging and snowmobiling, restricted mining, and allowed motorboats on only one-fourth of the water area. The final agreement also increased the Boundary Waters wilderness by 50,000 acres, making the area more than 1 million acres of protected land.

From April 1978: Protesters head up Fifth Avenue West in Duluth
Courtesy of the Duluth News Tribune
From April 1978: Protesters head up Fifth Avenue West in Duluth on their way to the Federal Building to rally against efforts to further restrict motorboats and snowmobiles in the Boundary Waters.

The fallout

The bill was signed on Oct. 21, 1978, by President Jimmy Carter, but hard feelings lingered long after the deal was inked.

And even before the bill was signed, the fight had political ramifications. In the 1978 election, Fraser attempted to move from the U.S. House into the Senate. He won the DFL Party’s endorsement, but he had a well-financed primary opponent in Bob Short, a businessman who had owned several sports teams. Short used his wealth to hit Fraser with negative ads in the 8th District, positioning himself on the side of northeastern Minnesota industry interests and portraying Fraser as a Twin Cities elitist.

Don Fraser in 1973
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Don Fraser in 1973

“The folks on the Iron Range, they were workers and they were toiling and getting dirty and then there were those ‘elitists’ down in the cities who wanted to ride their canoes in the pristine Boundary Waters,” said Iric Nathanson, who served as a Fraser aide on his 1978 campaign. “I think that’s what made the fight so bitter up there. People felt they should be able to run their motorboats where they wanted to, and I think folks like Fraser misjudged how upset people were.”

On primary night Sept. 12, early returns from the Twin Cities showed Fraser in the lead. But in the early hours of the morning, as votes were tallied from the far-flung 8th District, Short eked out a narrow victory (Short would go on to lose the November general election to Republican David Durenberger).

A different Iron Range

Today, some Democrats worry about a similar political blowback from PolyMet. Last fall, Republican candidates — including gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson and congressional candidate Stewart Mills — tried to make inroads in the 8th District by declaring their support for mining.

Those arguments didn’t go far, though. Johnson and Mills both failed to take out incumbent Democrats last fall. And while Republicans in the Legislature made inroads in rural Minnesota, most of their victories weren’t in northeastern Minnesota. In one intra-party battle, well-funded Democrat Matt Entenza tried to defeat incumbent DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto, partially by criticizing her in the 8th District over a vote against approving several mine leases. Otto decisively defeated Entenza. 

“In political terms, the [Iron] Range doesn’t have the influence that it had in 1978,” said Nathanson, who pointed out that the population is dwindling in old mining towns. “If PolyMet is not permitted, quite a few people up on the Range are going to be very upset. But there are relatively few number of jobs that are being proposed.”

Iron Range blogger and longtime Democratic activist Aaron Brown said PolyMet involved many of the same people and groups that were involved in the wilderness debate. But the BWCAW battle also affected more than just mining, and it came at a time when the Iron Range was more prosperous. As the area has shed mining jobs, the region has weakened and is struggling with how to revive its fragile economy. PolyMet says the new copper-nickel mine would create several hundred jobs in the area, but environmentalists worry that the toxins created in the process could spill into nearby watersheds and linger for hundreds of years. 

“The debate surrounding PolyMet is more about the region struggling with its identity in relation to mining and its economy in relation to mining,” Brown said. “It comes down to what you believe about the role of mining in our world and the role of wilderness in the world. There is some inherited legacy in the Wilderness Act, but now it comes with the emotional struggles and the industrialization of mining.”

For Dayton, the comparison boils down to emotion. He regularly recalls the arguments surrounding the creation of the BWCA, the firm convictions on both sides of the issue.

He feels those same emotions surrounding PolyMet.

“I’ve seen the kind of extreme passions it arouses,” Dayton told MinnPost this summer. “If it’s not approved, the folks who are advocates will be pushing for it. And if it is approved, those who are opposed to it are going to take it to court and do everything they can to defeat it. It’s going to be with us for at least the next several years.”

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/12/2015 - 10:56 am.

    And in both cases

    It was democrats versus jobs and those who wanted to work were out-voted by those who preferred to become dependent on government. Nothing’s changed.

    • Submitted by Curt Carlson on 11/12/2015 - 02:05 pm.


