Boundary Waters Wilderness Fact Sheet

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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a unique wilderness area that covers over one million acres within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. It contains over a thousand lakes and attracts more than a quarter million visitors each year, making it the most visited wilderness area in the United States. Visitors come to experience its remote wilderness character – its untouched forests and spectacular chain of freshwater lakes – through canoeing, camping, and fishing. It is even one of National Geographic’s 50 “Destinations of a Lifetime.”

The Boundary Waters Wilderness is also the economic engine for the region. In 2012, tourism provided 12% of northeastern Minnesota jobs, while mining provided only 3.3%. The U.S. Forest Service has also estimated that the Superior National Forest contributes $500 million to the regional economy each year, of which $100 million is attributed to the Boundary Waters.

This unique
ecosystem
is now at risk
from large-scale sulfide mining, with
multiple proposed sulfide mines in the
region. Multinational mining corporations
plan to mine copper, nickel, and other
metals from sulfide ores. The Twin Metals
Mine, a copper-sulfide mine that would be
the largest underground mine in Minnesota
history, is proposed near Birch Lake,
southeast of Ely, MN. This proposed mine
is within the Superior National Forest and
just three miles from the Boundary
Waters, in the Kawishiwi watershed that
feeds directly into the Wilderness Area.;