The most beautiful lake country on the continent

More damage Trump is determined to do, this time to a wilderness area in northern Minnesota:

Today this region, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, looks almost exactly as it appeared 10,000 years ago when Paleo-Indians lived there. Sigurd Olson, the naturalist and writer who guided there for three decades, called it “the most beautiful lake country on the continent.” Few who see it would disagree. Today it is the most visited wilderness area in the United States.

But now this special place is at great risk.

Late last year the Interior Department concluded that the two expired leases held by a Chilean-owned company, Twin Metals Minnesota, should be reinstated for copper and nickel mining near the border of the Boundary Waters. This reversed a decision made at the end of the Obama administration, which rejected the leases after the Forest Service concluded that a mine there “posed an inherent potential risk” that threatened “serious and irreplaceable harm” to the wilderness.

To the Obama administration that was a bad thing, but the Trump people love to destroy wilderness. The Trump administration says those leases must be renewed.

These actions are another chapter in President Trump’s continuing assault on the nation’s most precious natural and cultural lands. They are of a piece with the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent to carve out areas believed to contain oil and gas reserves and large uranium deposits. By giving the extractive industries virtually everything they want in Utah, Alaska, Minnesota and elsewhere, this administration has sent an unambiguous message: There is no place on our public lands — or waters — that is inviolable if there are resources to be exploited.

Condos in the Grand Canyon, casinos in Yosemite, steel mills in Yellowstone.

This is not the first threat to the Boundary Waters. In the early 1960s, there were battles over logging, timber roads and the use of motorboats and snowmobiles. Though the area was included in the 1964 Wilderness Act, some logging and motor use were allowed to continue. Finally in 1978 Congress passed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, which expanded its size, restricted motorboat use, ended logging and banned mining in the wilderness and some adjacent lands.

But there are ore deposits there, and Twin Metals Minnesota wants’em.

The danger is that mining these sulfide ores can result in contaminated water seeping and flowing into lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands and groundwater. Because of the interconnected waterways in the wilderness area, much of the area’s watershed could become polluted. Once that happens, there is no fixing it.

TMM says don’t worry! We’ll be super super careful! It will be fine!

Twin Metals argues that the risk for pollution from the sites will be minimal. But the idea that pollution can be prevented by mitigation measures has proved wrong time and again at other mines. Studies undertaken for opponents of mining have concluded that the highly toxic waste from a single mine in the wilderness area’s watershed could continuously pollute the Boundary Waters for hundreds of years.

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