      That’s one (simple-minded) way of looking at it. It assumes that the mining would bring lots of long-lasting jobs (which it wouldn’t) and tourism, of which BWCAW traffic is but one part, is trivial. Ever been to Ely? The crowds there during the summer aren’t just locals and canoeists. Looks like business (and jobs) to me.

  2. Submitted by kevin terrell on 11/12/2015 - 11:18 am.

    Just wondering…

    “environmentalists who worry the mine, situated near the Boundary Waters, could destroy the same wilderness they fought to preserve.”

    How exactly would damage to the Boundary Waters occur, since the area is not in the same watershed as the proposed Polymet mine?

    • Submitted by David Wintheiser on 11/12/2015 - 12:29 pm.

      Watershed vs Aquifer

      While it is true that the PolyMet mine and the Boundary Waters don’t share the same watershed, they do share the same aquifer — the massive underground Prairie Du Chen/Jordan aquifer that underlies the entire region, from the BWCA to Milwaukee to Des Moines.

      Contamination of the aquifer would have massive consequences for not just the BWCA, but for the entire region, including the Twin Cities — so it’s not just a question of ‘metro elitists’ who would prefer to meddle in affairs that don’t involve them.

    • Submitted by Greg Magnuson on 11/15/2015 - 10:39 am.

      How on Earth?

      A very minimal amount of research on the subject led me to this:

      Sulfide rock brought up to the surface. then exposed to oxygen in the air & water cause a chemical reaction to occur that creates sulfuric acid… also called ‘acid rock drainage’.
      The NorthMet Mine would be on the edge of the Laurentian Divide, with a fault running under the mine site that continues beneath the Divide to the Kawishiwi Watershed, Langley Creek drains to a wetland that is also partially in the Kawishiwi Watershed
      The pollution will flow into the BW CAW since one of the major mines will be along the Kawishiwi River which is a major watershed in the BWCAW.
      Sulphide mining does NOT have any record of environmental safety.
      How do you suppose all that MERCURY poisoning occurred in the BWCAW? Airborne from Canada, as I recall.

  3. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/12/2015 - 03:01 pm.

    Urban view must be more important than rural view…

    I read Olson’s 1977 statement and must conclude that the urban view is much more important that the rural view where jobs & their local economy is critical for their long term sustainability.

    Olson stated: “Some places should be preserved from development or exploitation for they satisfy a human need for solace, belonging and perspective. In the end we turn to nature in a frenzied chaotic world, there to find silence, oneness, wholeness, spiritual release,”.

    In essense it says the urban need to escape the “frenzied chaotic world” to find solace is the only thing that is important and damn the hicks who live in rural settings. Our urban jobs and the need to escape trumps any need for jobs & the local economy in the iron/mineral range of Minnesota. We urban folk know what’s best…

    What a bunch of arrogant hogwash!

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/12/2015 - 06:35 pm.

      The other foot

      Even though you’re not alone in it, other than being one Minnesotan (I assume) coming to your own independent conclusion, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that the copper-nickel mining question is an “urban people” versus “the people who live in the area” thing. The results of a survey done last April seem to say something different:

      “The poll asked about proposed copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which brought only 18 percent support as opposed to 62 percent opposed across the state.

      “Even among respondents in Northeastern Minnesota, 61 percent of respondents opposed sulfide copper mining near the BWCAW with just 25 percent support.”

      Putting what you had to say the other way around, you seem to be saying “any need for jobs & the local economy in the iron/mineral range of Minnesota” trumps whatever anyone else in the state thinks or feels about the situation.

      And, I guess, in your view, it’s 100% okay to expect and demand that everyone else in Minnesota make that possible by agreeing to put some of our state’s most valuable assets at risk, and give mining companies (foreign companies, no less) unlimited access to them, so they can blast a 550 million ton hole in them, extract and keep the vast majority of the profits they’ll yield, and leave the toxic mess behind for someone else to deal with (forever).

      And, speaking of that, it seems the same thing goes for mining proponent’s demands that “urban types,” along with all non-urban, non-range Minnesotans (hicks like me), agree to put themselves on the hook for the tax money it would take to look after that toxic mess (millions of dollars per year for water treatment, etc.), and to try to deal with any tailings pond leaks (like the ones happening right now at the iron ore ponds) or catastrophes that might occur during the 480 years after the mine closed, the jobs were gone, and the mining company went bankrupt or out of business (like every other mining company in history has after their mines stopped producing).

