Discussion: Wilderness and the economy in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District

What do you think?

Incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack (GOP) and former Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL) are in a heated contest to represent the 8th Congressional District. Cravaack accused Nolan of putting the interests of "Twin Cities environmentalists" before the economic needs of the Iron Range when he voted, in 1978, to support the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act that established the BWCA largely as it is today.

Asked whether environmentalists were hurting economic development, Nolan said not at all. Cravaack criticized Nolan for opposing logging, snowmobiling and motor-boating when he voted to create the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildness in the late 1970s.

"Congressman Nolan sided essentially with the Twin City environmentalists and was actually in opposition of pro-growth, pro-economic reforms that we needed in the Northland to create jobs," Cravaack said.

Nolan said he remains proud of his BWCA vote which he suggested has created plenty of 8th District tourism jobs.

"It's one of the 10 best destination-oriented vacations in the entire world," Nolan said. "People fly in from all over America, all over the world to take advantage of that great experience." (MPR News)


MPR News asked members the Public Insight Network from the 8th District what they think about the BWCA and if it will shape their vote this election. Respondents also shared their views on what wilderness means to them and if they view it as an asset or an obstacle for a sustainable economy.

Please keep the discussion here civil. Personal attacks and off topic posts or replies will not be tolerated. Reply to the full Public Insight Network query.
  • Comment ()
  • The BWCA is a treasured ecological resource and preserve, that simultaneously generates untold revenues (and sustains untold numbers of households).

    Wilderness - and environmental protections - are critical assets to not only the "quality" of life, but of life itself... for those of us living anywhere on this planet - let alone the 8th Congressional District!

    -- Stephen Phillips, Two Harbors, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is any woods or fields in rural areas. It shouldn't be some over protected area that every regulation in a 200 mile radius is based on.

    Mr. Nolan has shown to be farther out of touch with the Range than our former Congressman Oberstar
    -- Steve Biondich, Auora, Minn.
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  • The BWCA should always be protected as is, and any politician who would vote to mine this pristine land does not have the interests of the majority. This chunk of land is like no other in the USA. If for no other reason, the BWCA is a recreational asset that brings many tourists dollars into that 8th district.

    -- Nancy Horn, Hackensack, Minn.
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  • Wilderness is important, but right now the much more important priority is to work on how do we get out of this financial mess created by every politician that voted for or supported spending money we did not have since the 1960's. f the BWCA was not designated a wilderness area back then, would we have lost anything? I don't know for sure. I think it would not have changed a lot. It probably wouldn't have all the "McMansion" cabins just outside of it's borders as it does today. It probably would not have as much tourism traffic as it does today. It probably would be similar today, as it was back in the 30's and it might have a few more mining interests possibly and possibly a few more fishing and hunting resorts and less government workers and more private sector workers.

    -- Karlo Goerges, Pequot Lakes, Minn.
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  • Wild places are disappearing at a rapid rate. Children are losing touch with the great outdoors. Politicians must be advocates for what the majority of people who appreciate our natural resources.

    -- Anne Moore, Saginaw, Minn. Photo courtesy of Anne Moore

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  • What most people love about northern Minnesota and the Boundary Waters area is the beauty of the lakes, regardless of how one feels about the BWCAW Act. It is the same thing that I loved about my great uncle's resort on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. In less than my lifetime the overwhelming natural beauty of Whitefish is gone, just as his resort is gone. It was lost to overdevelopment. Some may say it is still lovely, because they did not know it as it was; most will not remember how people’s homes and cabins blended in and were secondary to their surroundings. When what you saw first were the lakes and trees and sandy beaches. No more.

    Overdevelopment would have been the same fate of the Boundary Waters, and those of us who live near it today are fortunate that we can enjoy it instead, generation after generation. It would have become the Minnetonka of the north if not protected. I doubt that the independent people who live here would want that and unlike what they might believe, there would have been no stopping it. In Ely, all one has to do is look at the lot across the street from the Dairy Queen and remember what it used to look like, to recognize that it only takes one person who does not care about the impact he makes.

    The BWCAW is also a sustainable source of income for many people who have chosen to look to the future. This already world renowned area will only continue to draw people, because of its beauty and its water, in a future that technology will have made increasingly mobile. The new entrepreneurs will be looking for places of beauty to live and work, healthy places to raise a family, to establish a business. The BWCAW is the greatest asset we have, as long as we continue to protect it for the future.
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  • The BWCAW has been designated a National Wilderness due to the efforts of the likes of Sigurd Olson and others who devoted large portions of their lives to protecting the area for future generations. Because of their foresight, the BWCAW is not surrounded by cabins, strip malls, and unplanned development. Instead it is a destination of value, both nationally and internationally.
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  • I believe that the BWCAW is a unique wilderness area that supports a robust guiding and outfitting economy. In retrospect, perhaps some of the restrictions are a bit arcane and how to deal with fires needs to be addressed. Perhaps selective logging of rotating areas of the wilderness would work. Having it motor-less is an absolute must. Cravaak comments about "Twin Cities Environmentalists" shows how out of touch he is with the true reality of his district. People who live here, raise their families here and have businesses in northeastern Minnesota (like myself) care about our natural resources too. It's convenient how our politicians have obfuscated the absolute environmental failures of the precious metals mining industry worldwide. It's not that they're naive; they are simply cowards and looking for easy solutions for our problems generating jobs and state revenue.
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