There are hundreds of lakes and 1500 miles of canoe routes that are accessible for the cost of a $12 entry pass. To get between lakes, there are paths called portages. The paddler carries his or her gear over rocky ground, and these paths stretch anywhere from a few feet to two miles, up and down hills. I have been going there since 2001, on and off. During a trip last year, I decided it's something I'm going to try at least once a year from here on out, until I'm too old to paddle anymore.
There's a short history here, and a long history here. Reading this history is amazing. There is a staggering amount of work required by committed individuals to get something like this to happen. Convincing lawmakers of the need to protect this place must have been hard work. Logging was active in the area until 1979. There are iron ore mines within 50 miles of the place - there must be more ore under these lakes. I can almost hear politicians and business owners discussing the need to protect those jobs in the area, and voting against the protective measures.
I've been there in February, July, August, September, and now June. This was my first taste of black fly season. When I say "taste," I mean I literally tasted dozens of little black flies. They were everywhere, swarming all parts of my being, including my eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. They did chase away the mosquitoes, but only in the sun. Our little mosquito friends were content to swarm us in the shade. We were destroyed during each trip to the privy. Even when we were out on the lake, or in a tent, away from the bugs, you could hear the softly constant buzzing noise permeating the woods. Today, back in the office, it's a bit easier to concentrate. I'm not swatting bugs everywhere I go!
We did find that fishing brought relief. There were fewer bugs out on the lake. We also saw a moose, got laughed at by loons, and we had a great view of the northern lights. It's amazing to go back year after year. There was a huge fire in 2006 and another in 2007. The forest is coming back in a big way, though, and it's a real trip to watch the woods in their slow-motion regeneration process. In ten years, the newcomer won't even know it happened, aside from pictures.
I think of the Boundary Waters as Wisconsin considers a new iron ore mine in our state and federally owned forests. The odds are that the powers in our state government support the mine. Everyone wants jobs. I do see how the trade-offs are enticing to some. But I've been in the national forest that they're looking at. It's pristine, it's beautiful, and it's wild. I hope we can somehow come together and demand accountability. I'll take my forests without mining sludge and poisoned rivers, thanks. These forests belong to us. I'd rather not see them sold off and destroyed. The Sierra Club encourages a long review process:
I'd hate to see us move too quickly on this. This should be a non-partisan issue - conservation extends beyond party lines and gets directly to who we are as human beings. Being a democrat or a republican doesn't seem to matter to us during that moment we're reeling in a northern, or taking in a fire after a long day in the woods. I hope, in the study of this mine, people can come together to make sure we keep Wisconsin clean and safe for generations to come. Wisconsin is ours - that metal underneath her belongs to all of us. We decide who takes it out, how they do it, when they do it, and how much of our blood, sweat, and tears it costs them to take it. It's our place to decide, and I hope those folks we've elected use common sense and good judgment.
The Sierra Club's mining committee chairman described the mining proposal as a recipe for disaster.
Dave Blouin, mining committee chair, said that “A fast track review process is a recipe for disaster. GTAC’s proposed mine is to be a minimum of four miles of open pit mining and would likely be the largest mine ever in Wisconsin. Open pit iron ore mining is not a benign and clean industry. You need only look to Minnesota’s iron range to see a moonscape of wastes and open pits causing pollution. The mine permitting processes for the Flambeau mine and Crandon proposal demonstrated that the process works. Those mine applications needed years of study and review to determine impacts and design mine facilities that protect air, water, wildlife and public health.”
I hope you'll keep tabs on this issue with me. I know they're throwing a lot at us right now, but a forest is truly one of those things that won't come back in our lifetime, or maybe even our grand-childrens' lifetimes. Let's keep our woods and water clean!