      Sometimes it seems like the only thing some people can see or think about is those 300 jobs and the big $80,000 to $100,000 per year paychecks for a 40-hour week, and no one and nothing else matters, and all the other 5,400,000+ people that live in the Minnesota should just “quit whining, stay out of our business, and give the mining companies what they want!”

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/12/2015 - 07:06 pm.

      So I suppose then

      All we “arrogant” urban folk should just take our tourist dollars elswhere (you know the dollars that have prevented northeastern MN from becoming a depopulated ghost town) and leave you and your communities to die in peace? Sure, right after you forgo any and all tax requests to designed to delay the inevitable. OR you could finally come to the realization that the greatest commodity you have to sell is your wilderness, and quit fighting a battle you lost decades ago.

    • Submitted by scott gibson on 11/12/2015 - 07:52 pm.

      arrogant hogwash?

      As someone from rural northern MN and still living in rural MN, I agree wholeheartedly with Sigurd Olson. I’m anything but an urban elitist. The need for special ‘wild’ places like the BWCAW is still crucial. Forget mining. If the BWCAW didn’t exist, rich urban folks would already dominate many of the lakes there with summer homes. The BWCAW prevented that from happening. You can have your Wisconsin Dells. I’ll take our ‘wilderness’ over touristy water parks and amusements.

  4. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 11/12/2015 - 04:12 pm.

    Anyone who has read about the effects of the mining proposed by Polymet, even without major mistakes or accidents, knows that the very few jobs that will be involved are almost certainly not worth the centuries-long contamination of water and land. Polymet itself will be a footnote when Minnesota, hundreds of years into the future, is still trying to deal with the problems that defunct company left behind it.

    This conflict is simply not a conflict of urban versus rural, nor even really, Olson’s romantic view of nature’s solitude. It’s nature’s survival, or not.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/19/2015 - 06:46 pm.


      Global climate change will destroy the earth within this century, why on earth are people worried about “centuries-long contamination of water and land”? Hundreds of years from now earth will be a dead planet.

  5. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 11/12/2015 - 05:58 pm.

    Polymet is a relatively small company with few assets proposing to mine and create waste that will need to be treated indefinitely. The treatment/cleanup effort will continue far, far beyond the life of the mine. Their main financial backers, who will benefit from the profits of mine, are shielded (at least currently) from liability should a mishap occur and from responsibility for cleanup/treatment.

    Polymet’s approved EIS is based on treatment via reverse osmosis, which is effective. But it is expensive and rarely, if ever, done at the scale Polymet is proposing.

    But we will have financial assurance, right? Think about it, we’re talking about financial assurance for literally hundreds of years. Polymet won’t put down a cash deposit to cover the worst reasonable case. What is likely is that there will be some complex financial instruments that, in the end, are based on optimistic assumptions and unlikely to pay off should the need arise (but Polymet, it’s investors, and the financial institutions will have made their money by then). Kind of like the “liar loans” that got us into the recent financial crisis. Or the credit default swaps that AIG sold.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 11/12/2015 - 10:48 pm.

    Guns guns guns

    Was it not the appeal to the 2nd amendment hogwash that actually lead to Don Fraser’s defeat ? That is how my memory serves me. Only if he had won ! I just hope that Dayton takes on the mining interests and paints the story for what it is – an exercise in corporate power for the sake of power politics. Even the copper industry is saving recycling is the future. We need even more wilderness to be rebuilt not less. Ask th e Monarchs !

  7. Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/12/2015 - 10:52 pm.

    Polymet Fun Facts: Part 1

    Polymet says it will generate 76,800 tons of waste rock each day. When you do the arithmetic on that it comes out to a total of (hold on a sec…) 560,640,000 tons of (toxic) waste rock in 20 years.

    But what does that mean?

    Let’s see.

    Google says a loaded coal car carries 131.5 tons, and that, and the magic calculator, tells me the Polymet Waste Rock Express would be 4,263,422 cars long.

    The net says a coal car’s length is just over 53 feet, so that means that train would be — let’s see — 225,961,369 feet, or a just a little bit over 42,790 miles long.

    Imagine the wait at THAT crossing! (“Boy… I sure hope it don’t start rainin. We shoulda brought some sandwiches.”)

