365 Days in the Wilderness

Amy and Dave Freeman paddle into the Boundary Waters, starting their 365 days in the wilderness to raise awareness of mining plans in the region.PHOTO: Alex Chocholousek

Amy and Dave Freeman paddle into the Boundary Waters, starting their 365 days in the wilderness to raise awareness of mining plans in the region.PHOTO: Alex Chocholousek

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over 1 million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park. The BWCAW contains over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites. Wilderness offers freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of expansive solitude, challenge and personal integration with nature.

And now some, or all of it, may be lost to sulphide mining.

Amy and Dave Freeman are willing to risk brutal winters, thin ice and hordes of hungry mosquitoes to raise awareness about impending mining operations on the border of public lands in northern Minnesota.

A year without a shower takes a tremendous amount of dedication and passion. Why do the Freemans believe the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is worth the sacrifice?

“The Boundary Waters belong to all of us. It’s a national forest, it’s federal lands. It’s like a Yellowstone or a Yosemite,” Dave says. “There’s no other place like it on Earth.”

Amy, 33, and Dave, 39, are no strangers to strenuous outdoor adventures. Last year, they paddled and sailed from Ely, Minn., to Washington, D.C., a grand total of 101 days and 2,000 miles on the water, to raise awareness for the Boundary Waters. Their boat acted as a petition, garnering the signatures of thousands of people who oppose sulfide mining in northeastern Minnesota.

They’ve already traveled more than 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through places such as the Amazon and the Arctic, earning them National GeographicAdventurers of the Year status in 2014.

Now, they’re back again to raise awareness about how mining might affect the Boundary Waters and are encouraging others to speak out.

“We really need to step back and look at this and say wait a second, do we want to have a whole mining development running along the southern border of the wilderness zone?” Dave says.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area attracts more than a quarter-million visitors each year, making it the nation’s most visited wilderness area. It’s the largest wilderness area east of the Rockies and north of the Everglades, consisting of 1,200 miles of interconnected waterways and a million acres of wilderness area within the Superior National Forest.

The Freemans describe it as a maze of lakes and rivers, chock-full of timber wolves, moose, loons, eagles and more. They’re disturbed that Twin Metals, a Minnesota mining company, proposed a sulfide mine between two and three miles from the Boundary Waters. They say that two of the ore bodies come right up to the surface and are a threat to the region.

Sulfide mines can produce acid, a dangerous contaminant for lakes and rivers when exposed to air or water. If there was a spill, potential water pollution would flow downstream through White Iron Lake and into the lakes and rivers of the Boundary Waters.

“We think it will be close to the largest underground mine in the U.S,” Twin Metals spokesman Bob McFarlin told Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Kraker in 2014.

It would resemble an underground city.

Read more here.

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