Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Year in the Wilderness to Protect the Boundary Waters

By Dave Freeman. Dave and his wife Amy have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places. The Freemans run the Wilderness Classroom, an educational nonprofit organization that introduces kids to wild places.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of the ACA's Paddle eMagazine.

As September fades into October, the paddling season in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness typically comes to an end. The leaves fall to the ground, and winter usually reminds us of its fast approach with a sprinkling of snow and frosty nights. In reality, the late fall is one of my favorite times to paddle in the Wilderness because the bugs are gone, there is plenty of solitude, and watching the early morning fog slowing dissipate with your hands wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee is simply magical.

On September 23rd, my wife, Amy Freeman, and I paddled into the Boundary Waters like we have countless times before for a fall canoe trip in our nation’s most popular wilderness area. Unlike previous trips into the Boundary Waters, we plan to stay for a very long time, a full year to be exact. We will explore this million-acre maze of lakes and rivers by canoe until freeze up, which usually happens in late November. Once the wilderness is covered in snow and ice, friends will bring in our toboggans and sled dogs, and haul our canoe out of the BWCAW for the winter. In April, as the lakes begin to melt we will switch back to canoe for the rest of the year-long odyssey.

Last year, Amy and I paddled and sailed 101 days and 2,000 miles from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. to help protect the Boundary Waters from a series of copper mines in a sulfide ore body that are being proposed along the southern border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We are wilderness guides and educators and this is our way of working to keep this wilderness wild. We care deeply about this place and we will do everything within our power to ensure that it remains intact for the next generation. We made a commitment to protecting the Boundary Waters when we paddled to D.C., but we know we still have a lot of work to do to protect the Boundary Waters watershed from sulfide-ore copper mining and we want to do what we can to finish the job. A Year in the Wilderness is a continuation of our work with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which is working to permanently protect the Boundary Waters Watershed from sulfide ore mining. 

We will camp at approximately 120 different sites during this Year in the Wilderness and travel more than 3,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, and snowshoe. This journey is about bearing witness to the very land and water we are fighting to protect. We hope you will join us through regular updates we will post on social media (@freemandexplore and @savethebwca) and Plus, elementary and middle school students will be able to learn along with us through

Earlier this month the Animas River in Durango, Colorado, turned an eerie shade of mustard-yellow a few days after the one-year anniversary of Mount Polley copper mine’s tailings dam failure, which news reports called “Canada’s worst mine disaster.” Instead of the week being dominated by Mount Polley retrospectives, headlines are recounting a homegrown mining disaster a hundred years in the making. Though these mines are not in Minnesota, they are shocking displays of what can--and often does--go wrong in the hardrock mining industry, and should serve as a warning as we consider the impacts of placing sulfide-ore copper mines in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

As paddlers and wilderness enthusiasts we need to be a strong voices for our waterways and the environments they course through. We hope you will join us in our efforts to protect our Nations most popular wilderness, and get involved in this important issue. Now is the time for us all to take action and help protect the Boundary Waters. 

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