    But that couldn’t happen because they’d run out of track 41,000-some miles before they got to California (no trans-Pacific, or Atlantic, bridges yet). And, because they’re not stupid, they know that even if they COULD run it across the oceans, they still wouldn’t be able to get it done in one shot because it’s less than 25,000 miles all the way around the world, so they know they’d have to park half the train someplace else (over by Duluth, maybe?) and make two trips.

    IF the DNR made them haul their toxic waste rocks out of here as part of a more fool-proof EIS, that is. Just have Glencore/Xstrata pick them up and haul them wherever the want. They could take them home to Switzerland and fill up a few passes in the Alps, for all we care. “We can handle the holes, but you’ll need to take your trash with you. We’re sick of cleaning up after all you people! No takey, no miney. It’s up to you.”

    But that would probably make those Global Commodities Traders guys really mad, and they might decide they weren’t going to be pushed around and decide to take their 300 Range economy salvation jobs elsewhere, so we better not try anything like that. We better just do what they say.

    Besides, the people at Polymet know what they’re doing. And so do the people at the DNR, the MPCA, and so do the Senators and Representatives on the IRRRB, and the Engineers over at the Army Corp. They’re all aces. They deal with 560 million ton piles of toxic rocks in really wet places every day and are seasoned experts when it comes to keeping the rain and melting snow from dripping off them and sliding away, into un-osmosised parts of the environment. I mean, how much stormy day rain, or sudden spring runoff, could there be rolling off a 42,000 mile long train-sized pile of rocks parked next door to the Boundary Waters, a little way upstream from the Big Gitchigoomie?

    Stop worrying. They know what they’re doing. Polymet will just borrow a couple hundred million more from Glencore, put big rubber tires on that train, drive it out onto the bed of the big (used) tailings “pond” they’re going to refurbish, dump them there, cover them up with water, turn on the Super Pumps hooked up to the Magic Machine (that’s guaranteed to work like a maintenance-free dream for 500 years or more! Call now!), everyone on the Range will (finally!) get rich, and everything will be more beautiful than ever, forever.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 11/13/2015 - 09:12 am.

    Elizabeth’s voice was heard also

    This is a small sidebar: It was in the mid sixties and I had a small driftwood shop in Grand M on the shores of the big lake, Superior.

    Elizabeth Olson, wife of Sigurd stopped in my shop one summer day…introduced herself and told me the finer details of her husband and herself and others,,, and some of the conflicts of living and struggling to promote protection of this rare wilderness. And some of the locals etc who cherished their snowmobiles and motor boats and at times by word or deed, did threaten, disturb the peace of this rare couple, Sigurd and Elizabeth as advocates with enough grace and courage to pursue the protection of this land.

    I honor her since she is not always included in the public domain; too often left out of the picture? Hers was one powerful voice who spent a good hour in my shop telling me their story before hard core politics became a necessary format? She too was part of the moving finger pointing the way, yes indeed. She bought a small daisy on a driftwood board and said she would hang it in Sigurd’s study. I was both awed and honored for she was one rare voice giving me a greater understanding. She was my “Listening Point”…

  9. Submitted by Joe Smith on 11/13/2015 - 03:02 pm.

    I was one those using motor boats and snow machines to access different parts of the now BWCA. Most of us were supporting a compromise on usage,of at that time, State land. The Olson’s were part of the “all or nothing group” that ended up winning the fight. I don’t remember mining being a big issue but logging and usage of motors were. The area was and is so large that dual usage of parts of the BWCA made sense then and still does today. I was shocked back then at the lack of middle ground with this issue and I see it is the same today.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/13/2015 - 10:21 pm.

      What’s hard to understand?

      Not wilderness isn’t wilderness. Logging it off, your spewing two cycle exhaust (at the time), and cutting roads in (for your logging) all equal no wilderness, hence nothing to preserve. (But then, that was always the point now wasn’t it, never could understand why you folks wanted to turn into the Brainard/Hayward of the far north)

  10. Submitted by Joe Smith on 11/14/2015 - 11:49 am.

    Matt, are you saying that a winter cut to take out mature trees (you do know trees grow, mature,fall and burn to regenerate the growth cycle of forests don’t you?) would ruin your weekend in June? Those same areas that are filled with fallen trees will be a burn area, not very good to look at, when fire does what it has done for thousands of years, burns old growth fall downs to make room for new growth. How do you think a natural forest regenerates itself? The burning of thousands of acres will emit more pollution than any of the machines used to harvest the mature timber. If you are concerned about the air quality? Winter roads used by loggers are gone with the growth of new trees and you can’t tell they have been in there. Yeah my old 2 cycle 5 horse ruined a lot of that area years ago, surprised we both survived.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/14/2015 - 07:11 pm.

