Sending Office: Honorable Betty McCollum
Sent By:

Current SignersMcCollum, Paulsen, Ellison, Costello, Grijalva, Moore, Roybal-Allard, Pingree, Cartwright, Visclosky, Curbelo, Lowenthal, McNerney, Kaptur 

Dear Colleague,

Please join me in sending the following bipartisan letter to Interior Secretary Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Perdue to express support for a comprehensive and rigorous study of the proposed mineral withdrawal that would protect our nation’s most visited
wilderness area, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

The U.S. Forest Service is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the proposal to withdraw federal minerals on 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands from the federal mineral leasing program for the maximum period of twenty years. 
The federal lands proposed for withdrawal are all within the watershed that contains the BWCA Wilderness and Voyageur’s National Park, which are essential parts of the robust $1.4 billion outdoor recreation economy in northeastern Minnesota.  This vast, interconnected
system of pristine lakes, rivers, and wetlands is a unique and precious natural treasure.  It is also uniquely vulnerable to the acid mine drainage that results from sulfide-ore copper mining.

This letter urges the Secretaries to complete a thorough scientific review of the proposed twenty-year mineral withdrawal, a position supported by three tribal nations in
Minnesota and one in Canada, the Governor
of Minnesota,
 and seventy percent of Minnesota’s voters.  More than 170 businesses and organizations
recently joined similar letters of support for the withdrawal study, including sporting groupsthe
Boundary Waters Business Coalition
, and regional and national conservation organizations.

The full text of the letter is below. Deadline for signatures has been extended to COB today, June 12. For any questions, or to sign on to the letter, please contact Rebecca Taylor in my office at or



Betty McCollum

Member of Congress


June X, 2018


Hon. Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240


Hon. Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20250


Dear Secretaries Perdue and Zinke,

As Members of Congress, we write to express our strong support for a comprehensive and rigorous study by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management that considers a twenty-year ban on hardrock (including sulfide-ore copper) mining on Superior
National Forest lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (‘SNF Study’). The SNF Study commenced on January 13, 2017 and will be completed by January 2019. This study will be the basis for a decision by Secretary Zinke on the request
by the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw federal minerals on 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands from the federal mineral leasing program for the maximum period of twenty years.  Because of the extremely high ecological, economic, and social value
of the Boundary Waters to the people of the nation, the public interest requires a careful review of facts and the best available science to inform Secretary Zinke’s decision.

We urge you to continue the century-long bipartisan federal and state support for protecting the Boundary Waters. As you know, Minnesota’s Governor has imposed a state ban on state mining approvals and mineral leases near the Boundary Waters.

The Governor’s views are consistent with your recent comments and those of the U.S. Forest Service Chief.

At a U.S. House hearing on May 25, 2017, Secretary Perdue responded to a question about the SNF Study as follows: “…your statement there regarding the two-year study over the sound science…. [W]e are absolutely allowing that to proceed.” U.S. Forest
Service Chief Tidwell added “You do raise the question about sulfide-ore. That is more challenging, especially in areas where we have as much water as we do up in that part of the state. The balance where mining needs to occur…and for other areas that
it’s just potentially…too hazardous, then those…decisions can come out of this study.”

More recently, Secretary Zinke responded to a question about the SNF Study during an April 11, 2018 U.S. House hearing as follows: “I agree that there are some areas that are too precious to mine.”

The Boundary Waters covers 1.1 million acres of lakes and forests in northeastern Minnesota. The Superior National Forest, which includes the Boundary Waters, contains 20 percent of all the freshwater in the 193 million-acre National Forest System. The Boundary
Waters is the largest wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the Everglades. The Boundary Waters is the most popular wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System; more people have visited the Boundary Waters every year since 1964
than any other national Wilderness Area. Downstream from the Boundary Waters are Voyageurs National Park and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park.

The Boundary Waters is intensely water-based, with interconnected groundwater, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. Water is so clean that visitors drink out of the lakes. Because travel is by canoe, visitors of all abilities, ages, and income enjoy a world-class
experience unique in the nation. But the very abundance and interconnected nature of ground and surface water, and water chemistry that provides little buffer to acid, also make the Boundary Waters uniquely vulnerable to sulfide-ore copper mining pollution.
Once this pollution enters the Boundary Waters, the damage cannot be mitigated, remedied, or fixed.

The Boundary Waters is an important part of the regional economy, and much of the economic infrastructure – businesses, resorts, lodges, outfitters, campgrounds, homes, Boundary Waters entry points, and more – is located in the Boundary Waters watershed,
the area under review in the SNF Study. Proposals to transform this area in the Superior National Forest to a sulfide-ore copper mining district would displace local residents and many businesses, resulting in a potential loss of more than 27,000 jobs,
$1.4 billion in economic activity, and over $500 million in lost property value in northeastern Minnesota. Nearly one-quarter of local residents say they will be forced to move away from the region if this mining occurs.  

We write this letter to urge the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to conduct a rigorous review of the proposed twenty-year mineral withdrawal requested by the U.S. Forest Service and to bear in mind the extremely high value and importance
of the Boundary Waters to Minnesota and the nation. Seventy percent of Minnesota voters oppose sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and opposition crosses all party lines. Three Indian tribes, beneficiaries of the 1854 Treaty, and one Canadian
First Nation (in the path of pollution) have requested a twenty-year ban to protect treaty rights in the Ceded Territory, which includes all of the SNF Study area.



Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources

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