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Dayton vetoes ‘Wild Rice’ bill

We applaud Gov. Mark Dayton for vetoing HF3422 — the “Wild Rice” bill that allowed all new industries, including the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines, to discharge untreated water that contains sulfates.

“This bill included almost nothing about keeping Minnesota waters clean,” says Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends. “Under current law, dischargers upstream of wild rice waters have to control their sulfates. This bill, however, would have exempted the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals mines, allowing them to add sulfate pollution to our waters in clear violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

“In addition, the bill’s weak stipulations would have covered only the two-dozen ‘official’ Wild Rice Waters of the state’s 1,600 water bodies that grow rice, and it would have made it possible for lawmakers to avoid consulting the state’s tribes.

“Wild rice is Minnesota’s most iconic grain because it is so important to indigenous culture,” Knopf added. “Not allowing tribes into the discussion would have been just plain wrong.” Dayton also issued an executive order establishing a task force on wild rice that includes tribal representatives.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness considers the governor’s action to be a significant victory in our ongoing efforts to keep the nation’s most-visited Wilderness Area pristine.

‘Wild Rice’ bill needs a veto

HF 3422 — the “Wild Rice” bill — proposes limiting and even eliminating protections for what some consider to be Minnesota’s most iconic grain.

Although Gov. Dayton vetoed an earlier version of the bill (Thank you, governor!), a revision snuck through the final hours of the legislative session and is now on the governor’s desk (he has two weeks to act on it). Far from being a “peace in the valley” compromise, this revised language does not represent a consensus. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, environmental groups, and several tribal nations remain opposed.

Not only is the new version no better than the vetoed one, it actually calls for allowing the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines to discharge untreated water that contains sulfates. Not only is this a big give-away to the sulfide mining industry, it is also a clear violation of the Clean Water Act. (Learn more about sulfates and wild rice.)

What can you do to help? Contact Gov. Dayton (call 800-657-3716 or visit his contact page) to thank him for his previous veto of this bill and encourage him to veto this version, too.

Other HF3422 highlights:

  • Prohibiting protection of wild rice growing in most waters in Minnesota until they can be officially listed as a Wild Rice Water. Only 24 waters are currently listed as Wild Rice Waters, though the MPCA, DNR, and tribes have identified 1,300-1,600 such waters that deserve protection from sulfate pollution. Blocking the listing of wild rice waters violates the Clean Water Act.
  • Requiring an exhaustive list of scientific information to be gathered and analyzed for each water body before it can be listed as a Wild Rice Water (thus earning protection under the law), but the bill provides $0 for this work, effectively blocking any progress in gathering and analyzing such information.
  • Prohibiting protection of our existing Wild Rice Waters until “cost-effective treatment technology is available,” and although it requires evaluating new technologies for sulfate control every two years, no money will be appropriated to advance such research.
  • Allowing new industries such as PolyMet, Twin Metals or other sulfide ore mines to add sulfate pollution to our waters without implementing any technologies that require investment to control sulfides. This is a big step backward and a violation of the Clean Water Act. Under current law, future dischargers upstream of Wild Rice Waters would have to control their sulfates.
  • Creating an unbalanced membership in the Wild Rice Work Group that is heavily biased towards industry. Additionally, the work group is encouraged to usurp MPCA’s role, overlook science, and narrow the beneficial uses of wild rice.
  • Not requiring formal consultation with tribal nations, as tribes had requested.
  • Creating endless lack of enforcement, with no sunset or deadline.

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Help these creative types support the Friends

Two women are holding a piece of art -- an abstract view of a Boundary Waters forest scene that shows a lake and forest.
Natalie Salminen (right) unveils her newly commissioned piece at Duluth’s Bent Paddle Brewery.

A number of vendors are offering portions of their proceeds to the Friends, including apparel from Girl of 10,000 Lakes (10% of profits), BWCA-scented essential oil from Forester John ($2 from every sale) and art by Natalie Salminen Fine Art ($20 from the sale of each specially commissioned print).

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Message to our supporters regarding latest Twin Metals news

Friends Executive Director Chris Knopf sent the following message to supporters this morning:

This week the U.S. Department of the Interior, led by Ryan Zinke, reinstated the expired mineral leases of Chilean-owned Twin Metals — an action that opens the door for toxic sulfide mining on public land at the edge of the Boundary Waters.

We will fight this action in court alongside our peer conservation organizations.

For more than 40 years we have stayed true to our mission to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters — one of our nation’s most pristine areas. Reinstating these leases threatens the outdoor economy of northeastern Minnesota and jeopardizes the opportunity for future generations to paddle, hike, fish, hunt and camp in this remarkable landscape.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to voice your disappointment in his reinstatement of the Twin Metals leases: 202.208.7351, exsec@ios.doi.gov
  • Contact senators Amy Klobuchar (202.224.3244) and Tina Smith (202.224.5641) to voice your disappointment in Mr. Zinke’s recent action and ask them to stand strong in protecting the BWCAW from sulfide mining

Thanks for all you do to protect our country’s most-visited wilderness area.

Federal government reinstates expired Twin Metals mineral leases

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness is disappointed by yesterday’s decision by the Department of Interior to reinstate the expired mineral leases of Chilean-owned Twin Metals. The move opens the door for sulfide mining on public land at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

“For more than 40 years we have stayed true to our mission to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters,” says Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends. “Reinstating Twin Metals’ mineral leases threatens the outdoor economy of northeastern Minnesota and jeopardizes the opportunity for future generations to paddle, hike, fish, hunt and camp in this remarkable landscape.”

Knopf also stated that the Friends will fight the federal government’s action in court.

With more than 200,000 visitors annually, the BWCAW is the most-visited wilderness area in the country. Founded in 1976, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has more than 3,000 members in Minnesota and across the country.