      Logging isnt burning

      And controlled burns are a widely used, and far better method for, managing blowdown and forest health. I couldn’t care less if locals don’t get to exploit resources that were never yours to sell for a profit. You seem to miss the point, its not that you are losing rights you should have had, its that you should never had claim, as temporary residents in an ecosystem that’s existed for eons, to destroy it all to satisfy your atavistic desires. In short, if you’d like to continue living where you do, figure out how to do so without destroying everything around you or get out, period.

  11. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 11/15/2015 - 03:26 pm.


    Not that many permanent jobs will result from mining up north. Permanent jobs are about 360 when the mine is at full capacity, and construction jobs to 500. The latter will go away. In addition, PolyMet itself predicts that 55 percent of the jobs would be “non-local” and filled by individuals relocating to the area, 20 percent would be commuters from “centers such as Duluth,” and only the remaining 25 percent would be local hires (DEIS pg. 4.10-15).
    The Boundary Waters is so precious as wilderness, it needs to be protected. I can remember serene days and nights–quiet, loons calling, occasional Northern Lights, the sound of lapping waters and an occasional beaver slapping his tail. Incomparable. You can’t replace it. You can’t buy another one. You can’t fix it after the mining is done.
    Something besides money takes precedence. And, for that matter, tourism is the real economic provider up north..Ruin the area and you put a lot of people out of jobs.

  12. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 11/15/2015 - 11:01 pm.


    Here’s my memory of the Bob Short election. Short was running on 3 issues: pro-gun, pro-life, and anti-wilderness. Bob Short won the primary, mostly on a Republican cross-over vote. He then lost the general election to Dave Durenburger.
    The BWCAW was a hot political issue. At one of the political rallies that Don Fraser attended in Virginia, Mn, I was actually afraid that the event would end up in violence. So I can sympathize with what the Ely BWCAW supporters went through.
    I do put some of the blame for this on Oberstar, because he kept up the rhetoric about not letting outsiders tell local people what to do with their land. Yet the land was basically public/ US Forest Service land, meaning it belonged to all the people.
    The same type of rhetoric is being used today, this time framed as outsiders against local jobs. Yet the land issues are the same–as PolyMet’s proposed mine would lie within what is now Superior National Forest.
    In our mechanized, computerized, super-sized, frenzied current culture, Sigurd Olson’s statements about our need for the oneness and quiet of nature are more important today than even at the time they were spoken. Thank goodness for politicians like Don Fraser, Bruce Vento, and Wendell Anderson (who helped get the BWCAW legislation through the U.S,. Senate)–and before them, John Blatnik and Hubert Humphrey–who were willing to stand up for protecting the wilderness for future generations–like us.
    If Governor Dayton truly wants to leave a legacy for which he will be honored in the future, then he will declare the PolyMet FEIS and permitting process for what it is–inadequate. If you leave out all the passions on both sides of the sulfide mining issue, the fact still remains that the environmental review process does not adequately address issues involving ground water flow, tailings basin stability and seepage, prevention of acid mine drainage and toxic metal contamination, ability to properly treat water pollution for a minimum of 500 years, the over-all track record of reverse osmosis on such a large scale, financial accountability for 500 years of water treatment when the low-grade ores are of marginal profitability, etc.
    Now the environmental issues are even greater–because they will impact two strategic watersheds–that of Lake Superior as well as the BWCAW.
    There are very good reasons to stop the permitting process of this proposed mine operation. The only thing lacking is political independence and moral integrity.

  13. Submitted by Rod Loper on 11/16/2015 - 07:55 am.

    Sig Olson had a scientist partner

    Miron (Bud) Heinselman a forest researcher, wrote the fire and logging history of the area that provided a data base for wilderness designation. While no longer
    a young man, he canoed into the BWCA alone and took a nice buck.

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