Public lands near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters withdrawn from federal mining leases

Seagull Lake in the Boundary Waters. Superior National Forest is home to 20% of all fresh water in the entire national forest system. Photo by Christina MacGillivray.

After more than a year of assessment and debate, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Thursday announced the withdrawal of more than 225,000 acres of public lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota from federal mine leasing programs.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed Public Land Order 7917, which protects areas of the Superior National Forest from federal geothermal and mineral extraction leases for the next 20 years. The lands being withdrawn are predominantly in the northern portion of the Superior National Forest.

The release cited departmental concerns over the impacts of mining on ecosystem health, tribal rights, and the local recreation economy.

“The Department of the Interior takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans,” Haaland said in the release. “With an eye toward protecting this special place for future generations, I have made this decision using the best-available science and extensive public input.”

The 20-year suspension on extraction leases is the maximum that the Department of the Interior can apply. Only Congress can authorize a permanent withdrawal of federal lands, like those in the Superior National Forest, from these programs. 01-26-23

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